Sitting at the head of navigation on the Pee Dee River, this has long been a place of desirable habitation. The first residents were the Cheraw and Pee Dee Indians whose numbers were greatly reduced by disease by the 1730s. European settlers - mostly English, Scots, French or Irish - were populating the region by that time and in 1750 Cheraw was one of six places in South Carolina that appeared on English maps.
Joseph and Eli Kershaw came to the area in the 1760s and obtained a land grant for much of present-day Cheraw. They formally laid out the street system with broad thoroughfares and a town green. They called the town “Chatham” after William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, but the name never seemed to take and was just as often referred to as “Cheraw,” the dominant tribe along the upper Pee Dee River who maintained a well-fortified village here. When the town was officially incorporated in 1820, Cheraw became the official name.
By that time steamships began to ply the Pee Dee River and the town was launched into a golden age. Corn, tobacco, rice and indigo passed across the wharves. The cotton market in Cheraw was the largest between Georgetown and Wilmington. Many of the town’s landmark buildings today date to that era, despite a fire that swept through the business district in 1835. By the time of the Civil War Cheraw was a prosperous river town that served as the regional center of business, education, culture and religion. During the war the town became a haven for refugees and a storage place for valuables and military stores. In the last months of the conflict, with William Tecumseh Sherman marching north from Savannah to join Union troops in North Carolina, more federal troops occupied Cheraw than any other South Carolina town. Aside from an accidental explosion, however, no public buildings or dwellings were destroyed.
Today’s Cheraw streetscape blends antebellum housing stock with Victorian and Revival buildings from the beginning of the 20th century. Our walking tour will begin on the original town green from two-and-one-half centuries ago, at the statue of Cheraw’s most illustrious citizen. Few towns have ever sent such an enthusiastic and recognizable emissary into the world...
Dizzy Gillespie statue
south side of Town Green, 2nd Street and Market Street
John Birks Gillespie was born in Cheraw on October 22, 1917, the last of nine children sired by James Gillespie, a local bandleader. By the age of 18 the young musician had landed a professional gig in a traveling orchestra and was on his way to becoming, in the opinion of many, the greatest jazz trumpeter of all time. In almost every performance he would begin by announcing, “I’m Dizzy Gillespie from Chee-raw, South Carolina.” The larger-than-life seven-foot bronze statue depicts Gillespie blowing his trademark bent horn (the result of accidental damage during a job in 1953). It is the creation of Ed Dwight, the first African American trained as an astronaut and the sculptor of major monuments, and was unveiled on the 85th anniversary of Gillespie’s birth.
Inglis-McIver Law Office
south side of Town Green, 2nd Street and Market Street
This small white frame Greek Revival structure, circa 1820, was standing on Front Street on March 1865 when an ammunition dump was accidentally ignited by occupying Union soldiers. Nearly all of the downtown buildings were destroyed but this one, the law office of John Inglis, Chairman of the Ordinance of Secession Committee, and his partner Henry McIver, survived. It was moved to the Town Green in 1948.
WALK THROUGH THE TOWN GREEN TO THE BACK OF THE LAW OFFICE.
Theatre on the Green
200 Market Street
This Beaux Arts brick building opened as the Lyric Theater on Christmas day in 1920. Built by local pharmacist, Dr. James Ladd, this theater changed names over the years being known as the Cheraw Theatre, the Cheraw Cinema, and others. When it opened as a silent movie house, it had an open alcove into which a patron entered from the street. Talking pictures arrived in 1929 with MGM’s Oscar-winning The Broadway Melody while patrons enjoyed the contrived air conditioning created by fans blowing across large blocks of ice on the second floor. Like most downtown theaters it was a time of struggle after the arrival of television and suburbs in the 1950s and the theater eventually closed in 1987. It has since been restored and reopened as the Theatre on the Green, saving the plaster moldings and tin ceilings in the foyer and auditorium.
TURN LEFT AND WALK OUT TO 2ND STREET. TURN LEFT ON 2ND STREET AND TURN RIGHT ON MARKET STREET.
Old Bank of Cheraw
165 Market Street, southeast corner of 2nd Street
This 1907 vault of Chesterfield County ashlar blocks shows traces of the Richardsonian Romanesque style in its rough facing and bold window and door arches.
Merchants & Farmers Bank
150 Market Street
This bank was outfitted with a popular Neoclassical temple facade when it was built in 1910. It was altered to the form seen today shortly afterwards.
First National Bank
121 Market Street
Dating to 1907, this building retains many of its classical features inside and out, although it hasn’t been a bank for many years.
