Woodrow Wilson’s teenage home in S. Carolina gets new name

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The caretakers of former President Woodrow Wilson’s teenage home in South Carolina have changed the name of the landmark site, seeking to more accurately reflect the era that formed the 28th president’s segregationist views.

The museum has changed its name from The Woodrow Wilson Family Home to The Museum of Reconstruction Era at the Woodrow Wilson Home, The Post and Courier reported Tuesday. Wilson lived at the Columbia property from 1871 to 1875 during Reconstruction.

The villa-style home built in 1871 is one of four historic sites for Wilson — along with his birthplace in Stanton, Virginia; a home in Augusta, Georgia, where he grew up; and the Washington, D.C., home where he lived after his time as president — and is South Carolina’s only presidential site.

Historic Columbia, a non-profit organization, acquired the property in 2014. Dawn Mills-Campbell, a board member for the organization, told the Richland County Council in October that the title change “does not erase the site’s history” but instead gives the organization and the county “a more forward-facing role in addressing the ongoing dialogue around the importance of the Reconstruction era to current events.”

The site had reopened as a museum about the politician and the Reconstruction era in 2014, nearly a decade after closing its doors to the public for renovations. Historic Columbia also made other changes to present a more comprehensive view of Wilson’s views, including adding his 1913 order to racially segregate the federal workforce, the newspaper reported.

A segregationist Democrat, Wilson wrote a history textbook praising the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan, and worked to keep Black students out while serving as Princeton University’s president. The reformer also established the federal income tax, the central banking system and was a leading architect of the League of Nations, was also the first Southerner to serve as president since the Civil War.

The name change gives visitors a better idea of what to expect when they come to the home, Campbell said. “The primary focus of the site is the Reconstruction period,” she said. The museum wanted to “be transparent and direct about the visitor experience at the site.”

Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson said she had previously avoided visiting the site because of its emphasis on the former president’s teenage years, but that might change.

“I had a serious problem with that and I don’t think I ever went there because of the name,” she said. “Maybe I’ll come down and visit now.”

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