During the whirlwind that was the week before Easter we managed to fit in a tour of the West End. My cousins and family had been to Greenville before, but although they had found all the Mice on Main, been on our Caesars Head/Blue Ridge Escarpment tour and explored Falls Park, they had not been much further. We set out to change that on a sunny Wednesday, parking on the bridge and setting out due west.
The West End originally grew up around Furman University, which was established in 1852 on fifty acres of land in the West End, and the arrival of rail transport connecting Greenville to Columbia which arrived in 1853. Growth accelerated after the Civil War, when phosphate and guano fertilizers made it profitable for upcountry farmers to grow cotton; businesses supporting regional farmers thrived in the area, residential development increased and schools and churches followed. However the same financial conditions that led to the end of the textile mills in downtown in the beginning of the 20th century turned the tide in the West End as well. Despite the commercial focus shifting from cotton to soft drink manufacturing and bottling, the area remained somewhat depressed until the recent revitalization. However many of the buildings from this time in Greenville’s history remain, and it was in one such building that we ducked in for our first stop, Joe’s Place.
After a browse in the new bookstore we window-shopped our way further on S. Main Street, eventually arriving at the gates of Fluor Field. With a game against Charleston that evening the gates were closed, but the visitors got a good taste for this rather new addition to Greenville. The stadium serves as the west anchor to the historic district, which stretches from Falls Park down S. Main and Augusta Streets.
A must-stop West End destination is West End Coffee Company on S. Markley Street across from the main entrance to Fluor Field. Located at the West End firehouse for seven years (it had been a fire station for sixty), it moved to the present location just after the construction of the stadium in 2006 when the fire station became the Greenville Drive ticket office. The new West End building was built in 2006 from bricks from the Old Clinton Mill in Clinton SC – over a century old. Coffee beans mostly imported through NY are roasted on location, and several varieties commemorate local spots, such as Greenville’s West End Blend, Smoky Mountain Blend and Biltmore Blend. In addition to buying some coffee from their retail section in the front, we got a tour of the roasting room in back.
Circling around to Augusta Street we passed the South Carolina Children’s Theatre. Next door is a now-empty lot, which used to house the beautiful Victorian-style Cureton House. Built in the 1880s the home was one of the best examples of Queen Anne architecture in the Upstate. I say “was” because the last living family member, Josephine Cureton, passed in 2010 and her estate dictated that the house be demolished. The South Carolina Children's Theater will build a permanent home on the property, but I feel sadness for the lost piece of history every time I pass. Luckily soon after we were back in the heart of the historic district, passing the Shoeless Joe Jackson statue and ducking into The Cook’s Station, the kitchenware store fit for foodies and novices alike.
|Source: Greenville Daily Photo|
The final building before Falls Park is the unassuming Falls Cottage, now a protected landmark on the Historic Register. Built in 1893 by W.E. Touchstone, the superintendent of Camperdown Mill, it was a private residence until the late 1960's. At various times home to the Metropolitan Arts Council, Greenville Artists Guild Gallery, Tours Around Greenville and the Peace Center for the Performing Arts’ fundraising office, it was restored during the Falls Park redevelopment and has been home to Mary’s Restaurant since 2004.
Hungry from our morning walk, we crossed the street and climbed the stairs to Chicora Alley. One of the West End icons back in the day was the Chicora College for women, which was established in 1893 overlooking the Reedy river, and named for Chicora Street (now Boggs Street). The College eventually moved from Greenville to Columbia in 1915 (or was merged with Queens College in Charlotte NC depending on the source), and with the burning of its buildings in 1919, the legacy of this college remains only in the name of the restaurant which opened in 2006. Serving up a fusion of island and Southern, Chicora Alley is a favorite for us not just for the food but also for the view. On this sunny Wednesday the scene was set with the showy blooming dogwoods and walkers out and about in Falls Park. Roberts often opts for the fish tacos and there are plenty of vegan options, but if you find yourselves perusing the menu be sure to order the sweet potato fries, which come with a side of honey butter and are just about the best in Greenville.
It was because we were so stuffed from lunch that we didn’t step into Spill the Beans, our usual stop for coffee and ice cream when in Falls Park. Coffeehouse and creamery in one, the indoor and outdoor seating areas provide stunning views of the waterfall on the Reedy River and the Liberty Bridge. I often treat myself to one of their signature coffees, such as the Leaning Tower of Mocha or Spillisimo the Beans, while the boys settle down with fresh baked waffle cones and ice cream. With comfy seating for students looking for a study spot, families looking for a place to recuperate or businessmen looking for a casual meeting location I suggest you give this West End favorite a try.
Our Upstate adventures with the Chicago visitors were far from over though… Although the older “boys” were off to NC that afternoon, there were still plenty of plans for Greenville and Paris Mountain in the coming days!
For a complete list of the West End's National Register Properties please visit the SC Department of Archives and History site.