701 Whaley was built in Columbia, SC in 1903 as the company store for the area’s five textile mills. By 1909, it had quickly become a community center for the mill workers and everybody just called it “The Y”. The site included a bowling alley, barber shop, library, auditorium, gymnasium, pool, and dance hall. The building served many purposes until the 1980’s when textile jobs moved away.
When a large section of roof caved in during the early 2000’s, the City of Columbia condemned the building and was on the brink of tearing it down. In 2006, Richard Burts, a local real estate developer, Robert Lewis, an expert in the renovation of historic buildings, and Bob McConnell, a California investor, purchased the structure with the goal of preserving and restoring this iconic building to its original appearance.
Today, 701 Whaley is a beautiful 55,000 square-foot building on the National Register of Historic Places and a great example of giving an old building new life through adaptive use. 701 Whaley is a thriving venue that boasts the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, multiple unique event spaces, office studios, live/work lofts and the hallway: community art – a showcase for local artists.