South Carolina: Waverly Historic District

B & W image of a home in the Waverly Historic District
The Waverly Historic District, bounded by Gervais, Harden, and Taylor Streets and Millwood Avenue, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Green Book of South Carolina

Established shortly after the Civil War, Waverly Historic District is significant as Columbia’s first suburb and incorporated into Columbia city limits in 1913. The historic core of the Waverly neighborhood was originally an early subdivision of an antebellum plantation by the same name located on the outskirts of the city. By the early twentieth century, this neighborhood was a self-sustaining Black community featuring many middle-and upper-class African American residents, among whom were artisans, professionals and social reformers who made significant contributions to the social and political advancement of African Americans in Columbia, South Carolina, and the nation.

Among the luminaries who lived and worked in the Waverly neighborhood were South Carolina civil rights icons Modjeska Monteith Simkins, John Henry McCray, Reverend James M. Hinton, and Judge Matthew J. Perry. Waverly residents operated and patronized neighborhood businesses, some of which were listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book, a popular travel guide that provided African Americans with vital information to ensure safe travel through segregated locales. The former site of Waverly Five & Dime, one of several establishments operated by entrepreneur and political activist George Elmore, is located here. Elmore faced threats and experienced financial ruin as retribution for his successful lawsuit that opened the state’s “whites only” Democratic Primary to African Americans. Numerous African American religious, social, and educational institutions were established here including Allen University, Benedict College, and dozens of the city’s oldest Black churches of varying denominations.

The Waverly Historic District became part of the African American Civil Rights Network in February 2021.

The African American Civil Rights Network recognizes the civil rights movement in the United States and the sacrifices made by those who fought against discrimination and segregation. Created by the African American Civil Rights Act of 2017, and coordinated by the National Park Service, the Network tells the stories of the people, places, and events of the U.S. civil rights movement through a collection of public and private elements.

Last updated: February 23, 2021