Critical Interactives: Ward One

About Ward One:

“Ward One” refers to a local voting district that became officially designated a “blighted” area by the Columbia Housing Authority (ca. 1957-1975). Above is a picture of Ward One, taken in 1925. Longstreet Theater can be seen in the center of the photograph.

Where once stood homes, schools, churches, and businesses now stand the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, the Koger Center, the Carolina Coliseum, and several other University of South Carolina buildings.

Dr. Bobby Donaldson in the Department of History has been actively involved with the Ward One [Families Reunion] Organization. He, with the help of students, has collected oral histories from former Ward One residents and accumulated an extensive collection of primary materials regarding Ward One, its history and residents.

The Ward One community lives on in the stories shared by and ongoing efforts of people who remember a time when they called Ward One home. Ward One Community is the organization’s current website; it features announcements regarding upcoming meetings and events.

About the application:

Ward One: Race, Urban Renewal, and Community Memories in Columbia, South Carolina is a location-aware mobile application and an accompanying interactive website that presents the story of the predominantly African American community in Columbia, South Carolina known as Ward One.

Using the affordances of both touchscreen and desktop interfaces, Ward One invites participants to understand the vibrant but insular world that African Americans created in the aftermath of Emancipation and the community that formed in the face of Jim Crow policies and segregation—in the shadows of the Statehouse and the University of South Carolina.

It asks them to consider both the local and national policies and politics that fueled urban renewal in Columbia, SC and elsewhere in the country. And it presents the personal accounts of those who were forced to relocate but who worked ardently to protest such acts of “progress.”

Ward One mobilizes oral histories, local news footage, photographs, and other archival materials that serve as evidence of the historic place and its demolition, as well as the site’s initial appropriation by the City of Columbia and the Columbia Housing Authority, and its subsequent acquisition and transformation by the University of South Carolina.

The mobile application features the repurposed facilities of Booker T. Washington High School where once Ward One teenagers went to school; the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center which stands where once stood the Celia Dial Saxon School; the Colonial Sports Arena, and other locations across what was once Ward One. The interactive website frames these local stories in the context of national urban renewal and tenement reform initiatives.

The Ward One Project:

The Ward One project is being undertaken as part of the scholarship of Dr. Heidi Rae Cooley, School of Visual Art and Design, Dr. Duncan Buell, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Department of History, together with other faculty both at the University of South Carolina and elsewhere.

Dr. Cooley and Dr. Buell team-taught in Spring 2015 a class that developed a proof of concept (video below) of the Ward One app and website. Students came from both computer science and the humanities. A second class in Spring 2016 had an emphasis on compiling oral histories, in collaboration with Professor Laura Kissel's documentary production class, and on real time “pushing” of content to mobile touchscreen devices according to geo-coordinates. A third class in Spring 2017 focused on presentation features and the inclusion of ambient audio, and a current class in Spring 2018 will finish the app for submission to the App Store.

Spring 2018 Team

  • Thorya Aadland
  • David Adelman
  • Carrie Adkins
  • Emma Drobina
  • Caleb Franklin
  • Kevin Gagnon
  • Damian Hoffman
  • Angelica Iglesias
  • Judson James
  • Sadia Khan
  • Jessica Kinosian
  • Amanda Kisby
  • Caleb Kisby
  • Leslie Leonard
  • Tate McGillan
  • Ainsley McWaters
  • Allison Rogers
  • Max Villaire
  • Foster Williams
  • Nick Zuppas

Spring 2017 Team

  • George Akhvlediani
  • Andrew Battelini
  • Travis Casey
  • Jacob Clark
  • Daniel Clements
  • Emma Drobina
  • Allison Dugger
  • Jamie Gross
  • Bonnie Harris-Lowe
  • Ryan Hodge
  • Andrew Lasseter
  • Jenny Nguyen
  • Caleb Parks
  • Herman Phillips
  • Charissa Pichai
  • Jason Porter
  • Victor Reynolds
  • Spencer Roe
  • Eduardo Romero-Gainza
  • Jacob Strom
  • Nick Vera
  • Samantha Wanamaker
  • Ronald Wess
  • Leslie Yarborough

Spring 2016 Team

  • George Akhvlediani
  • Omar Ansari
  • Amber Brown-Rogers
  • Travis Casey
  • Steven Dao
  • Courtney Gantt
  • Camron Godbout
  • Bonnie Harris-Lowe
  • Kayla Kasprak
  • Sydney Key
  • Austin Pahl
  • Charles Allen Perkins
  • Jared Piedt
  • Elizabeth Pruett
  • Cynthia Richey

Spring 2015 Team

  • Olga Agafonova
  • George Akhvlediani
  • Connor Bain
  • Maribeth Bottorff
  • Travis Casey
  • Robert Ellis
  • Chris Fite
  • Camron Godbout
  • Tien Ho
  • Blakeley Hoffman
  • Myndert Papenhuyzen
  • Charles Allen Perkins
  • Jared Piedt
  • Fabian Reddig
  • Victor Reynolds
  • Emily Shea
  • Katie Simmons
  • Krystal Tobias
  • Hannah Townsend
  • Katie Wiggins

Prototype 2016:


827 Assembly Street (patience--this may take a moment to start up)


Union Station (patience--this may take a moment to start up)


Urban Renewal (patience--this may take a moment to start up)


Compilation short about "urban renewal" in Columbia SC

Edited by George Akhvlediani

(patience--this may take a moment to start up)


Ward One Reconstructing Memory (2016)

Emily Acerra, Chandler Green, Muriel Lee, Christine Shestko

Professor Laura Kissel's documentary production class

Documentary website

Proof of Concept 2015:


Booker T. Washington High School in the life of Ward One. (patience--this may take a moment to start up)


Ice Cream on (one side of) the Statehouse grounds.


827 Assembly Street, now, and then.