The Aiken County Historical Museum, under the direction of the Aiken County Historical Commission, collects, preserves, promotes, interprets, and exhibits the historical objects of Aiken County and its surrounds.
The impact we strive to have is to be the county’s show place; become networked with other museums within the county; provide for sufficient professional staffing; be inclusive of the county’s history and its people; know what we have in our collections; create vibrant and educational programming; and have the ACHM be widely understood and appreciated by the public.
History of the Aiken County Historical Museum
History of the Museum
The Aiken County Historical Museum was formed by the Aiken County Historical Commission in 1970 as part of the state’s tricentennial celebration. The official dedication of the museum occurred on February 12, 1970 at the Aiken County Courthouse Jail and the museum opened to the public in July of that year. After fourteen years, the museum moved to its current building Banksia, a Winter Colony home at the corner of South Boundary Avenue and Newberry Street.
The building we know today as Banksia has been a home to four families from 1862 to 1951—the Gibsons, the Townsends, the Harringtons, and the Howes. The north section of the building was built around 1862 by Charleston merchant Adam Gibson. It was added onto by the subsequent families of William Townsend and Charles Harrington. In 1931, Richard Flint Howe of Long Island, NY, purchased what was then known as the Harrington house. He moved the 3,500 sq.ft. home to the north side of the 3.5 acre property and added 14,000 sq.ft. onto it for a total of 17,500 sq.ft. The newly combined home with 32 rooms and 13 bathrooms was named Banksia by Howe after the Lady Banks Rose that climbed its walls. The building served almost one hundred years as a private home, until 1952 when Banksia changed functions. With the creation of the Savannah River Site, the home was converted into a boarding house for the influx of new SRS employees.
By 1957 the building took on a completely new role as an institute for learning when Southern Methodist College moved in. However, by 1961 SMC left the site and the University of South Carolina opened a satellite campus in Aiken at Banksia. In 1971 USCA moved to a larger location and the Aiken County Public Library opened its doors to the families of Aiken County in Banksia. Within the building, there was also room for a growing museum and in 1984 the museum moved into the 1862 section of Banksia. After years of simultaneous growth, the library departed in early 1989 for more spacious quarters and the museum assumed the entire 17,500 sq.ft. and 3.5 acres of Banksia in 1992.
Today, every square inch of Banksia is utilized to preserve the history of our county. It is our pleasure to welcome an average of 20,000 visitors each year—from locals to travelers from every continent in the world, excluding Antarctica. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2020, we welcome the public to celebrate our county’s amazing history!
Contact Us @ the Museum
Aiken County Historical Museum
433 Newberry St. SW | Aiken, SC 29801
Hours of Operation:
Tuesday – Saturday | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday | 2 pm – 5 pm
Admission is Free