B.C. Moore & Sons Building
Front Street at head of Market Street
Built in 1905, this building standing apart from the core of downtown was the first preservation tax credit project on Cheraw. It was at one time a wholesale grocery, there was also a theatre upstairs and a bowling alley in the basement. Beauregard Crawford Moore, better known as “Croft,” opened his first retail store in downtown Wadesboro, North Carolina in 1923. With the assistance of his four sons and nephew, nineteen locations were serving the two Carolinas by 1933 and were opening new stores throughout the southeast at the rate of more than one per year. Administrative offices, including buying and advertising departments, were located here.
TURN RIGHT ON FRONT STREET AND FOLLOW IT AS THE STREET BENDS TO THE LEFT ACROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS TO REACH ITS END AT CHURCH STREET.
Old St. David’s Church
100 Church Street
This was the last Anglican church built in South Carolina under the reign of King George III in the 1770s. The original 1770-1773 frame building has entrances on the south side and west end, five windows on one side, six on the other and two at the east end. The church seen today dates to 1826 when the steeple and vestibule were added. It was used by both the rebels and the British during the American Revolution and by both the rebels and the Union Army in the War Between the States. In the church graveyard a mass grave for British enlisted men is thought to be at the present front doors of the church. The British officers’ graves are on the left as you face the church. The first ever Confederate monument erected in memory of those who had fallen in the Civil War. Erected on July 26, 1867, when Union forces still occupied the area, the original inscription did not mention Confederate soldiers directly. Sculpted by J.H. Villeneuve, it is a square, white tapered shaft on a square, gray base.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO THE DOWNTOWN AREA, OR TO SEE THE PEE DEE RIVER, WHICH WILL OTHERWISE NOT BE IN EVIDENCE DURING THE TOUR, FOLLOW CHURCH ROAD TO ITS END AT RIVERSIDE PARK. The park was the site of Cheraw’s first ferries, bridges and steamboat landing. It was the site of the skirmish for the Pee Dee River bridge, gunboat Pee Dee engagement, and the ravine holding gunpowder whose accidental explosion killed several Union soldiers and destroyed Cheraw’s business district. ONCE BACK ON FRONT STREET, CONTINUE PAST MARKET STREET TO DUVALL STREET AND TURN LEFT. TURN LEFT ON 2ND STREET.
Cheraw Police Station
258 2nd Street at southeast corner of Duvall Street
Now housing the local constabulary, this building was constructed in 1916 as the freight depot for the Atlantic Coast Railroad.
232 2nd Street
When this warehouse of yellow brick was built in 1914 by the Cheraw Hardware Company it was possible for freight wagons to drive through from front to back for loading and unloading. The third floor was a community room used for roller skating, dances, and basketball games.
TURN RIGHT ON MARKET STREET.
southwest corner of 2nd Street and Market Street
This steepled building with raised entrance was designed by Conlaw Peter Lynch in the 1830s as a public market and court of equity. It has been restored to host Cheraw civic events.
northwest corner of 2nd Street and Market Street
The Masons helped foot the bill for this Greek Revival temple in 1858 and used it as a meeting place. The new building was pressed into service as a hospital during the Civil War. It was also an opera house at one time. The graceful wrought iron double staircase is believed to have been designed by Christopher Werner of Charleston.
Town Green, north side of Market Street
This small, early Greek Revival building with a prominent fanlight began life as a chancery court in the 1820s. Over the years it was a private library, Cheraw’s first telegraph office, and both the Confederate and Union quartermasters’ headquarters. Today it houses the town museum.
Merchant’s Bank Building
232 Market Street
This late Georgian-style brick building, constructed around 1835, housed South Carolina’s largest bank outside of Charleston before the Civil War. One of the reasons for the large five-bay structure is that the upstairs housed the cashier and his family so they could protect the firm’s money. It was the last bank to honor Confederate currency. Still in uses as a bank, and since expanded, the core remains essentially intact.
TURN LEFT ON 3RD STREET.
First United Methodist Church
117 3rd Street
This white frame Greek Revival meeting house fronted by a portico of four Doric columns was constructed in 1851. The building was expanded westward in the 1960s.
RETURN TO MARKET STREET AND TURN LEFT.
First Presbyterian Church of Cheraw
300 Market Street
On March 11, 1828, the Reverend Urias Powers met with eleven persons who had been members of Presbyterian Churches in other communities and organized the Cheraw Presbyterian Church. The original Greek Revival clapboard sanctuary with a quartet of Doric columns supporting the portico, which stands today in remodeled form, was built on the corner of Market and Third Streets in 1832. In 1922 the sanctuary was brick veneered, the vestibule, choir loft, and educational rooms were added, and the steeple was changed.
317 Market Street
Boxwood Hall was built in 1822 by Dr. Thomas H. Powe, credited for growing the first tomatoes in Cheraw. During the Civil War, occupants of the house reportedly hid bacon between the floor boards on the second floor above the living room from General Sherman’s troops. Fat from the meat supposedly permeated the wood so that it is still hard to keep painted until this day. A dent on the front porch was said to have been made by a cannon ball that was fired upon the town as the Union Army entered Cheraw.
