Turning Heads: Columbia's first Mid-Century Masterpiece – Columbia Star

By Lois Carlisle, Historic Columbia

On the northwest nook of Meeting and Laurel streets stands one of many earliest examples of recent structure in Columbia. The Veterans Administration Regional Workplace Constructing (VARO), with its glossy, horizontal strains and use of revolutionary constructing strategies, was the first of its variety within the capital metropolis.

On the time of its building in 1949, the VARO would have featured prominently on the town’s shifting skyline. Think about trying up from the underside of Arsenal Hill and seeing such a constructing— one whose design linked it with that of different main cities in america –Atlanta, Raleigh, Richmond, and most significantly with Washington D.C. Satellite tv for pc or regional workplaces for Federal businesses had been new on the time. To generate a way of authority, the VARO’s architects aligned its design with that of the latest additions to the nation’s capital.

Some of the distinct options of the constructing is the granite aid sculpture at its entrance. Edmond Amateis, a Beaux-Arts educated sculptor for quite a few conflict memorials and works for the Division of Commerce Constructing in D.C., accomplished the piece in 1952. The work depicts an agricultural allegory in South Carolina with Dr. Thomas G. Clemson, the distinguished farmer, instructing scientific agriculture. The work depicts symbols and pictures that symbolize equal rights and alternative for African Individuals amidst South Carolina crops and agriculture.


Veterans Administration Regional Office Veterans Administration Regional Workplace Beforehand, the Veterans Administration workplaces had been situated outdoors of the town at Fort Jackson. By constructing the VARO within the coronary heart of downtown’s business district, it turned simpler for veterans to entry healthcare, navy advantages, and housing providers.

The placement of the constructing itself allowed for elevated visibility not solely with clientele, but in addition with most people. This constructing was proof the federal authorities not solely had a presence in South Carolina, however a significant one.

The VARO’s architects had been LaFaye, LaFaye, & Honest and Stork & Lyles—the latter being the precursor agency for Lyles, Bisset, Carlisle, & Wolff (LBC&W). The Columbiabased LBC&W was some of the distinguished structure corporations within the Southeast, with a prolific physique of labor that formed South Carolina skylines for many years.

For those who’ve seen Cornell Arms, the Palmetto Membership, Russell Home, Claire Towers, Thomas Cooper Library, or the VARO’s neighbor, Columbia’s Most important Publish Workplace, then you're aware of the agency’s physique of labor. If your own home sits in Forest Acres, then you definately would possibly reside in an LBC&W unique.

The VARO Constructing holds significance for its operate as a pivot level for federal structure in Columbia. Previous to the VARO’s building, the town’s authorities buildings had been executed within the Renaissance Revival Type.

LBC&W veered from the traditionalist mode of building and opted for a glossy, linear type which mirrored the up to date, dynamic values of the federal authorities’s new post- WWII businesses. In different phrases: the VARO was attractive.

At present, this groundbreaking, model-shifting, emblem of a technology stands empty. In 2015, upon studying the Normal Companies Administration (GSA) was calling for the constructing’s demolition, Historic Columbia requested the State Historic Preservation Workplace contemplate VARO as eligible for Nationwide Register standing. As soon as decided eligible, GSA determined to supply the constructing on the market. This iconic mid-century fashionable constructing, situated on the cusp of the important thing business district, now has the chance for brand new life.

Could is Nationwide Historic Preservation Month. Go to HistoricColumbia.org to study extra about its position in advocating and preserving historic websites just like the VARO.

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Turning Heads: Columbia's first Mid-Century Masterpiece - Columbia Star