More SC Front Porch Drama.

Below is an article I posted a couple of weeks ago. According to a TV Newscast I watched tonight the potential for turning South Carolina’s historic statehouse grounds into somewhat of a playground is starting to peeve some people off.

The link in the first paragraph has comments from Senator Shealy (R-Lexington, District 23), but here’s the real rub as to if there will be a fight or not, and is the last sentence of the online version: “At the moment no timetable has been set for the project, it is a matter of whether Mayor Benjamin decides to withdraw or keep his decision.”


Below is an interesting read I saw a day or two ago about using a monetary prize to transform the State House grounds into somewhat of a playground or, “Front Porch,” for a spell.

I appreciate the overall mission of the project and see Mayor Benjamin’s vision of, “connecting the dots.” I get the lens of Gov. McMaster and S.C. Dept. of Administration, too.

Either way, check it below…


COLUMBIA — The city of Columbia won a $195,000 foundation prize to transform the South Carolina Statehouse grounds into a temporary park called “The State’s Front Porch” filled, at times, with cafes, hammocks, putting greens, beach chairs and umbrellas, and ping-pong tables.

Sound fun? Not to state officials whose job it is to maintain the historic grounds that includes seven large buildings and 31 monuments and markers.

The S.C. Department of Administration fears the city cannot create fun zones at the Statehouse while “maintaining the appropriate decorum, aesthetic or level of dignity required for the grounds,” agency director Marcia Adams wrote to Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin last month.

In addition, the city listed the state as a partner on the grant application without getting approval to use the grounds or coordinating with South Carolina officials, Adams’ letter said.

Benjamin took his argument to Adams’ boss, Gov. Henry McMaster, who grew up in Columbia.

“The goal of this idea is to ensure our citizens … view the Statehouse as their front porch,” Benjamin wrote to McMaster this month. “Imagine a welcoming and inviting entrance that is more than a walkway or place for rallies, protests and celebrations.” The mayor pledged the city would monitor events to prevent damage to the grounds and keep people out of danger.

Columbia wants to hold activities on the grounds, such as outdoor meetings and pop-up movie nights, twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Benjamin said. He wants to start a year’s worth of events this fall. The city already helps pay for South Carolina officials to hold Statehouse tours on Saturdays so a key attraction is open on weekends for visitors.

Benjamin told The Post and Courier that he met with McMaster on Friday and said the governor was receptive about the city’s efforts to bring more activity to the Statehouse.

“This is a unique space,” the mayor said. “You can do it in only one place in the state.”

But McMaster stopped short of endorsing the city’s “Front Porch” project and told Benjamin that he needed to get proper state go-ahead before moving forward, said Brian Symmes, the governor’s spokesman. The Administration Department said in its letter that the city would need “legislative action” for its plans.

The city approached the administration department in January and were told to work with the legislative committee that oversees the grounds, said John Fellows, Columbia’s planning administrator. The Statehouse Committee does not meet often and, after a hearing was canceled last month, the city was told to handle its requests with the administration department, which then issued its letter not supporting the project.

City leaders remain hopeful about speaking with administration agency officials to develop events and activities on the Statehouse grounds, Fellows said.

“We want to know what they would be willing to do,” he said.

Columbia was one of 33 projects to win a piece of a $5 million award from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for innovative community projects. The awards were announced Monday.

 The Statehouse is an 18-acre hub surrounded by two entertainment districts, Main Street and The Vista, and the state’s flagship college, the University of South Carolina. The city hopes to capture some of the increased traffic from people living and working downtown, and coming out on the weekends for events, including the weekly Soda City market.

“It’s a chance to connect the dots,” Benjamin said.

The Statehouse is already a popular spot in Columbia that attracts thousands of visitors and students who tour the historic building each year as well as many people who use the grounds to exercise, take wedding and prom photos, and even play Pokémon Go.

The grounds also often are used for rallies and demonstrations. The Administration Department confirmed reservations for 237 events at the Statehouse last year. The grounds drew worldwide attention two years ago with the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the north side of the Statehouse after the Charleston church shootings.

“We feel that with the many tragedies that have brought the people of South Carolina together,” the city wrote in its proposal for the foundation prize, “the Statehouse has become not only a symbolic gathering place but also a source of unity and positive change.”

Speak Your Mind