Columbia Housing Authority has received permission from the federal government to raze Gonzales Gardens, the city’s oldest, and one of the nation’s oldest, public housing complexes. Built in 1939 and occupied by veterans in 1940, the community has provided affordable housing for over 75 years.
The Gardens has been home to notable former residents such as Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Bernadin and basketball star Tyrone Corbin.
The CHA has a design plan for a $60 million complex to replace Gonzales Gardens that will reduce current density, create a mixed income community and provide affordable housing to downtown Columbia.
For more information on the redevelopment plan, please visit www.chachoice.com
Gonzales Gardens was named after the Gonzales Brothers, William Elliott (1866-1937), Ambrose Elliott (1857-1926) and Narciso Gener (1858-1903). Click on each portrait to learn more about each individual.
On June 12, 1939, Chairman W.S. Hendley announced that the first of the two projects would be named after the Gonzales Brothers, and would be located on Forest Drive, across from Providence Hospital. The property on Forest Drive was bought by the CHA on June 17, 1939, and included 23 acres of land that would suit 200 to 250 units of low-income housing. Construction of the new project began in late November, 1939, and the final plan included 236 dwelling units at a cost of approximately $1 million dollars. A firm out of Charlotte, North Carolina, V. P Loftis, was the low bidder on the construction contract for Gonzales Gardens.
Gonzales Gardens was opened for occupancy on September 16, 1940, and it was completely filled within 15 days. One hundred of the new apartments were made available to non-commissioned officers families stationed at Fort Jackson. The remainder of the apartments housed civilian families in the low-income bracket, according to federal law governing income levels.
The project was owned and operated by the CHA, and originally consisted of 236 units. Only white families were permitted to live at Gonzales. Rents originally ranged from $7.65 to $16.75 per month and included electricity, gas and water.
It was at Gonzales Gardens that the CHA first adopted the system of graded rents, making it one of the first housing authorities in the country to do so. Graded rents refer to the adjusting of the monthly rental amount according to the family's income.
In May of 1942, 44 additional units were constructed at Gonzales Gardens, bringing the total to 280 where it stands today.
Gonzales Gardens was built under the same loan contract as Allen-Benedict Court, and both projects together cost $1,800,000. Allen-Benedict Court consists of 244 dwelling units, and was originally developed to house only African Americans. It was also owned and operated by the CHA, and featured graded rents.
History of Gonzales Gardens
Click here to see a sample lease and original rental amounts
This map illustrates the site plan of Gonzales Gardens as well as the year each building was constructed. If you click on the map, you will be taken to an interactive version that will allow you to view pictures of each building as they stood in 2017.
Click here to see the 1939 promotional brochure for Gonzales Gardens.
William Elliott Gonzales
Click here to see a collection of vintage photos of Gonzales Gardens
Click here to see the 1941 Dedication Program
Click here to see the Dedication Address
Narciso Gener Gonzales
Ambrose Elliott Gonzales
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Columbia Housing Authority, 1917 Harden St., Columbia SC 29204 (803)254-3886