Anderson is named for General Robert Anderson, a Revolutionary War soldier, who came to South Carolina to assist his good friend, Andrew Pickens, in surveying land that had been given previously to the English Colony by Cherokee Indians. The City was founded in December 1826 along the “General’s Road,” the dirt highway used by Pickens when traveling from Abbeville County to his “Tamassee” home in Oconee County. Anderson was incorporated by an Act of Legislature in 1833.
With a trading area extending over South Carolina’s Piedmont section and into Georgia, commercial and manufacturing enterprises in Anderson developed rapidly from the time of its founding until the Civil War. The majority of the early commercial structures were wooden, several of which were destroyed or damaged by fire in 1845. Following Reconstruction after the Civil War, Anderson’s textile-based commerce and industry once again began to prosper. Growth continued throughout the 19th Century into the 20th, climaxing between 1898 and 1907, with one of the greatest periods of building activity in the town’s history. It was during this era of prosperity that a large number of the structures comprising the downtown district were built. Store buildings and hotels were rebuilt, but it was following the period of Reconstruction that Anderson experienced a period of major construction.
Anderson’s greatest notoriety came during that time, in the 1890s, when a bold engineer, an Anderson native named William Church Winter created one of America’s first hydroelectric power plants on the Seneca River. His new plant transmitted electricity 11 miles, the longest line in the country at the time. Flooded with the new “white fire,” Anderson was dubbed “The Electric City.”
Present-day Anderson, still a trade center for the county and surrounding area, in many ways resembles its appearance during the early 20th Century. Although new structures have been built and facades have been altered, the town retains much architectural integrity. Our exploration will start at one of the main buildings from a century ago and our walking tour will take in civic buildings, churches, glorious homes and even one of those old generators...
401 South Main Street
This building was constructed in 1898 at a cost of approximately $10,000. Romanesque Revival in style, this structure features a corner tower with pyramidal roof with finials and bartizans. Originally brick, it was enlarged and stuccoed during the mid-1900s.
FACING CITY HALL, TURN LEFT AND WALK NORTH ON MAIN STREET.
208 S. Main Street
J.M. Sullivan and C.S. Mattison began a general merchandise store in 1875 on Benson Street. Mattison sold his interest to Sullivan, and the store became Sullivan and Brother in 1882. In 1885, N.B. Sullivan joined the business, and the store became Sullivan Hardware, destined to become one of the largest hardware stores in the state of South Carolina. This two-story brick Victorian structure was constructedin 1891 as the Hill Block (an “H” along the front panel of the building just above the awnings is still visible) and Sullivan Hardware moved in during 1904. Its facade is virtually unaltered, featuring cast iron decorative work in the Eclectic style.
Bank of Anderson
102 East Benson Street at southeast corner of Main Street
This structure was constructed around 1883 to house the Anderson National Bank, the first bank organized in Anderson a decade earlier. This two-story brick Italianate structure features a bracketed cornice and paired arched windows with hood moldings. Alterations have been made to both the windows and door on the first floor, and a large addition to the corner was built in the 1940s.
Anderson County Courthouse
100 N. Main Street
The second Anderson County Courthouse was constructed in 1898 on the site of the original 1820 courthouse. Features of this three-story building include curvilinear gables, decorative brick work, a central clock tower, arched windows with stone sills, a raised basement, and tile roof. The building originally had a large turret and balcony, which were removed when the building was remodeled in 1939. The clock face and bell in the tower are the same ones used in the original 1820 Courthouse. The bell, dated 1856, was presented to Anderson County by the City of Anderson and was first rung by Judge J.P. Reed.
Main Street at Whitner Street
The citizens of Anderson initiated an effort to raise money for a monument on “Decoration Day” in 1886 but it would take sixteen years to complete the project. The 35-foot monument of Tennessee gray marble was dedicated January 18, 1901. It faces the courthouse and commemorates the Confederate Infantry, Artillery and Navy.
The Man Behind The Idea
Main Street at Whitner Street
Anderson native William Church Whitner developed the concept and spearheaded financing for the first hydroelectric plant to transmit power over a long distance in the South. Whitner would go on to partner with Dr. Gill Wylie to form the Catawba River Company, forerunner of Duke Power. This sculpture by artist Zan Wells was unveiled on October 12, 2004 on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of Duke Power. Whitner peers up, watch in hand, waiting for the street lights to illuminate with the power his plant supplied.
100 W. Whitner Street at Main Street
This was originally known as the Hotel Chiquola when it was constructed in 1888 on the site of the old Waverly House. The Chiquola opened with a Grand Ball on December 31, 1889 with guests from Augusta, Atlanta, and Charlotte. Music for the ball was provided by the Italian String Band of Charlotte. The four-story brick Romanesque style structure has been modified through the years and much of its ornamentation is now gone as it has been renovated into a restaurant, 15 condos, and several store fronts. It does, however, retain decorative brick work and its distinctive oriels.
401 N. Main Street
The Federal Building was built in 1909 as a Post Office with James Knox Taylor as the supervising architect. Constructed of brick, it features arched windows, brick pilasters, and a tile roof.
John C. Calhoun Hotel
402 N. Main Street
The John C. Calhoun Hotel welcomed its first guests in 1925. Designed by architects James J. Baldwin and James H. Casey, the eight-story reinforced concrete building was raised by the Fiske-Carter Construction Company, one of largest contractors in South Carolina in the 1920s. An original oil portrait of John C. Calhoun, the seventh vice president of the United States, hangs above the Sharpe Street entrance. This painting was created for the United States centennial in 1876, when every state commissioned portraits of its prominent figures. The artist is unknown, and the painting is one of only four of Mr. Calhoun in existence. Now a residential complex, the grand lobby is featured in the film Leatherheads starring George Clooney and Renée Zellweger.
