Greenville, in Upstate South Carolina at the beautiful foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, is a wonderful place to visit or live. Just an hour from the mountains and a few hours from the Atlantic ocean, Greenville has something for everyone, and its downtown has won many awards for outstanding urban center renovation and beauty. In the 1960’s Greenville began planting trees on Main Street, and now they beautify the downtown area in the way few places in the USA have accomplished. There are numerous restaurants and evening entertainment spots, several hotels and motels, and the state-of-the-arts Peace Center, which features world famous performances of all kinds.
The Upcountry History Museum (www.upcountryhistory.org) is a great place to learn all about the area. It is unique in that several historical buildings, which were formerly pillars of the community, have been re-created within the museum. You can tour the history of the Textile Mill Villages, which once were the cornerstone of Greenville’s economy. Recreated also is the history and simulation of early churches, important in Greenville’s growth. Vardry McBee, who had purchased the land from Richard Pearis, became a prominent citizen and important founding father of Greenville and donated the land for four churches: Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian.
Greenville was founded on Reedy River Falls by Pearis, where he built his home and a grist mill and traded with the Cherokee Indians. He married a Cherokee woman and inherited the land on which he built his mill. This was the beginning of Greenville. Other mills were built on Reedy River and textile mills polluted the beautiful river with dyes dumped. Later the falls were blocked from view by a highway bridge, and this lower end of Downtown became a seedy area. Years ago, dumping into the river was forbidden, textile mills closed with the advent of synthetic materials and polyester, and Greenville was in danger of dying.
Happily, the city fathers and interested, dedicated citizens implemented many ideas, which re-invented the city to become a robust center in the South. In recent years the government was persuaded by a citizens’ group, Carolina Foothills Garden Club, that it would be advantageous to the growth and beautification of the downdown to remove the highway bridge and rerout traffic and feature the beautiful falls, the birthplace of Greenville. With private funds Liberty Bridge, a magnificent walking structure with gorgeous surrounding Falls Park on the Reedy, was built from the unique landscape designs by architect Andrea Mains. This became the focal point of the new Arts and Entertinment and Restaurant District, which includes the outstanding Peace Center and borders The Governors’ School of the Arts. One night each week some of the streets downtown are closed to auto traffic, becoming thriving pedestrian centers for fun and gathering. The success of Greenville’s downtown should be studied by other cities wishng to restore the undesirable areas and revitalize downtown. Greenville is one of the best places you can visit for any type of business or holidays.
WHILE IN GREENVILLE YOU MIGHT SEE A DISPLAY :
Millie Wilson, of Greenville and her late husband used their hobbies to start a home industry over three decades ago and achieved unexpected success and popularity. This home craft business still thrives today, even though she was widowed several years ago. With today’s economy giving so many great worries, she advises people, “Think of something you enjoy doing and contemplate turning it into a business.” Her husband Robert enjoyed cutting figures from wood in his little garage shop, using templates he and Millie drew or found. Millie loved to paint these figures for family and friends to decorate their homes at holiday seasons. She gave these as gifts or these displayed them in her home. Soon other people began to request buying some for their homes.
From these modest beginnings the cottage industry has helped support her and occupied much of Millie’s time in what she loves to do. She now employs someone else to do the wood cutting. Customers began to collect her creations for Christmas and Hanukah, and then Millie expanded to other holidays, especially Easter. She has an annual sale featuring all her specialities. Her regular customers, now in second and third generations from original collectors, place orders even a year ahead and can choose from a large variety which include treasures to commemorate weddings, new homes, every kind of profession, new babies, and more. Three dimensional, free-standing crèches (nativity scenes) are among Millie’s favorite creations. She makes unique sets in several different styles and owners can add new figures each year. Several of these are displayed on her own mantle in December, and her own Christmas tree is completely covered with her scores of figures, representing special occasions and people she loves.