Greenville City Hall is located at 206 S Main St., Greenville SC 29602; phone: 864-467-4425.
The multiple resource nomination for the Historic Resources of Greenville consists of ten individual properties, two historic districts (158 properties), and an extension of an existing historic district (30 properties) of local historic and architectural significance which are located within the city limits of Greenville, South Carolina. These buildings include commercial, public, educational, residential, and industrial properties built between 1810 and 1930. Approximately 90 percent of the structures in the Historic Resources nomination were built between 1900 and 1930. These properties reflect the historical and architectural development of the town. Portions of the text below were selected, transcribed and/or adapted from a copy of the original Greenville MRA nomination document. [†]
The city of Greenville (population 64,000) is located on the banks of the Reedy River in central Greenville County. Situated in the northwestern sector of the state, Greenville is an important commercial and industrial center for the surrounding counties and the state of South Carolina. Greenville is connected to Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, by the Southern Railroad and U. S. Interstate 85.
Greenville, originally known as Pleasantburg, was surveyed and marked off in a grid in 1797, when it was chosen as the site for the Greenville County Courthouse. Initial growth was slow until Vardry McBee purchased most of the property in and around the village in 1815 from Lemuel J. Alston, a prominent politician. With McBee's efforts the village prospered as a health resort for low-country people escaping from the malarial swamps of the coastal regions. Many of the seasonal visitors built their own summer houses in the vernacular farmhouse forms or in the more elaborate Greek Revival style. Greenville also became a trading center for food products of the local farmers. Housing was mostly one- and two-story frame buildings with Georgian and Greek Revival influences.
In the 1850's Greenville became a busy commercial center. Its population had reached about 1500 and in 1853 the Greenville and Columbia Railroad was completed. Furman University was established in Greenville in 1851. In 1855 the Greenville Female College was begun in Greenville, and four years later the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary had made Greenville its home. In this period Greenville was supporting many fine churches constructed in the Gothic and Greek Revival styles. Four of these early to mid-nineteenth century churches are extant in Greenville.
Greenville quickly recovered from the Civil War and the effects of Reconstruction. It received its second railroad in 1872, and two cotton mills began production in 1874 and 1875. During this period, Greenville changed its role from an agricultural trading town to a major industrial center. By 1894, eight mills were in operation in the city and by 1902 fourteen mills had been constructed in Greenville. Greenville was quickly approaching city status as the mills brought in new businesses and laborers. The mills also established mill villages on the perimeter of Greenville to house and care for its employees. The mills brought stability and prosperity to Greenville, and pleasant Victorian neighborhoods formed around the downtown area. During the 1890's and 1900's, the Hampton-Pinckney neighborhood became the home of many prominent citizens.
Between 1900 and 1925, Greenville experienced a significant rise in wealth and population. Many of the older buildings in and around the commercial center were destroyed in this era to make room for the twentieth century structures presently found in the downtown area. The twelve-story Poinsett Hotel, built in 1925, replaced the 1824 Mansion House which had been a resort hotel. The Old Record Building was demolished in 1924 to make way for the new ten-story Chamber of Commerce Building and the Confederate Monument erected in 1892 was moved to allow the city to expand. The 1920's found the Pettigru area rich in vernacular townhouses, bungalows, and a wide variety of Colonial Revival buildings. Earle Street, originally part of the Whitehall Estate, was booming with construction of bungalows and Colonial Revival dwellings. James Street also became a fashionable neighborhood with its elaborately designed Colonial Revival houses. Both the James-Earle Street area and Pettigru Street section have tree-lined streets and a variety of architectural styles with uniform setbacks which contribute to the cohesiveness of the residential areas. These two residential sections represent the residential growth of the industrial Greenville area prior to 1930.
