The town of Columbia is located between the Duck River and the Highland Rim in central Tennessee. It is small, with a population of about 38,000 spread over about 30 square miles. It was incorporated in 1817, spanning only four blocks at that time. Although it has grown, Columbia is still an old-fashioned town, with a mix of historic buildings, suburban homes, and farms sitting on acres of open land.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Despite its sleepy atmosphere, the city of Columbia is striving to expand and become more progressive. The city has approved projects to enhance the community and infrastructure, with the hope of creating jobs in an area that has an unemployment rate twice the state's average. The projects include redeveloping roads and building new public facilities.
The major sources of jobs for Columbia residents are the retail, health care, and food service industries. Columbia does have its share of restaurant chains, but a good portion of the dining scene is dominated by local restaurateurs.
Maury Regional Hospital employs more than 2,000 workers, making it one of the largest employers in the area. Some residents commute twenty minutes north to Spring Hill to work in the General Motors assembly plant located there.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Compared with the rest of the United States, Columbia has a low cost of living and does not impose high taxes on residents or businesses. Its crime rate is higher than the national average, however. Columbia is mostly comprised of suburban districts, but it does boast several neighborhoods known for their farms and historic sophistication:
- Graymere Manor: This upscale district is located on the south side of town and is home to several golf and country clubs. There are mostly suburban homes and farms here.
- Hardison Mill: A quiet, rural area located on the east side of town, Hardison Mill has easy access to I-65.
- Riverside: This district is a more affordable suburban area and is positioned in the northeast section of Columbia.
- Highland Park: The Highland Park district is close to the center of town. It is very affordable and offers an easy commute for those without vehicles.
- Royal Oaks: This urban area, which encompasses the downtown district, is considered to be artsy yet sophisticated. Home prices are slightly higher here than in other areas of Columbia, possibly due to the prevalence of historic homes in the district.
- Westwood: To the west of the downtown area, Westwood is a family-oriented suburban area with high home values.
- Williamsport: Located west of Westwood, this rural area is home to quiet farms.
Columbia has strong ties with its community. Despite its small size, it provides several recreation centers, parks, and community centers for its residents. It is home to many churches, and WMRB 910 AM, a Christian radio station, broadcasts from Columbia.
There are quite a few public and private schools for residents of Columbia, and the city is also home to Columbia State Community College, a public two-year post-secondary school. In addition, the King's Daughters' School Center for Autism is located here; it is a nonprofit program that provides individual attention to children with autism.
- Athenaeum Rectory: Although this Gothic home was originally built in 1835 for the nephew of President James K. Polk, it served as an exclusive all-girls school from 1852 through 1904, teaching subjects otherwise reserved for boys' schools. Tours allow the public to view the home's unique architecture and rotating exhibits.
- Public Square: This downtown area is home to many restaurants, antique stores, art galleries, and professional offices. The West Sixth Street and Mayes Place Historic District is located in this area.
- Duck River Canoeing: Visitors to the Duck River may choose to view its wildlife from the river itself.
- Elm Springs: Now used as the Sons of Confederate Veterans General Headquarters, this circa-1837 home is open to the public.
- James K. Polk Ancestral Home: This home was built in 1816 by Polk's father while the future president was away at college. More than 1,000 Polk family artifacts are on display in the house and other buildings on the property, which are open to the public.
- Southport Saltpeter Cave: This cave formation was used by Confederate troops during the Civil War. The public can visit the cave for tours to learn about the cave itself as well as its Civil War history. There are also walking trails and picnic areas on the property.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Hannah Montana movie was filmed in part in Columbia in 2008.
- Columbia was home to three generations of the Marlin family of NASCAR fame: Coo Coo, Sterling and Steadman.
- The town is the self-proclaimed Mule Capital of the World, hosting Mule Day every April and attracting more than 200,000 visitors to the festivities.
- Columbia State Community College was Tennessee's first two-year college.