The Joseph E. Winter (1920–1992) Collection

About the Collection

The Joseph E. Winter (1920–1992) Collection reflects the career of Joseph E. Winter, housing inspector (1955–1965) and director (1965–1980) of the Columbia Rehabilitation Commission. Information concerning copyright must be secured in writing from the Director of the South Caroliniana Library.

6 April 1920Joseph E. Winter born in Augusta, Georgia
c. 1938Attended Columbia High School and began affiliation with Town Theatre
1940–1943Worked at Savannah Ship Yards
1943–1951Served in U.S. Army
1943–1946Stationed in England and France
c. 1946Attended American Theatre Wing Training School in New York
1947Graduated from Bliss Electrical School in Takoma Park, Maryland
1947Returned to Columbia
1947–1950Worked for Green Electric Company in Columbia, S.C.
1950–1951Called into active duty and sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia; studied field illumination and became an instructor
1951–1955Employed in state, federal, and city governments in electrical departments
1955–1965Housing inspector for the Columbia Urban Rehabilitation Commission
1965–1980Director of Columbia Urban Rehabilitation Commission
1 March 1992Died

Biographical Sketch

In his capacity as the director of Columbia’s Urban Rehabilitation Commission between the years 1965 and 1980, Joseph E. Winter (1920–1992) played an integral role in Columbia’s development. While eradicating slums and other substandard housing, he also worked to improve the quality of life for Columbia’s residents by ensuring them adequate housing and sanitation. His agency’s work can also be credited with the preservation and restoration of some of Columbia’s most historic neighborhoods and landmarks, including Ainsley Hall and the Hampton-Preston Mansion.

Growing up in Augusta and Savannah, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina, Joseph E. Winter’s first love was not housing or historic preservation. Winter’s first love was the theatre. While a student at Columbia High School, Winter developed his interest in theatrical stage lighting and switchboards through his job at Columbia’s Town Theatre, a relationship that Winter would sustain throughout his life. After working at the Savannah Ship Yards from 1940 to 1943, Winter was inducted into the U.S. Army, where he served until 1951. He took advantage of being stationed in France to work with the lighting technicians at the Follies in Paris. Winter attended the American Theatre Wing Professional Training School in New York, where he graduated with a degree in stage lighting. In order to obtain further electrical knowledge, he then enrolled in Bliss Electrical School in Takoma Park, Maryland, where he graduated in 1947 with a diploma in industrial electrical engineering.

After going on inactive duty, Winter returned to Columbia and worked with Green Electric Company for three years. However, in 1950, he was called back into active duty and sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he studied and eventually become an instructor in field illumination. Between 1951 and 1955, Winter worked for the state, federal, and city governments in their electrical departments.

In 1955, Winter began his employment with Columbia’s Urban Rehabilitation Commission as a housing inspector, working to rehabilitate substandard housing and enforce housing codes. In 1965, Winter became the Commission’s director. During Winter's directorship, Columbia won a number of awards, including the All-American City Award, both in 1964 and 1965. Winter and the Commission implemented improvement and renewal plans for various Columbia neighborhoods, including Arden, Keenan Terrace, Pickens, Barhamville, and Millwood. The Commission rehabilitated buildings and neighborhoods when possible, but some were beyond repair and had to be demolished. Families whose homes were demolished were relocated by the Commission to better, low-income housing.

Winter and the Commission used several methods to educate the public about proper housing. They tried to hold community meetings, but turnout was poor. They went door-to-door in neighborhoods explaining to residents the purpose of inspections. They instituted radio and television presentations on housing conditions. They also developed programs for Columbia’s schools on housing, slums, and beautification. The Commission achieved perhaps its greatest community success with their Fight Blight campaigns that ran throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. Not only did the Commission make its efforts visible by participating in parades, creating billboards, and showing films, but they also involved a large portion of the community, including schoolchildren and local businesses, in their efforts. Various Columbia organizations and clubs, such as Boy Scout troops and garden clubs, volunteered their time and labor to help clean up Columbia neighborhoods.

While primarily concerned with helping to provide safer, healthier housing for Columbia residents, Winter was also concerned with providing for their recreational needs. Winter believed that mini-parks were a solution to the problem of recreational needs in urban areas. During Winter’s directorship, several mini-parks were created in Columbia, including the Tricentennial Mini-Park next to the State Bank on Main Street.

Beyond his job, Winter participated in many organizations and activities beneficial to Columbia. He participated in HANDS (Home and Neighborhood Development Sponsors), a community conservation and beautification program sponsored by the Garden Club Council and Sears Community Improvement Council. He served as vice-chairman of the Richland County Bicentennial Committee and was involved with the South Carolina Tricentennial Commission, serving as technical director of the Commission’s play, So That I May Not Weep, or The Burning of Columbia. He served as a representative of the Columbia Mayor’s Council on Human Relations and as coordinator of the Send a Boy to Camp Program at Fort Jackson. He was a member of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, Carolinas Council of Housing, Redevelopment and Codes Officials, Central Building Inspectors Association of South Carolina, and the Richland–Lexington Council on Aging. Winter received several awards for his service and dedication, including the South Carolina Governor’s Community Service Award (1970) and the Garden Club of South Carolina Inc. Appreciation Award (1969, 1970). He was also honored by Columbia’s Jewish community for his service in the U.S. Armed Forces by the engraving of his name on the Honor Roll of the House of Peace, Columbia, S.C.

