Forest Acres flourished as a bedroom community to Columbia and soon posted one of the highest per capita income levels in the state.
(Richland County; 2020 pop. 10,269). This community, covering nearly five square miles and born amid unique circumstances, is wedged between Columbia and Fort Jackson. On Christmas Day 1934 several residents of historic Quinine Hill took the first steps toward formal organization, primarily because they needed a water system. It became apparent that if they formally incorporated, federal Works Progress Administration funds could be used to fulfill their wishes. So in September 1935 an irregular rectangle of some two square miles parallel to Forest Drive became a city.
The first mayor and leader of the push for incorporated status was John Hughes Cooper, ably assisted by John Henry Hammond. Both had been deeply involved with residential development for nearly twenty years, and Cooper’s Forest Land Company was scattering the name “Forest” freely throughout the area: Forest Drive, Forest Lake, and thus Forest Acres.
In 1940 this new entity had 323 residents; a decade later it had 3,240. Original plans were for a quiet, bucolic nirvana. World War II changed this, giving rise to shops and stores serving men and women who flooded into nearby Fort Jackson.
Forest Acres flourished as a bedroom community to Columbia and soon posted one of the highest per capita income levels in the state. It had no police force until 1962 and still relies on Columbia for fire protection. Until 1968 it existed without local property taxes, although county levies were collected and residents each paid a small fee for garbage service. By 2000 the city was governed by a mayor and a four-member council, aided by a staff of seventy, which includes thirty-one police personnel. The city contained two elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and fourteen churches. For reasons not entirely clear, the city seemed to have more than its rightful share of dental offices.
During the years it has spurned merging with Columbia while annexing various neighborhoods, among them the town of Ravenwood. One of these communities, Jackson Heights, is distinguished by streets and avenues bearing college names such as Clemson, Coker, and Converse. Another community along Atascadero Drive flaunts a handful of California names bestowed by a resident who lived and worked on the West Coast during World War II.
Strangely, the dilemma that gave birth to Forest Acres has been largely forgotten. The primary source of water, a spring on Quinine Hill, proved so difficult to maintain that it eventually was abandoned. In 1990 Forest Acres joined the Columbia water system. Nevertheless, that little spring continues to flow quietly, almost secretly, under Forest Drive, at length emptying into Penn Branch behind Richland Mall. As one resident observed, “No one thinks about it anymore.”