Included in the multiple resource nomination for the Historic Resources of Greenville are ten individual properties, two historic districts (158 properties), and an extension, of an existing historic district (30 properties) which are of historic and architectural significance to the city of Greenville, South Carolina. The individual properties include residential and commercial buildings which are landmarks in local history. The historic districts included in the nomination reflect the growth of Greenville's residential sections from 1890 to 1930 and include excellent examples of Victorian, Colonial Revival, and bungalow architecture. These properties, combined with those presently, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, represent the historically and architecturally significant structures remaining within the city of Greenville.
Between 1760 and 1770, Richard Pearis established a trading post and grist mill on the banks of the Reedy River which later became the foundation of the city of Greenville.[l] Greenville County was established in 1786, and in 1797 Lemuel J. Alston, a prominent resident, offered a site for the courthouse in Greenville County. Alston marked off four hundred acres around the courthouse plat, laying out the village of Pleasantburg. Soon afterward, the name of the village was changed to Greenville. The lots did not sell as expected since most settlers were interested in agricultural land. Alston, disappointed in his real estate endeavor and embarrassed over a political defeat, sold 11,000 acres to Vardry McBee in 1815 and left Greenville. Through McBee's progressive efforts, the little town of Greenville became a trading center for surrounding counties. Greenville also became known as a health resort for the low-country people escaping the malaria and humidity of the coastal regions.
During the early nineteenth century, Greenville grew slowly and steadily, and by the 1850's Greenville had become an established town. In 1850, Greenville's population was 1,305, almost three times its 1825 count of about 500. These bustling times brought Furman University to Greenville in 1851; its campus was constructed in the Italian Villa style. In 1853 the town received its first railroad, the Greenville and Columbia Railroad. The Greenville Female College established itself in Greenville in 1855 and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary arrived in 1859. By the late 1850's Greenville had the South's largest carriage and wagon plant, employing about eighty workers.
The post-Civil War period brought Greenville new challenges and a change in social and economic prosperity. The town of Greenville, which quickly recovered from the anguish of the Civil War and Reconstruction, received its second railroad in 1872, the Richmond and Danville Air Line. The 1870's also saw the birth of Greenville's major business, the cotton textile industry. In 1874 and 1875 two Camperdown Mills were built in Greenville for weaving cotton. After several years of demonstrative success, these two experimental mills proved that Greenville could produce quality cloth with its good water supply and cheap labor. Other companies followed suit and by 1894 eight cotton mills were operating in Greenville county. By 1902 this number had increased to fourteen and the mills brought prosperity and stability to Greenville. Greenville evolved into a small city, receiving newcomers into the mills as laborers and establishing new businesses in the growing downtown area.
The increase in wealth and the establishment of a streetcar system formed new residential neighborhoods. The Hampton-Pinckney residential area (Hampton-Pinckney Historic District, listed in the National Register in 1977), is the earliest intact neighborhood in Greenville. The environs of this area reflected the residents' status and wealth obtained from the affluence of the city and mills. After the Hampton-Pinckney area was settled, another residential tract was planned and developed along Pettigru Street (Pettigru Historic District). Originally known as the "Boyce Lawn property" and located between East North Street and East Washington Street, this area of large residential properties was divided into smaller lots. The streets joining the lots were named after faculty members of the Furman Theological Seminary. Several other residential neighborhoods evolved during these years. As Greenville entered the new century, its steady growth and progress was being noted nationwide. In the Spanish American War, five regiments of National Guard troops from the New England region were camped within the vicinity of Greenville. Troops were again stationed near the city in World War I and the mills quickly turned out cloth for the war effort. The year 1917 saw the completion of Greenville's Textile Hall for the Southern Textile Exposition. Textile Hall (listed in the National Register in 1980) was designed for the mills to exhibit textile machinery and products and it also served as a civic auditorium for the city of Greenville. The production of war materials boosted Greenville economically through the 1910's and into another building boom in the 1920's.
The growth of the residential areas was directly related to the expansion of the mills and the inner city businesses. In 1911, Greenville boasted 435 mercantile establishments, 9 banks, 42 churches, 7 colleges, 2 daily newspapers, 15 miles of street railways, 5 railroads, and 25,000 mill employees. The population of Greenville in 1910 numbered 15,700 while ten years later the city's population increased to 23,700. By 1920, Greenville had twenty mills, each employing hundreds of workers.
