Harriet M. Cornwell Tourist Home

two story house with a wrapped full length porch with steps leading up to the entrance.
Harriet M. Cornwell Tourist Home

Photograph by Andrew W. Chandler, courtesy of South Carolina Historic Preservation Office

Quick Facts
Columbia, South Carolina
Social History, Ethnic Heritage/Black
Listed in the National Register – Reference number 07001083
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the Harriet M. Cornwell Tourist Home in Columbia, South Carolina, is a surviving example of an alternative space created by an African American family that provided other African American families a place to rest as they passed into town. Each month between 1940 and 1960 several guests arrived at the house, and they were only required to pay what they were able. Besides having a bed to sleep in, guests received one meal a day, which was usually breakfast. Harriet's nephew, Reginald Scott, lived at the house quite often during its time as a tourist home, and he recalls a wide variety of people staying in the home. Frequent guests included musicians and teachers. Reginald Scott remembers the house feeling like a college dorm in the fall with everyone hurrying around getting ready for school. During segregation the Cornwell home looked like every other house on the block. No sign hung out front advertising the house as a tourist home for blacks.

During the era of segregation, African Americans across the country carefully planned their travel to coordinate overnight accommodations or arranged their travel so the destination would be reached during the daytime. While most large cities were known to have at least one hotel opened to black travelers, other accommodations were frequently used. Accommodations with local families who operated their homes as a “tourist home” was a common practice that many travelers incorporated in their journeys. These alternative spaces offered multiple options for African American travelers looking to minimize the indignities of racism and harassment that came with traveling through unknown cities. The Harriet M. Cornwell home was advertised nationally as a “tourist home” in the prominent Negro Travelers' Green Book and the International Travelers' Green Book. The house’s exterior facades looked like every other house on the block. There were no advertising signs that indicated the house’s use as a tourist home. However, outside of being listed in the Travelers’ Green Book, many of the guests who stayed in the home heard about it through word of mouth.

Link to the Harriet M. Cornwell Tourist Home File

Last updated: August 9, 2021