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Meet John Sherrer, Director of Preservation for Historic Columbia

Also an Experience Columbia SC Ambassador, John knows a lot about our city — past and present.

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Two men standing in front of river and trees wearing life jackets

Sherrer (right) enjoys all our city has to offer, including our access to the outdoors.

Photo provided by John Sherrer

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On account of his job title, we imagined John Sherrer would know a ton about local history — so we asked him to share a piece of historical trivia our readers might not know.

“For me, I love the fact that Columbia holds the distinction of being the first planned city in the United States,” John told us. “Yes, Savannah, Georgia and Philadelphia are planned cities, but they predate the United States, as they were designed and founded while we were under English rule!”

Put that in your pocket for your next dinner party, and read on for our full Q+A with John.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to Columbia.

A: I am a Columbia native, although I moved to the Upstate to go to college. After completing my undergraduate degree in English and history from Clemson, I lived in Charleston, Washington, DC, and Maine. Graduate work at USC brought me back to Columbia in 1996, at which time I became a graduate assistant at Historic Columbia.

During my many years with the organization I have worn many hats, but the majority of my work has involved museum management, local history research and interpretation, and historic preservation.

Q: What’s your favorite “hidden gem” in our city?

A: I’m not sure that they are very hidden, but I love the gardens at both the Seibels House and the Hampton-Preston Mansion. These consistently awe me in their beauty and how they evolve each season. They are a great place to spend time, whether it’s a picnic lunch, concerts in the garden, or a festival or other special event.

Q: You can choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which is it and why?

A: If I were on a deserted island and had just the menu at hand, it would only make me hungrier! Seriously, I’d probably have to go with Black Rooster’s offerings, as I consistently enjoy what Kristian Nemi’s folks are dishing out. Delicious, diverse, and French-ish.

Q: You’re describing Cola to a friend who’s never been here in three words. Go.

A: Surprising. Verdant. Embracing.

Q: What does your ideal Columbia Saturday look like?

A: Getting up well before the sunrise for an early morning long run that ends at Soda City Market for a smoothie. Working in my yard or some other physical activity that allows me to continue enjoying the great weather. Cleaning up and grabbing lunch somewhere before hitting my favorite bookstores — All Good Books in Five Points and Ed’s Editions in West Columbia. Then, meeting up with friends to enjoy some time at a local brewery or biergarten, where plans are made for dinner somewhere, then wrapping up the evening with a show at the Nick.

Q: Give us one person, place, and thing every Soda Citizen should know more about.

A: Everyone should know and support a local small business owner—whether they are the proprietor of a running store, an outdoors outfitter, a brewery or biergarten, a restauranteur, you name it. It’s these folks who provide you with unique experiences in Columbia.

Everyone should seek out Main Street venues such as Bourbon, Lula Drake, Smoked, etc. as these places have harnessed the potential that adaptive use of historic buildings can offer. The aesthetic can’t be beaten. Go to the places that make lasting impressions on all of your senses.

Every Soda Citizen should know more about the capital city! Pick up a copy of Remembering Columbia for a good crash course on how the city has evolved since its founding in 1786.*

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