After 1920 Greenville experienced a building boom and the city prospered during the decade. In 1923 Greenville constructed approximately 110 residential structures and about 220 houses were built in the suburbs. The Poinsett Hotel ("Carolina's Finest") of twelve stories, was completed in 1925 and the ten-story Chamber of Commerce Building was finished the same year. South Carolina's largest furniture store and a theater were also built in Greenville in 1925.
Because of the mills and the growing economic base, Greenville was the second wealthiest city in South Carolina in 1920, although it ranked only third in population. By the mid-1920's, Greenville had developed into "the most progressive and prosperous city in South Carolina" and boastfully claimed to be the "Textile Center of the South."
Since World War II Greenville's industry has become more diversified, numbering 254 manufacturing plants in 1955. As a result of becoming more urban, Greenville in the 1950's supported 129 schools, 220 churches, three airlines and four railroads. During the 1960's and 1970's, many new businesses moved to Greenville to take advantage of its beneficial economic climate. Construction increased and many inner-city areas were transformed by modern businesses and new housing. Although Greenville has lost much of its historic character, it still contains many structures and residential neighborhoods of historical and architectural significance.
Architecture: The architectural development of Greenville reflects the growth and prosperity of the city from 1800 to the present. Most of the buildings constructed during Greenville's early years are no longer extant. Only two residential buildings remain from the early nineteenth century, the Earle Town House, ca. 1810, and Whitehall, ca. 1813. Both of the properties are listed in the National Register and are located within the proposed boundaries of the Col. Elias Earle Historic District.
Until the Civil War, the architecture of Greenville reflected its small town appearance and consisted of frame houses and masonry churches and stores. Typical of Southern antebellum architecture, many of the more substantial frame houses have central hallways and flanking parlors. The Josiah Kilgore House, constructed ca. 1838 (NR); Cherrydale, ca. 1840 (NR); and the Williams-Earle House, ca. 1850, have monumental porticos and Greek Revival elements. The Fountain Fox Beattie House, 1834 (NR), and the T. Q. Donaldson House, 1863 (NR), show Italianate influences. These buildings represent the most sophisticated residential architectural design work remaining in Greenville from the antebellum period. Christ Church, 1852 (NR), and the First Baptist Church, 1858 (NR), are also excellent examples of mid-nineteenth century architecture.
After the Civil War and Reconstruction, cotton mills were established in Greenville and textile production increased rapidly. Many of these were built on the banks of the Reedy River where the force of the Reedy River falls had been powering factories as early as 1830. The Camperdown mill complex at the falls was a large area containing two- to three-story masonry structures with Romanesque and Italianate architectural elements. Several of these buildings, now a part of the Reedy River Industrial Complex, are listed in the National Register.
Another important mill complex within the city is Mills Mill which began operation in 1894 and was built in the Romanesque Revival style. Other notable industrial buildings constructed at the turn of the century were the American Cigar Factory, a large four-story vernacular structure, and the Greenville Gas and Electric Light Company complex, also a vernacular masonry structure.
A number of fine homes were built in Greenville during the Victorian era; however, few survive today. One of the finest residential homes extant is the Lanneau-Norwood House, constructed in 1877 in the Second Empire style. It reflects the wealth and exuberance of industrial Greenville with its varying design and ornamentation.
With the advent of the cotton mill complexes in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the town of Greenville grew into an important industrial center. The city became prosperous with the increase in textile production and this in turn spurred the growth of new businesses and an expansion of population. The Hampton-Pinckney Historic District (NR), is one of Greenville's few remaining neighborhoods from this era. The houses in the district reflect the development of mid-to-late-Victorian architecture. As the Hampton-Pinckney area became settled, another middle-class residential neighborhood formed along Pettigru Street (Pettigru Historic District) between 1900 and 1920. This neighborhood has a number of Victorian style homes but is more notable for its collection of early Colonial Revival, bungalow, and local vernacular townhouses. Another example of this residential growth is the city's first apartment building, the Davenport Apartments, constructed in 1915. This four-story building, which features Dutch Revival elements, was built near the Pettigru Street area to serve the growing middle-class population.