Carnegie Library Building
405 N. Main St.
The Carnegie Library was formed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s Library Association. Construction began in 1905 and opened the library opened its door on February 27, 1908. Andrew Carnegie donated money for the library, Col. Joseph Newton Brown provided the property, and G.B. Casey was the architect. The library remained at this location until 1971. The brick structure features a classical pedimentedportico, rusticated quoins, and a dentil cornice. Currently, it has been adapted for use as part of the Arts Center.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS DOWN MAIN STREET AND BEFORE THE COURTHOUSE, TURN LEFT ON WHITNER STREET.
131 East Whitner Street
This was the site of the former G.F. Tolly & Sons, a four-story building that was established in 1858. After a fire, the store was shaved to three stories. The State Theatre operated as a movie house here from 1939 to 1972. In its earlier years, the State also featured live acts. It is now a live theatre venue called the Alverson Center Theatre (ACT Theatre), and before that was called the Anderson Community Theatre.
TURN RIGHT ON MCDUFFIE STREET.
southeast corner of McDuffie and Whitner streets
In 1889, the City of Anderson contracted with a 26 year old native son, an engineering graduate of the University of South Carolina, to build a steam power plant and water system for the city. William Church Whitner became convinced that the long distance transmission of electric energy using hydropower would be developed in Anderson. On May 1, 1895 he installed an experimental 5,000-volt alternating current generator to attempt to generate and transmit electric power six miles that resulted in the first successful long distance transmission of electricity in the South. Based upon this success, Whitner was able to secure the financial backing to construct a larger dam and power plant at Portman Shoals on the Seneca River, 11 miles west of this spot. At Portman Shoals, the Anderson Water, Light, and Power Company built a 10,000 volt generator facility. When it was placed in service on November 1, 1897, the Portman Shoals Power Plant was the first hydroelectric facility to generate high voltage power without step-up transformers in the nation and perhaps in the world. Due to its “unlimited” supply of electric power, The Charleston News and Courier dubbed Anderson “The Electric City.” On the grounds of this 10,000 square-foot-park stands an Alternating Current Generator manufactured by the Westinghouse Electric Company on March 28, 1911 that once produced electricity for the Anderson area at the Portman Shoals Power Plant.
TURN RIGHT ON BENSON STREET.
118 East Benson Street
This is the second Masonic Temple to occupy this location. After its organization in 1848, Hiram Lodge No. 68 met in the second story of a store building on the east side of the square for several years. The first temple was erected here in 1866. Its small auditorium was Anderson’s first theater. The building also was used to house Anderson first hospital established during the Civil War as the Ladies Hospital Association. The present temple, once topped by a cupola, was dedicated with elaborate ceremonies in 1889. Its meeting hall served as Anderson’s first opera house and civil auditorium. Plays presented by traveling stock companies and other cultural events took place here.
RETURN TO MCDUFFIE STREET, TURN RIGHT AND CONTINUE WALKING SOUTH. TURN LEFT ON CHURCH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON MANNING STREET.
First Baptist Church
307 S. Manning Street
First Baptist Church was originally known as Mount Tabor, organized by Rev. James Burriss in 1817 and located at what is now South Murray Avenue. The church moved to its current site in 1834 and took the name Anderson Baptist Church. The church was renamed First Baptist Church in 1892. The bell mounted in the churchyard was added at that time; it was removed in 1976 when the old tower was razed.
TURN RIGHT ON JOHN STREET. TURN LEFT ON MCDUFFIE STREET.
St. John’s Methodist Church
515 S. McDuffie St.
St. John’s Methodist Church was the first church in Anderson, organized in 1828. A frame building was erected in 1858 and replaced by the present brick building in 1888. The church was named St. John’s in 1897.
604 S. McDuffie Street
Philip A. Wilhite, a Georgia native, graduated from the medical college in Charleston in 1852 and set up practice in Anderson. He would gain nationwide publicity in the 1870s when he claimed to have contributed to the first operation performed under ether with Dr. Crawford Long in the 1840s. Wilhitehad for a time studied in Long’s office but the doctor claimed he had never been assisted by Wilhite in an operation. The controversy led to the first nationwide publication on the use of anesthesia and Wilhite was forced to admit he had not been involved in the first ether operations and had confused his dates. He built this 6,000 square-foot mansion house in 1858.
708 S. McDuffie St.
This exuberant Queen Anne house was constructed in 1893 by James Albert Brock, president of the Bank of Anderson. Four years earlier Brock had been elected president of the Anderson Cotton Mills. He would later also head the Anderson Traction Company and Anderson Oil and Fertilizer concern. The Victorian home was built in the former rose garden of “Echo Hall,” home of Judge J.P. Reed, who was the father of Mrs. Brock.
Grace Episcopal Church
711 S. McDuffie Street
Occasional Episcopal services were held in Anderson as early as 1844 and a parish organized in 1851. The first church here, a frame Carpenter Gothic building, was completed in 1860 on land donated by Daniel Brown. Housing Anderson’s first pipe organ, a tower was added in 1883, and stained glass windows in 1888. This brick Gothic Revival church was first used on Easter Sunday 1904, incorporating windows from its predecessor and a fine collection of Art Glass nave windows.
RETURN TO REED STREET AND FOLLOW IT ONE BLOCK WEST TO MAIN STREET. TURN RIGHT AND WALK THREE BLOCKS BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.