On Thursday, June 24, the African American Heritage Trail committee hosted a dedication ceremony honoring Clara Miles, the founder of the Miles Manor neighborhood.
Clara Miles was an African-American woman and advocate for abolishing segregation in Columbia. Her dream of having equal rights for her family and the African-American community inspired the Columbia Fair Housing Ordinance, a law which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and disability in the housing market.
In 1959, the Miles Manor Subdivision was established and provided Black families with the opportunity of home ownership. This initiative made it significantly easier for African-Americans to find housing prior to and after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Clara Miles partnered with Engineering Surveys & Services to design the neighborhood’s infrastructure. Together, they were able to bring their shared vision to life, which future generations have since benefitted from.
History of Miles Manor
In the 1950s and 1960s, African-American families in Columbia, and across America, were having trouble finding quality housing. In an effort to find a solution for their community, a group of ten Black families got together to build their own neighborhood in Columbia. This initiative was led by Clara Miles, whose inspiration came when she saw a $75,000 house while on a drive with her husband. Miles could not buy this house, but instead found a 30 acre plot of land for $20,000. She and some friends pooled their money together and bought this land, which would later become the Miles Manor subdivision.
Miles faced multiple obstacles when trying to build the new neighborhood. In addition to a lack of interest from builders and loan agents, the land was next to the old Columbia Sewer Treatment plant and the families could only reach it via an access road.
The group of Black families approached Jim Reed at Engineering Surveys & Services in hopes that he could help them develop the neighborhood. During a time when many people didn’t want to be associated with an initiative benefiting minorities, Jim Reed saw potential in the project. As a result, in the 1970s, six more families moved into the neighborhood. The population of Miles Manor then grew, and it slowly started to evolve into an established community. A grocery store was soon built nearby and the sewage treatment plant was removed from the area, making it more livable for residents.
Partnership with Engineering Surveys & Services
Jim Reed and Clara Miles shared the same belief that everyone should have equal access to quality housing, no matter their ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Engineering Surveys & Services worked in various stages of the building process throughout the 1960s. In total, they completed two subdivision plats, as well as designing roads, sewers, and water mains. They also provided bid and construction phase services to keep the project on track.
The lasting impact of Miles Manor
Many of the families of Miles Manor’s original founders still live in the neighborhood. Their goal is to foster a thriving community for future generations. We are proud to have contributed to such an important project during a time of racial injustice. For more information, contact Engineering Surveys & Services today.
Image Credit: Picture from the event