Train Depots in Columbia

I began my tour of the capital city’s train attractions at Union Station on Main Street, south of the capital building. Like most all the surviving depots it is a restaurant and they’ve all taken care of the historic structures. The Union Station was built around 1902 and is the most ornate of the Columbia depots. Frank Pierce Milburn, who designed the building also designed the SC Statehouse dome. Service stopped here 1968. A pity, but that’s the way it is.

Union Station

My second stop was the Amtrak Station on Pulaski Street. It’s a block east of Huger Street. It’s not hard to miss with the caboose right by the road. It’s not much of a building, but then there aren’t many trains that come to call. Used to busier train stations, I have to admit this floored me. I guess that explained the near empty, small parking lot and single platform.

Amtrak Station on Pulaski Street

In order to visit the rest of my railroad related sites I walked along Gervais Street. My trip included the bridge over the railroad tracks allowing me a different view of the Amtrak station. Further up, I was walking toward Lincoln from the bridge, at 800 Gervais is what used to be the South Carolina Railroad (at one time the SC Canal and Railroad Company) freight station. The lot east of the buiding, the parking lot area, used to be train tracks. The station was originally built around the 1850’s and was burned during the Civil War in 1865 when Sherman’s troops came through. It was rebuilt in 1867 and functioned as a depot until the train tracks here were removed in the 1980’s to ease traffic congestion. It is also a restaurant as is the Seaboard Air Line Station at 1200 Lincoln just of Gervais and the Seaboard Air Line Freight Station across the street at 902 Gervais. Both were built in 1903.

South Carolina Rail Depot

Seaboard Air Line Station

Another must see was the Lincoln/Seaboard Air Line tunnel. This is now a pedestrian way going underneath an entire block from Washington to Lady Street and parallels Lincoln Street. When I went the last time it was being fixed up as it flooded during the 2015 October flood, but one could still go through. I thought it was pretty neat, definitely a cool spot for the summer.

Train Depots

Aiken Train Depot

I’ve always been a fan of train locomotives and the railroad. I’ve traveled on a variety of trains, no Amtrak, but on some special excursions from kiddie trains to old time trains powered by locomotives. I decided to indulge my interest in railroads by stopping at train depots and taking pictures of them and learning more of the railroad industry in South Carolina. At the website below one can see how the industry grew throughout the years starting in the 1830’s when the Charleston to Hamburg line started. There’s also a list of all the Railroad lines, passenger and freight, that existed in the state from the Air Line Railroad to the Wilson to Summerton Railroad. There’s more too so check it out.

http://www.carolana.com/SC/Transportation/railroads/home.html

Two other good website not to miss are:

http://scdepots.com/ and http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/tag/trains-depots/

The former lists the train depots by county. Click on a county name and find all the depots by county. The latter, Sciway, has always good information but its list is not as intensive as scdepots.

The South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro has a website: http://www.scrm.org/ Check it out to see when the train trip is scheduled to run. And, of course, don’t miss The Best Friend of Charleston Museum (http://bestfriendofcharleston.org/) which features a replica of the first train in South Carolina.

Textile Mills

I’m sure there is quite a bit of information on the textile mills in Columba. I just haven’t found it yet. So far it’s a few snippets here and a bit there and usually the same thing. I will give you what I know.

According to the book The Cotton Mills of South Carolina, 1907: Letters Written to the News And Courier (by August Kohn c1907, a reprint published years later) SC ‘was probably the very first state to undertake the development of cotton manufacturing.’ A mill in Beverley, MA will contend this bit of information, but the author maintains the state of South Carolina was the first and who am I to argue. The first mills built, 1790, used the English mills as models. Power looms weren’t included until circa 1812. The first mill workers were slaves such as Fisher’s Mill Gilles Creek. While what I read makes it sound the building is still standing, I didn’t find it. I can’t imagine it would be what with the 2015 flood. It was located a quarter of a mile off Forest Drive along the creek. There’s a historical marker there for those who want to take a gander.

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Around 1800 a Colonel Thomas Taylor build mill that wove cotton goods, items used on the plantation. Later John and Edward Fisher made one of the first spinning mills in the county. Like Taylor they used slave labor to create yarn. The same Fisher brothers may be the ones who built a mill on Sand Brook by the Saluda River. This one didn’t do well.

