Restaurant Week: Wheeler House

One of South Carolina’s newer events is Restaurant Week: a state-wide event held over eleven days that showcases the distinct and exciting restaurant scenes found across the state. As participating restaurants offer special deals during this time, attendees have the opportunity to try new food spots and revisit old favorites. In celebration of Restaurant Week (January 10-20, 2013), SCDNP takes a look at the culinary scene of South Carolina’s past as seen through historic newspapers. In this second installment, SCDNP takes an in-depth look at the Wheeler House, a popular hotel and restaurant in Columbia.

Browsing through one of Columbia’s historic papers, The Daily Phoenix, any researcher will be quick to notice the advertisement for the Wheeler House. This ad appears in every issue for one year between January 15, 1873 and January 15, 1874. Located in the heart of Columbia’s downtown on the corner of Main Street and Plain Street (now Hampton Street), the Wheeler House was both a hotel and a restaurant. It was not uncommon that a restaurant would be attached to another business at the time as the trend of stand-alone restaurants was still in the beginning stages (for more information on the history of restaurants, see the previous blog post). The restaurant at the Wheeler House accommodated several types of people including locals as well as traveling guests staying overnight in the hotel.

When the advertisement for the Wheeler House first appears in The Daily Phoenix, the proprietor of the business, T. M. Pollock, provides a brief description of services offered in conjunction with a sketch of the building. One year later, the advertisement is pared back to only include the sketch, a one-line description, and a price.

Advertisement for the Wheeler House in The Daily Phoenix (Columbia, S.C.), January 15, 1873

Advertisement for the Wheeler House in The Daily Phoenix (Columbia, S.C.), January 15, 1874

While the ad for the Wheeler House appears to stop in the beginning of 1874, its notoriety can still be seen in other advertisements. Several businesses located near the popular spot often use it as a point of reference to describe their whereabouts.  The Wheeler House’s central location in the capital city’s downtown was ideal to attract customers, both local and traveling.

The Grand Central advertises its location as “Under the Wheeler House.” The Daily Phoenix (Columbia, S.C.), March 06, 1874

As discussed in the previous post, many restaurants of this time utilized the availability of local ingredients to create their dishes. While some places would carry staple items each day (such as fresh oysters, shrimp, etc.), many crafted daily menus based off of the accessibility of fresh food items.  A dated menu from the Wheeler House illustrates this concept.

A page from the menu of the Wheeler House dated March 12, 1875. Click on the picture to see the full menu (via South Caroliniana Library and USC Digital Collections).

The Wheeler House continued in operation until 1880 when it became the Grand Central Hotel. Today, the Columbia Marriott Hotel stands on the corner where the Wheeler House once stood.

Stay tuned throughout the rest of the week as SCDNP explores the advertisements of restaurants in other parts of the state.  Restaurant Week continues through Sunday, January 20th, so be sure to check out the deals and visit some local places to eat. 

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