Columbia to celebrate 225th anniversary

Published 12:52 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The board of aldermen recently discussed plans to celebrate Columbia’s 225th anniversary on October 12, the night before the Scuppernong River Festival.

Situated on the right bank at the narrows of the Scuppernong River, the town was chartered in 1793 as Elizabeth Town. In 1801 the name was changed to Columbia because of confusion with Elizabethtown in Bladen County.

In 1799, when Washington County was formed from Tyrrell, Columbia was selected as the county seat of Tyrrell County.

The 1870 census suggests a population of slightly over 100 inhabitants whose livelihoods were in commerce, milling, county administration and maritime occupations such as fishing, sailing and boat building.

Columbia’s population increases over the next three decades were largely due to expansion of the lumber industry, particularly the huge Branning Manufacturing Co. mill on the riverfront. The number of inhabitants in 1890 was 209, in 1900 it was 382, and in 1910 it jumped to 848, very near its present figure.

From 1908 to 1948 the town was served by the Norfolk & Southern Railroad. The Columbia Electric Light Company was formed in 1920; the local telephone company was established in 1927; a bridge was constructed over the Scuppernong River in 1927 linking the town with Plymouth and points west; and the 1950 population was 1,161, the highest before or since.

Efforts to revitalize the downtown began in 1989 with a comprehensive Columbia 2000 Plan that called for a Main Street streetscape, waterfront and wooded area boardwalk, visitor center, museum and other improvements requiring public and private sector investments.

Major new facilities included the Columbia Theater Cultural Resources Center, Walter Jones Center for the Sounds, Tyrrell Visitor Center and boardwalks.

The Columbia Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 with a Historic District Walking Tour.

The four-lane US 64 from Raleigh to Columbia, opened in 2005, is introducing new visitors to the town and has resulted in significant commercial and industrial enterprises.

Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft, with its artists in residence, workshops, gallery, gift shop and Riverside Lodge, is a unique asset.

Columbia Vision 20/20 was the master plan which guided the town for a decade. Buildings were renovated and put to new uses and new businesses located within the town.

Plans are underway for another planning process to address continuing issues and new opportunities.

“Columbia is a town that is honoring its past while designing its future,” its website proclaims.