The Saluda Factory was built in 1828 across the river, in Lexington County. I include it because of the connection to Columbia and because it’s accessible via trails in Riverbanks Zoo and the botanical garden. There are only ruins left because Sherman’s troops burned it down in 1865, but not before taking the wood to build a bridge to cross the river. The mill made something called oznaburg, a heavy cloth. (Tales of Columbia by Nell S. Graydon, published 1964 in Columbia, SC by R.L. Bryan Company)

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As far as I can tell there were at least six textile mills in Columbia around the turn of the century. Most of the mills have been repurposed. Granby, Olympia, and Whaley Mills (Richland Cotton Mills) are now apartments as is the Palmetto Compress Warehouse on Devine Street. Columbia Mills Company is today the South Carolina State Museum. That leaves Capital City Mills and the Palmetto Cotton Mills. I think both were smaller than the others in the city. Other signs of the textile industry are the mill villages and the Columbia canal.

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Columbia Mills Company opened in 1894 and was the first electric-powered textile mill in the world. It’s located on Gervais Street.

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Granby Cotton Mill, built by W.B. Smith Whaley, was the first off-site hydroelectric powered textile mill. It sits between Whaley and Heyward.

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Olympia Cotton Mills was also built by Whaley. When it opened in 1899 it was the largest cotton mill under one roof in the world. Across the street is Granby Mill. It’s located on Heyward Street.

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Richland Cotton Mill – ala Whaley’s Mill after its architecture W.B. Smith Whaley. completed 1895. It’s on Main Street, south of the Capital building.

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Sally Salamander Tour of Downtown Columbia

This is a fun activity to do with kids and visitors to Columbia. Sally Salamander, ‘Columbia’s Newest Ambassador’, is an interactive walking tour. The downloadable brochure gives you a map and the clues on how to find Sally who’s hanging on walls in downtown Columbia. My sister, nephew, and I did this during one Christmas break and had a great time. If you go on Saturday, like we did, and don’t go too late, which we did, you can partake in the Soda City Market that sets up on Main Street. The tour goes right past it. We ended up in some of the shops too. Didn’t buy anything, but it was interesting to browse.

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The tour starts at the Columbia Regional Visitor Center. That’s located in the convention center and there are parking garages close by. From there you walk up to the State House. Sally hangs out across the street, corner of Gervais and Main. While you’re on the State House grounds look for the stars on the State House that show where cannon balls struck.

There are currently 10 Sally Salamanders to hunt down. I admit, we didn’t find one of them, but maybe you can. The brochure gives you the clues as well as the address of the building.

Good luck!

How to Get Here:

The Visitor Center is at 1101 Lincoln Street, two blocks from the State House. From US1/Gervais Street, turn south on Lincoln. The visitor center is on the right.

Links:

http://www.columbiacvb.com/salamander/

What’s Close By.

State House Complex

Three Rivers Greenway

Finlay Park

Columbia Resources

I was surprised to find there are so little resources on tourist places in Columbia. Even the web sites didn’t do much for me although they offered some tidbits. Maybe because I already knew the sites they highlight. Maybe because they didn’t offer information on what I am interested in – low cost/no cost activities, walking tours, green spaces, and historical areas. The brochures I picked up at the visitor center are more chock full of ‘stuff’ than the websites. Book wise was the pretty much the same as the websites, general information only and emphasis on restaurants, shopping, and the higher priced activities.

Book wise the South Carolina travel books will have to do, but the websites are a better alternative.

 

Brochure Names (with associated web address)

Columbia South Carolina 5km/10km Historic Capital City Walk (www.columbiacvb.com)

General Sherman’s March on Columbia, South Carolina – Self Guided Tour (www.shermansmarch.com)

Home Places, Work Places, Resting Places: African-American Heritage Sites Tour (historiccolumbia.org)

Three Rivers Greenway (www.RiverAlliance.org)

 

Web Sites

http://www.columbiacvb.com/

http://www.historiccolumbia.org/

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/richland-county/

Pacolet Mills

The Pacolet Mill I wanted to see no longer stands having been demolished in the late 1980’s. I asked the wonderful ladies at the museum why they were torn down. With no one wanting to buy the structures and the city not having the money to keep them up, there wasn’t much choice. While saddened, I could understand the reason. So, I didn’t get to the see the mills, but I did see where they’d been as well as the cloth room and warehouse. Plus there are the mill houses, all part of the Pacolet Mills Historic District. The museum, which used to be the Pacolet Mill office, sits close by the Pacolet River. When you go, make sure to visit it. I really enjoyed my time there.

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There’s more than just mill ruins to see in Pacolet. I misplaced myself for a few minutes and found myself on an interesting road that might have held more buildings from the mill. I wish I’d had more time to check it out. But there’s always a next time. I haven’t seen hardly any of Spartenburg county. I will return.

