2020 Christmas in Columbia Ornament of Opportunity – 701 Whaley


In keeping with the spirit of the season, the Babcock Center Foundation proudly presents the 2020 “Official City Ornament.” This year’s ornament depicts 701 Whaley.


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.