The First World War had a large effect on the growth of Greenville as the demand for cotton uniforms stimulated textile production and the local economy. The decade after the war witnessed a major transformation in the city as new construction occurred in the central business district and in new residential areas. Many of the city's Victorian structures in downtown Greenville were demolished to make way for new businesses, and the city's courthouse and other major nineteenth century buildings were replaced.
During the 1920's a number of notable buildings were erected in the downtown area. Two of the most prominent were the Poinsett Hotel, constructed in 1925, and the Chamber of Commerce Building built in 1925. Both of these are steel frame, masonry buildings over ten stories in height. They feature classical decorative elements which embellish their basic functional style. Black businessmen in the city built the A. M. E. Benevolent Temple building, a three-story vernacular building constructed in 1922, which was the center of black enterprise for many years. These three buildings helped to support Greenville's claims that it was the "Progressive City of the south" in the 1920's.
The 1920's also saw many new residential areas evolve in the city, the most notable of which was along James and Earle Streets (Col. Elias Earle Historic District) north of downtown. Movement to this area began as early as 1900, but it wasn't until after 1920 that construction accelerated along these two streets. Several examples of Victorian architecture are found interspersed among large Colonial Revival homes and variations of the bungalow house. The James-Earle Street area is an excellent showcase of varying architectural styles of the 1920's. Also indicative of the diverse taste in architecture of this era is the Gassaway Mansion, located to the east of Earle Street. This eclectic structure was built between 1919 and 1924 and its Gothic tower and classic facade display the free form design of that period.
After 1930 major construction in Greenville ceased for many years. Not until the 1950's did Greenville begin diversifying its economic base and attracting new construction and industry. During the past decades, Greenville has grown progressively larger and new skyscrapers have been built in the downtown area. Today Greenville exhibits a blending of new and old architectural styles in its commercial and residential areas.
Commerce: Greenville has been an important business marketing center for northwest South Carolina for nearly two hundred years. The city first served as a trading center for area farmers in the early nineteenth century. It became a major cross-roads in the region of the Appalachian foothills for persons traveling from the mountains to the coast. The coming of the railroad to Greenville in the 1850's hastened its role as a marketing center for the surrounding counties. By the Civil War, Greenville had become the major business center for much of upstate South Carolina.
As the textile industry developed in Greenville, commerce increased rapidly as well. By 1883, Greenville boasted 149 business establishments. The growth of the milling industry caused the population and business activities of the city to increase throughout the turn of the century. By 1911, the number of businesses had grown to 435 and the 1920's saw Greenville assume a major commercial role not only in the state but throughout the South. That role has continued in recent years and today Greenville is recognized as a major business center in the South.
Industry: Industry has had a major role in the development of Greenville throughout its history. Some of the earliest buildings constructed in the area were grist and saw mills erected at the Reedy River Rails. The water power supplied by the falls was a major incentive for industrial development in downtown Greenville and various mills operated at the falls throughout the early nineteenth century. A major factory, built at the falls during the 1850's, was the largest producer of carriages in the South. Other factories also located along the river in the mid nineteenth century.
With the construction of the Camperdown cotton mills in 1874, the textile industry was to have major impact on the development of Greenville. The Piedmont Manufacturing Company began operation in 1876 and many other mills were soon formed and began operation. The 1890's and early 1900's saw continual growth in textile production in the city and by 1911 Greenville boasted over 15 mills employing 25,000 "hands." Textile Hall, built in 1917, underlined Greenville's claim as the "Textile Center of the South."
Since World War II, industry in Greenville has been marked by continued growth and increasing diversity. Today it is recognized as one of the major manufacturing centers in the South.
† Building Conservation Technology, Historic Resources of Greenville South Carolina (Greenville MRA), nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.