Pacolet started out Buzzard Roost. A small place, it grew in leaps and bounds when the Spartenburg and Union Rail Lines came through the area in the 1850s. It was at this time the town changed the name to Pacolet, from the river running past. Where the name Pacolet is derived from is unknown, but the two versions offered both include a horse. When you cross the bridge over the Pacolet River you’ll see a statue of a horse, the logo of Pacolet Manufacturing and mascot of the mill’s baseball team.

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The area includes several sections with Pacolet in the name: Pacolet, Central Pacolet, and Pacolet Mills

In 1903 this area got hit with the worst natural disaster in Spartenburg County when heavy rains caused the river to flood and swept sections of the textile mill along with a church and other buildings downstream. Seventy people died and 600 were left homeless. The mill rebuilt and became one of the largest in the south.

Besides the mills the town has other historic sites including the Marysville School and Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church.

How to get there:

One goes through all three sections, Pacolet, Central Pacolet, and Pacolet Mills via SC150. If you’re coming from I85, take US176 South. If you’re on I26, you can take SC49 (exit 44) east and turn left onto SC56, or exit 52 north. Then east (right) onto SC150.

 

Links:

www.townofpacolet.com

 What’s Close By :

Croft State Park

Pacolet River Heritage Preserve

Walnut Grove Plantation

Cowpens National Battlefield

Sumter National Forest

Rose Hill Plantation

Botany Bay WMA

The highlight of the day was to be Edisto Beach State Park. I never got there. I ended up tramping all over Botany Bay WMA (Wildlife Management Area) and by the time I left there wasn’t enough time. I mentally put this on my ‘a place to bring visitors’ list.

The park is closed on Tuesdays so I arranged to go on another day of the week. I arrived early and stopped to take a picture of the Mystery Tree, a leafless tree on the south side of SC174 festooned with the theme of the month. It’s right opposite Botany Bay Road. Drive slow down this oak lined road. It’s truly picture taking worthy. I can’t say how many times I stopped to snap a quick photo.

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At the information kiosk, stop to sign in and grab the driving tour guide. The a 6 1/2 mile loop dirt road winds through the park. It gives plenty of stops along the way to discover the 4,600 + acre preserve with ponds, coastline, pine forests, wetlands and other characteristics of a barrier island.

My first stop was the hike to the two plus mile long undeveloped beach with the ‘boneyard’ of dead tree skeletons. The beach here is eroding and the salt water destroys the palms and other trees creating a sight one rarely sees. Collecting shells is forbidden and people have created shell trees, hanging them on the bare branches.

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Next up on the tour are the grounds of Bleak Hall Plantation. To see are two buildings from the 1800’s, the ice house and a carriage house. You can take the trails on out to the marshes or continue on the driving tour to visit the fresh water ponds, moss draped oaks, and the many species of wildlife and flora. I saw egrets and pelicans and fiddler crabs and deer. There’s much more of course to see. There’s the ruins of the Sea Cloud plantation house and a brick beehive, which fascinated me. I’d never heard of one before. This one was built by slaves in the 1700s.

Give yourself plenty of time to see this place. If you camp at Edisto Beach S.P. this would be a great trip. You can ride your bike on the loop as well

How to get there:

Take SC Highway 174 towards Edisto Beach. Turn left onto Botany Bay Road, located about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. Follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends. Turn left at the gate and into the property.

Links:

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/charleston-county/botany-bay.html

What’s Close by

Edisto Beach SP

Scenic SC174

Mysterious Tree

Poinsett Bridge

My trip to Poinsett Bridge began with the hunt for South Carolina’s only remaining covered bridge, Campbell’s Bridge. From there we drove back to SC11 and took County Road 42/Callahan Mountain Road toward North Carolina. Not knowing exactly where the bridge was, I drove right by it. It being a narrow road, I continued down before I found a place to turn around. It’s a lovely road anyway and no hardship to drive. I don’t know if it’s still there, but we saw a rusted up truck in a kudzu patch that made for a nice picture taking opportunity.

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Poinsett Bridge sits on the 120 acre Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. There’s not much parking and take care to watch for pedestrians. The stone bridge is a short stroll away. It sits over Little Gap Creek and is surrounded by trees. I’d love to come here in the fall. When I went it was summer.

The bridge is thought to be the oldest surviving bridge in the state and is believed to have been designed by Robert Mills. Built in 1820, it was one of three stone bridges that stood on the route known as Saluda Mountain Road, part of the State Road that ran from Charleston to North Carolina and into Tennessee. The State Road was a toll road.

