Downtown Columbia is an area in transition. As construction of The Lofts on Broadway comes to a close, storefronts change and move and the population of downtown Columbia continues to grow, it’s easy to forget how far the city center has come.
The stores that line East Broadway often mix the old with the new. Of the buildings that make up downtown, more than 50 are 100 years old or more. Eighty-one buildings downtown are registered historic buildings with the National Register. For example, Buchroeders jewelry store, which now sits wedged between Jimmy John’s and Roxys, opened in 1896 and is one of Columbia’s oldest businesses. Buchroeders has owned the building it occupies at 1021 E. Broadway since it was built in 1911. When the building was constructed, the average life expectancy for men was 47 years, around 8 percent of homes in the United States had telephones and the average worker brought home a yearly wage of between $200 and $400.
In the 1960s there was a push to modernize the downtown area to compete with the shopping malls that were being constructed. Buildings such as the Virginia Building, which now houses several businesses, including Tiger Spirit and Woody’s Clothiers, were wrapped in metal siding to give them a more contemporary look. The building, which was given the new look in 1965, was not unwrapped until 2003. In 1968 a concrete canopy was constructed along both sides of East Broadway. In 2004, a few store owners decided to remove the canopy directly in front of their businesses. This paved the way for Columbia’s Special Business Board to vote in favor of removing the canopy in its entirety. By 2006 the canopy was gone, and the storefronts were once again visible.
As Columbia’s downtown district melds new construction with century-old buildings, only time will tell how the landscape of East Broadway will continue to change in the years to come.