The oldest public housing community in South Carolina – one of the first in the nation – will be torn down Oct. 4 in Columbia, about a year after Gonzales Gardens’ last residents were relocated.

Before the demolition begins, the public, including past residents, will have one last chance to walk through the Gonzales Gardens apartments on Sept. 29-30.

Many people have asked if they could revisit their old homes at the Gardens before they’re torn down, said Nancy Stoudenmire, director of planning for the Columbia Housing Authority.

“It’s just like, you want to go back and see the old home you were raised in,” she said. “We want to give people that opportunity.”

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Residents used to complain about crime at Gonzales Gardens, one of the first federally subsidized housing complexes in the nation. Some tenants said they sometimes would not let their children or grandchildren play outside.

The Housing Authority wants to gather names and contact information from former residents to conduct historical interviews about Gonzales Gardens, Stoudenmire said.

And for those who never lived there, “there are a lot of people who have always wanted to see what it looks like inside public housing,” Stoudenmire said. “Well, here’s your chance.”

You’ll find no showers in the apartments, no air conditioning, small cabinets and few of the comfortable standards of modern living. At the time they were built in the 1940s, though, the Gardens were considered “good quality housing,” Stoudenmire said.

Anyone is welcome to walk through the apartments from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, the 29th and 30th. They are located at 1505 Garden Plaza in Columbia, across from Providence Hospital.

Demolition of Gonzales Gardens will begin Oct. 4, with a public ceremony at 10 a.m. The buildings should be completely torn down by the end of the year, Stoudenmire said.

The site is planned to be redeveloped into a mixed-income housing community, similar to Columbia’s Rosewood Hills and Celia Saxon neighborhoods. About 60 percent of the units will be subsidized. Forty percent will rent for market rate.

But a construction timetable is still uncertain, as the Housing Authority works to identify enough funding from multiple sources for the project.

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