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Poinsett Bridge, named after Joel Poinsett is constructed with locally quarried stone. There is a fifteen foot Gothic arch for the creek to run through. One can view it easy from paths that span out alongside the creek.

How to Get There:

It is off SC11, near Traveler’s Rest. The address is 580 Callahan Mountain Road/Rd 42,

Link:

http://greenvillerec.com/parks/poinsett-bridge/

What’s Near By:

Campbell’s Bridge

Jones Gap State Park

Ceaser’s Head State Park

Table Rock State Park

Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site

Union - Rose Hill Plantation SHS - 12 Kitchen interior

Rose Hill Plantation sits not far from the Tyger River, in the Sumter National Forest. I arrived early that day, before the park opened, and inspected the river from a boat landing while I waited. The park itself isn’t large, but interesting. I first inspected the rose garden, circling the house as I did so. Going through the kitchen, a separate building, I admired the resident cat. I didn’t go inside the plantation house itself, but I’m sure it’s nice. As I child I’d been overdosed with the interiors of historical buildings and I don’t do tours well. Quick in, quick out or have the ability to linger where I want.

Rose Hill is one of three plantations that are part of the state park system. Besides this one there is Hampton SHS in Charleston County and Redcliffe SHS in Aiken County. Rose Hill is the plantation home of William Henry Grist who is known as the ‘Secession Governor’. He was elected governor of South Carolina in 1858 and believed the state could protect slavery only by withdrawing from the Union.

It is called Rose Hill for the variety of roses in the garden. The land was purchased by William Grist’s father, a merchant in Charleston. The exact date of the house seems to be unknown, but it’s between 1811 and 1830. It’s brick and the exterior walls are eighteen inches thick. Wow. It has a spiral staircase and a ballroom. The original size of the plantation was 7000 – 8000 acres.

Walking around the park, I had to wonder where exactly they grew the cotton and corn since it’s surrounded by trees. It’s a question I forgot to ask. The plantation was much larger than the 44 acres now owned by the state so I may not have even gone by the fields.

There are two trails. The nature trail is half a mile in length and rated easy. It goes through the woods and one comes out behind the mansion. The River trail is two miles and goes to the Tyger River. Due to all the rain I opted not to go all the way to the river. I’d already seen at the boat landing that the river was high.
The entrance to the park is free, but there is a fee to tour the house. Check the web site (link below) for more information on that.

How to Get There

From I-26:Take exit 44 onto Highway 49 toward Union. Continue through Cross Anchor to Cross Keys (approximately 5 miles). At Cross Keys take right hand fork onto Old Buncombe Road proceed 5 miles to junction with Galilee Church Road then left. Continue on Galilee Church Road for 3 miles to Rose Hill front gate. Proceed slowly on Galilee Church Road as it has a 30 mph hairpin corner and look for the William H. Gist family cemetery on left.

Links

http://southcarolinaparks.com/rosehill/introduction.aspx

What’s Close By

Sumter National Forest

Molly’s Rock Picnic Area

Union

River Front Park and Historic Columbia Canal

Richland - Columbia - River Front Park by museum 01

Located along the Congaree and Broad River is a greenway perfect for walking and jogging. Although damaged by the 2015 October flood, most, if not all, is open again. The park opened in 1983 and is a nice place to bring guests of out of town. I’ve done that several times and my visitors have always enjoyed the walk. It’s wheelchair accessible, but there is a bit of a slope from the parking lot to the path.

The 167 acre park separates the Congaree River from the Historic Columbia canal. Here is where the first waterworks for Columbia was located, the site of the world’s first textile mile to be powered by electricity.

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From the two and a half mile trail one has great views of the Congaree and the confluence of the Broad and Saluda River that make up the Congaree River. You can walk through one of the pump houses of the waterworks. The hydroelectric plant, by the way, is the oldest one in the state and still operating.

The Columbia canal is one of several canals built by the state in 1824 to provide access to settlements in the upstate. Indentured Irishmen worked on this.

How to get there

312 Laurel Street (At the end of Laurel St. Behind the AT&T office off Huger St.)

Once can also access it by the State Museum and EdVenture on Gervais near the Gervais Street Bridge

Links

http://discoversouthcarolina.com/products/565

http://riveralliance.org/

What’s close by:

Historic Downtown Columbia

State House

various parks in Columbia

University of South Carolina

State Museum and EdVenture