A Neighborhood Transformed: Urban Renewal and University Expansion in Wheeler Hill, Columbia, SC

Authors: Sophie Kahler*, University of South Carolina
Topics: Historical Geography, Urban Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Historical geography, Urban renewal, Social geography, Urban geography
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Wheeler Hill, a small neighborhood located just south of the University of South Carolina’s campus, was a community of working-class African Americans for much of the 20th century. In 1959, as the University and the City of Columbia embarked on the city’s first urban renewal project, Wheeler Hill homes were targeted for purchase and demolition to make way for university expansion. In the years that followed USC acquired the land on Wheeler Hill, as well as much of the land south and west of campus where the Greek Village and Coliseum stand today, which were also low-income black communities. The acquisition of this land was shocking to residents, who found themselves displaced from their neighborhood and separated from their tight-knit community. In the mid-1970s, the university began demolishing the Wheeler Hill homes and opted to sell the land to private developers to construct high-end townhouses. Despite former residents’ pleas for public or mixed-income housing that would allow many to return to Wheeler Hill, the area became the upper-middle class white neighborhood seen today.

My research of Wheeler Hill illustrates the power of institutions in shaping the urban landscape and the oppression of minorities in American cities. The landscape around us is not there by chance, and Wheeler Hill reveals an overlooked and intersecting history of power, class, and race between a university, city, and residents.

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