After a lifetime of service, Winter retired from the Urban Rehabilitation Commission in 1980. However, he continued to be active in numerous capacities in the city of Columbia. He served for many years on the Governor’s Carolighting Committee and used his electrical knowledge to help decorate the state Christmas tree. He remained active in the Jewish community at Columbia’s Beth Shalom Synagogue. Winter also continued in his love of and devotion to the theatre.

Scope and Content

The Joseph E. Winter (1920–1992) Collection consists of 3,287 photographs, 207 negatives, 638 slides, approximately .25 linear feet of papers and printed materials, 8 films, and 4 audiocassettes documenting Winter’s career and the activities of the Columbia Urban Rehabilitation Commission. The collection spans from 1948 to 1993, with the majority of materials dating from 1956 to 1968. The collection is divided into six series: (1) Photographs, (2) Negatives, (3) Slides, (4) Papers, (5) Films, and (6) Audiocassettes.

Series I: Photographs
Series I consists of 3,287 photographs divided into sixteen subseries: (1) Identified Columbia Locations, (2) Christmas Parade, (3) Fight Blight, (4) Fire Prevention, (5) Houses Moved out of City, (6) Monthly Beautification Award Pictures, (7) Operation Shotgun, (8) Parking Lot Opening, (9) Tricentennial Parade, (10) Youth Opportunity Workers Program, (11) Miscellaneous Awards, (12) Miscellaneous Identified Locations, (13) Miscellaneous Office, (14) Miscellaneous People and Groups, (15) Unidentified Columbia Locations, and (16) Theatre. Most of the photographs depict houses, neighborhoods, or businesses in Columbia, S.C. The series also contains photographs of activities and programs sponsored by the Columbia Urban Rehabilitation Commission.
Series II: Negatives
Series II consists of 207 negatives divided into five subseries: (1) Identified Columbia Locations, (2) Unidentified Columbia Locations, (3) Tenant Education, (4) Groups, and (5) Fight Blight. The series contains images of many of the same Columbia locations depicted in Series I. The Columbia Urban Rehabilitation’s attempts to educate individuals about proper housing, as well as their Fight Blight campaigns, are documented in this series.
Series III. Slides
Series III consists of 638 slides divided into fourteen subseries: (1) Identified Housing, (2) Unidentified Housing—Slums, (3) Unidentified Housing—Good Housing, (4) Commercial Locations, (5) USC Area, (6) Historic Locations, (7) Aerial Views, (8) Fires and Fire Prevention, (9) Fight Blight, (10) Groups, Meetings, and Awards, (11) Monthly Award Winners, (12) Parades, (13) Parks, and (14) Youth Camp. This series documents activities of the Urban Rehabilitation Commission, including their community involvement.
Series IV. Papers
Series IV consists of approximately .25 linear feet of papers and printed materials. This series documents Winter’s career with the Columbia Urban Rehabilitation Commission, his extracurricular activities, and biographical information on his life prior to his affiliation with the Commission. The series includes printed Commission annual reports, certificates of appreciation awarded to Winter for his service, programs and playbills from various events, newspapers clippings regarding Winter’s career and his involvement in the theatre, and two scrapbooks. One scrapbook depicts the Commission’s 1960 Fight Blight campaign, while the other documents Winter’s retirement and involvement with the Governor’s Carolighting and decorating the state Christmas tree.
Series V. Films
Series V consists of 3 reels of film aimed at encouraging maintenance and beautification above and beyond simple repairs.
Series VI. Audiocassettes
Series VI consists of 4 audiocassettes. The audiocassettes primarily contain audio programs on housing and other development projects in Columbia.

Description of Series

I. Photographs (1956–1975)
Boxes 1–3, numbers 1–3238; folders 1–7, numbers 3239–3279
Photographs arranged primarily alphabetically by street name and numerically by street address and chronologically by date within street names; also arranged topically.
II. Negatives (1959–1971)
Arranged topically.
III. Slides (1961–1975)
Arranged topically.
IV. Papers (1948–1993)
Not arranged.
V. Films
VI. Audiocassettes


Beth Bilderback of the South Caroliniana Library suggested this collection and allowed the Digital Activities Department access to it for scanning. Santi Thompson (MLIS, 2008) created the metadata for the 41,15 photographs in an Excel spreadsheet. The metadata records follow the Western States Best Practices Dublin Core format. Louis Miller (Volunteer) scanned the letters on a flatbed Epson Expression 10000 XL photo scanner using SilverFast scanning software. He scanned the images as color TIFFs at 24-bit and 600 ppi, and the slides and negatives were scanned at 1200 ppi. From the TIFFs he created high-quality JPEGs and added preservation metadata to the TIFF and JPEG images. In addition to creating JPEGS, Louis digitally enhanced the JPEGs using Adobe Photoshop. Santi uploaded the JPEGs to the CONTENTdm server. The TIFFs will be maintained as the archival masters on a SAN server, backed up to DVD. Deborah Green (MLIS, 2007) created a home page for the collection and Beth Bilderback provided information for the “About the Collection” page. Matthew W. Shepherd (MLIS, 2012) redesigned and edited the Web pages in 2013. The work could not have been done without the help of Tony Branch, of the systems department, who is the systems administrator for the CONTENTdm database and helps to manage the computers and scanners in the Digital Activities Department.

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