Thursday, February 24, 2011

Today we traveled the back roads of South Carolina....

I imagined an entourage of cameramen with us today as we made good on one of our promises to ourselves to  travel the back roads of South Carolina.  Last year when I retired, Henry and I thought it would be kind of fun if we occasionally threw a dart at a map of South Carolina, jump in the car and make a day trip to a town that we've never been before.  It was a good thought but so far we haven't done much of it.  In December, we picked the little town of Ridgeway and discovered a century old hardware store still operating and a neat little antique shop to browse around in.  The Christmas decorations were up in all the store windows and it had the look and feel of an old fashioned Christmas village.  Ridgeway is a quaint little main street, early 1900's kind of town that deserved more attention than we had time to give it that day.

Today, we were ready for another trip.  Because of a car part that Henry needed to pick up, we didn't have to throw a dart this time.  We already had the destination - Ware Shoals, SC.  I had never heard of it, but because I found the name intriguing, I went along for the ride.  Our Lewis and Clark style expedition led us through the heart of upstate South Carolina, passing through the little towns of Chester, Carlisle, Whitmire and Clinton - finally arriving at our destination about 2 hours later.

It was all we had hoped for - the smallest of small!  Ware Shoals sits quietly on the banks of the Saluda River  and encompasses a tiny four square miles - 3.9% of it land and .1% of it water - and that tiny four square miles sits in three different counties - Imagine sitting on your back porch and spitting into three different counties - uh, not that I would ever want to, of course.  A large sign boasts of a Catfish Festival on Memorial Day Weekend which may in itself be a fun day trip - especially if they're serving fried catfish.  It must have once been a bustling mill town as there are old textile plants sitting empty and a "mill village" with row upon row of mill houses - some occupied, some not, but most in a state of disrepair.

As we drove through an intersection of the main part of town, we were both shocked to see this fabulous old building sitting right smack in the middle of the street.  If you ran the stop light, you would plow right into the middle of it, it was so close to the street.  Ware Shoals Inn - and then another grander building just down the street - Katherine Hall, these two were the obvious pride and joy of this small town. Seeing these great old structures resplendent in all their glory was a shocker after just passing by such obvious signs of shabbiness.
Ware Shoals Inn

Katherine Hall

I wish I could have found a better picture of the Inn.  It has wide steps leading up to a columned veranda style porch.  It has been restored and is now used as affordable apartments for elderly people and is a National Historic Building.  A 1930's postcard touted it as: "one of the newest and most modern hotels in the Northwestern part of South Carolina. In addition to 52 modern rooms, most of them with private bath, every room is an outside room well ventilated. Free Garage service for hotel guests.
The Ware Shoals Inn maintains an excellent dining room where the civic clubs meet regularly. It is a member of the Southern Hotel Association. It is operated on American and European plan. Special rates quoted by week or month. Rates from $1.50 up.Interesting. 

I wished we could stay here for a while - like maybe at the Ware Shoals Inn, but we had places to go and promises to keep.  We had not taken the time to look up much history of the town before we left home and by this time we were curious about how Ware Shoals came upon its name. We arrived at the garage to pick up the car part that had brought us to town and asked the mechanic about the name.  He had lived here all of his life and didn't know.  While the mechanic was taking his own good time about extracting the car part that was supposed to be ready for us to pick up from the vehicle that it was coming out of, we went to eat lunch.  We asked the man sitting at a table beside us about how the town got its name.  He had lived there since the 1970's, sold Liberty Life Insurance, had once been on the town council...and he didn't know. Now wouldn't you think that if you lived in a town with such a unique name, you would want to know how it got its name.  Of course, we are on the back roads of South Carolina, but still...  To give them credit, I'm sure we just asked the wrong people and could have gleaned more information, but those of you who know Henry and have heard the story about our trip to Savannah a few years ago, know that he zips in and out of a town like Richard Petty saying "we've seen it all now - it's time to go home". 

We were going to come home a different route just to see new scenery, but the mechanic had made me late in preparing dinner for a sick friend, so we hurried home the same way we came.  Good old Google provided us with how Ware Shoals came upon it's name.  In the 1800's, many families would come to this spot of the river to sit on the large rocks - or shoals - to picnic, fish, and just enjoy nature's beauty.  In time, a Mr.Ware built a gristmill at the site and it was named Ware's Shoals and later shortened to Ware Shoals.  

Mr. Ware, though you are long gone, we enjoyed our trek to the little town that was named in your honor.  If we had had that entourage of camera men, we may have come up with some better pictures...and maybe got more people to talk...  Next time maybe - when we decide to throw another dart.

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