Main Street. Where all the action is. Or used to be. Or where it’s at again. It all depends on where you are. Driving around, you’ll never know what kind of Main Street you’ll find and how you’ll find it. Maybe there’s not much left, physically, but the memories are still there and there’s always something interesting. If you’re lucky you’ll bump into someone who remembers what it used to be, bad or good.
According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, there are 270 towns and cities with a population of 50 and higher. 270 main streets, they maybe called something other than ‘Main’ Street. 270 downtowns. Somehow I thought there’d be more.
Big or small, I like to take a walk around Main Street, time willing. Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, etc, all have bustling downtowns. In the smaller places, the sidewalks might roll in after six p.m. leaving you amazed the store’s closed so early. It happened to me. Here are a few downtowns, Main Streets, I’ve taken pictures of. Enjoy.
Whenever I visit a county seat, I make sure to drive past the courthouse and take a photograph of it. Courthouses tell nice stories of history including how the county was formed. Some are pretty old, from around the time the county was created, and some fairly young. The styles vary with some ornate and picturesque and others looking like regular government buildings. Robert Mills, SC’s leading architect from the early 1800’s had his hand in a few like the one in Winnsboro (Fairfield County.)
I’ve lived near two courthouses, the one in Hampton County which was built in 1878 and remodeled a few times. The last time they moved the fountain from the front to more to the side. The annual watermelon festival is held on the grounds of it. The Allendale courthouse was a few blocks from where I lived. The interior burned at the time a fact I didn’t hear until my mother asked me about it the next day. Even with the main road one block over I didn’t hear the sirens of the fire trucks roaring past. It’s since been renovated. Sad to say I don’t have a picture of it.
Here are a few more courthouses I’ve encountered in my travels.
Union (Union County). This impressive neoclassical building was completed in 1913, replacing the Robert Mills courthouse of 1825. That was torn down in 1911. The police station down the road was also designed by Robert Mills.
Winnsboro (Fairfield Connty) This was designed by Robert Mills and built 1822-23. The distinctive circular staircase and piazza were added when the building was remodeled in 1939. This was when they covered the brick exterior in sandstone plaster. I think I would prefer to see the brick, but that’s just me. The picture is at the top of the post.
Greenwood (Greenwood County) A much more modern building that was built in 1967 to replace a previous building from 1898.
Libraries might not be what one might think of when sightseeing. I can even image groans coming from this suggestion. Being a librarian though I like to swing by, see the architecture of the place, and even go in and visit. They may surprise you.
Union Carnegie Library
The Carnegie Libraries are interesting for their architecture and history. Built in the early 1900’s with grants from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. I believe there are about seventeen public and academic libraries built with those funds. There’s one in Union that’s still a library and one in Sumter, which sits sad and empty.
The main branch of the Richland County Public Library has a nice mural of the Wild Things in its children section. The library in Ninety Six has a nice mural in it too, painted by a local artist. I’ve shown a picture of it already I believe. In Chester they had a section where you could purchase used books. I did not walk away from there empty handed.
Libraries are great places to get information. In Union, you can get a map of the city to take the tour. In Greenwood I visited their new library in order to find a place I wanted to visit. The librarians are always eager to help.