The historic core of the Waverly neighborhood was originally an early subdivision of an antebellum plantation by the same name, owned by Robert Latta, an antebellum merchant and planter. The name "Waverly" was inspired by Sir Walter Scott's Waverly novels which gained popularity among southern aristocrats in the early nineteenth century.
Waverly was laid out into blocks of approximately four-and-a-half acres each just east of the city boundary. By the early twentieth century, it had evolved into a community of black artisans, professionals and social reformers, many of whom made significant contributions to the social and political advancement of blacks in Columbia and South Carolina.
The consolidation of two railroads to from the Charlotte, Columbia, and Augusta Railroad in 1869 (later part of the Southern Railway) was a catalyst to the development of Waverly following the Civil War. By 1871, "there were four iron works, and the car shops" of the railroad one block west of the subdivision. 1309 Pine street, 1224 Pine Street, 1414 Harden Street, and 2329 Washington street are good examples of railroad employees' residences from the period c. 1900-c. 1930.
By the 1880s, Waverly was served by two schools of critical importance to blacks in South Carolina. Benedict College, which was founded by the Baptist Horne Mission Society in 1870, drew black professors and students to live in Waverly, which bordered on the campus. Allen University was founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1881 and erected its first building in the northwest block of the original Waverly subdivision in 1888.
In 1894, the electric streetcar extended its service to Waverly, tying the suburb to Columbia’s central business district. In 1908, the Mercantile and Industrial Review of Columbia and Richland County, South Carolina claimed that Waverly was "one of the largest suburbs Columbia has." Another Columbia pictorial issued about the same time gave the streetcars credit for encouraging suburban growth.
In 1912, residents Lysander D. Childs and J. P. Thomas approached the Columbia City council requesting the annexation of Waverly. Other territory contiguous to the neighborhood was also considered for annexation. Prior to the referendum, the Columbia Record reminded voters to view the issue as "clear cut between a greater and more progressive Columbia and stagnation." Waverly was annexed, along with Shandon and part of Eau Claire, in June 1913.
The Waverly Historic District is significant as Columbia's first suburb. As early as c. 1870, the twin catalysts of private land speculation and inter-urban transportation improvements shaped the city's growth, making Waverly Columbia's first residential neighborhood located outside the original city limits. An early subdivision of an antebellum plantation, Waverly developed following the opening of railroad shops two blocks west of the neighborhood in the late 1860s. The growth of the neighborhood was further encouraged by the introduction of the electric streetcar service in 1894. By the turn of the twentieth century, the historic core of Waverly, bounded by Taylor, Heidt, Gervais, and Harden streets, had developed into a populous, racially-mixed residential neighborhood.
By the 1920s, Waverly had evolved into Columbia's most prominent black community. Its importance to black history is reflected not only in the homes of its residents but also in its concentration of institutions such as Allen University and the Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital. These and other institutions served many blacks at a time when equal educational opportunities and proper medical treatment were generally denied them as a result of racial discrimination. Blacks in Waverly created a nearly self-sufficient community of black-owned businesses, hospitals, churches, and schools which served Waverly residents and other South Carolina blacks. Waverly residents were also active in civil rights efforts as early as the 1930s, and some of them became local and regional leaders.
An occupational profile of Waverly reveals that trade and semiskilled workers comprised the backbone of the community: they included railroad workers, bricklayers, carpenters, and dressmakers. Although professionals such as ministers, teachers, nurses, and physicians never represented more than one-third of Waverly's black population, their numbers were significant, and increased throughout the early twentieth century. The presence of a large group of black urban professionals in Waverly was directly related to the large concentration of churches, schools, and other public institutions which served the black community.
Hospitals and other health-care facilities associated with the neighborhood included Benedict Hospital, the Evans Clinic, and Waverly Fraternal Hospital and Nurses Training school (later Good Samaritan - Waverly Hospital). In addition, an unusually large number of black doctors and nurses worked at or trained in these facilities and resided in Waverly. Dr. Norman A. Jenkins, a black physician from Anderson, founded the Waverly hospital in 1924, establishing it in the Lysander D. Childs house. It was demolished c. 1949 and replaced by the Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital. Norman Jenkins and his brother Dr. Douglas K. Jenkins, a dentist, built residences at 2200 Hampton street and 1416 Pine Street, respectively. Lillian Norther, superintendent of the Nurses' Training School, lived at 1412 Pine Street. Some black physicians practiced at the hospital and maintained a separate office located behind their residence. Examples are the offices built c. 1920 by Dr. Benjamin A. Everett at 2124 Washington Street and by Dr. W.D. Chappelle at 2115 Lady Street.
Woodrow Memorial Presbyterian Church, now Bishops' Memorial A.M.E. Church (c. 1907), also played an important role in the evolution of the neighborhood. After serving a white congregation for over twenty years, it became the Salters Memorial A.M.E. Church in 1929. The church adopted the current name in 1979, and was listed in the National Register that year.
By the end of the nineteenth century, blacks operated many retail and service businesses in the city, which were located in both the downtown and suburban neighborhoods. From 1900 to 1930 the number of businesses in Waverly increased. While grocery stores, many of which were owned by whites, had been the most common businesses in the neighborhood during that period, the 1930s saw the introduction of such businesses as a pharmacy, a restaurant, a barber, a dressmaker's shop, and a confectioner's store.
Waverly developed a strong community identity and supported collective efforts to challenge racial discrimination. Several neighborhood residents distinguished themselves as early advocates of social reform. The names of Waverly residents read like a Who's Who of Columbia's civil rights movement.
The Waverly Historic District is architecturally significant as an illustration of the development of a post-bellum Southern subdivision and more specifically as an early twentieth century black community.
The architectural resources of the Waverly Historic District represent a cross-section of Columbia's black community and the remnants of its earlier white population. These architectural resources date from and are representative of the period c. 1870-c. 1940, with the majority being built c. 1900-c. 1920. These properties are stylistically typical of this period, predominately bungalows and some Queen Anne residences. These were intermixed with shotguns and other smaller vernacular housing types.
This economic intermingling of smaller rental properties with larger, more sophisticated housing types continued in the twentieth century. Black professionals built larger brick Craftsman and Colonial Revival-influenced residences while the shotgun remained the most prominent smaller housing type.
Buildings constructed for commercial Purposes were typical one- and two-story brick commercial structures with little ornamentation. High-style architecture in Waverly is confined to Woodrow Memorial Presbyterian Church (now Bishops' Memorial A.M.E. Church) and the historic buildings at Allen University, reflecting the Classical and Colonial Revival movements.