320 Market Street
The main core of this sprawling residence dates to 1822; it was extensively remodeled around 1900. During the War Between the States the basement here was used as a guard house.
First Baptist Church
southeast corner of Market Street and Greene Street
From 1785 until 1840, members of Cheraw Hill Baptist Church met in a building on the river hill above the ferry dock. In January, 1840, they occupied this building which had been constructed at the corner of Market and Greene Streets. In 1928, Cheraw First Baptist Church decided to tear down the old wood frame structure and build a new brick structure. Because of the coming of the depression years, construction was delayed, and the congregation had to utilize school building for several years. The church, which is in use today, was finally completed in 1938.
St. David’s Episcopal Church
420 Market Street at northeast corner of Huger Street
A new red brick church for St. David’s rose on this corner in 1916 in a Gothic style designed by Rt. Reverend Albert S. Thomas. Some of the stained glass windows here were hauled across town from the Old St. David’s on Church Street.
TURN RIGHT ON HUGER STREET.
William Evans House
500 Kershaw Street at northwest corner of Huger Street
Aside from no longer being painted red, this high-style Queen Anne house is otherwise almost completely unchanged since its construction in 1889.
Dizzy Gillespie Homesite Park
west side of Huger Street
This park marks the site of jazz great Dizzy Gillespie’s birthplace in Cheraw. The park includes a historical marker on his life and features modern sculpture and eclectic park benches that symbolize his life. Born here in 1917 as John Birks Gillespie, Dizzy attended public schools, graduating from Robert Smalls in 1933. His family attended the Wesley United Methodist Church on Greene Street and as a child, he was employed to keep kids from sneaking into the Lyric Theater, now the Theater on the Green. His musical talents earned him a scholarship to the Laurinberg Institute in North Carolina but he passed it up to begin playing professionally. In 1990, Gillespie received the National Medal of the Arts (the highest award bestowed upon an American artist) and was honored by the Kennedy Center for his contributions to the performing arts. The stainless steel fence is by artist Bob Doster and depicts the notes to one of his trademark songs, Salt Peanuts.
BEAR LEFT AS YOU CROSS GREENE STREET ONTO MCIVER STREET.
135 McIver Street
General Erasmus Powe is thought to have built this typical lowcountry plantation house, accented with shed roofed porches front and back, for his daughter as a wedding present around 1815. At the time he also planted a row of cedar trees in the front lawn. In March 1865 this house served as the personal headquarters of William T. Sherman’s second in command, General Oliver Otis Howard in March , 1865.
143 McIver Street
The original house built by Erasmus Powe in the area dates to 1790. The downstairs portion was the personal headquarters of General William T. Sherman during federal occupation. More of his Union troops were quartered here than in any other town in South Carolina. The large side wing was once the law office of South Carolina Chief Justice Henry McIver and was moved here from town.
RETURN TO CEDAR AVENUE AND TURN LEFT. TURN RIGHT ON GREENE STREET.
416 Greene Street
This Greek Revival cottage from 1855 was built as a summer residence for the Blue family. Inside it features twelve-foot ceilings and a ten-foot wide central hall.
James Rhett House
303 Federal Street
This unique story-and-a-half home utilizes an extremely narrow stairway to reach the upper bedrooms. Outbuildings in the back are original and date to the time of the house’s construction in the 1830s.
TURN LEFT ON POWE STREET.
328 Greene Street at southeast corner of Powe Street
This is a typical upcountry farmhouse from the early 1800s where the stairs descend to the back porch rather than to the front hall. The second story is a later addition.
TURN LEFT ON PINCKNEY STREET. TURN RIGHT ON KING STREET. TURN LEFT ON SHORT STREET.
401 3rd Street at northwest corner of Powe Street
The core of this rambling corner house is a typical center-hall Cheraw house, flanked by two rooms on either side.
404 3rd Street at northeast corner of Powe Street
This 1830s house was built on spec by Conlaw Lynch. It sports a typical central hall with original flooring and woodwork; a prototypical early Cheraw house.
TURN RIGHT ON 3RD STREET.
321 3rd Street
This house was once identical to the previous stop but has been greatly altered over the years. In the 1940s it was hauled back from the street with a single mule. All porches, save the central portico with its quartet of giant Doric pillars, were removed beforehand. Original slave cabins to the rear of the house remain.
235 3rd Street
The Lafayette House was built by Dr. William Ellerbe in 1823 and was the site of a public reception for General Lafayette on his 1825 return visit to the United States. Archibald Malloy remodeled the house after his marriage to Henrietta Coit in 1843, giving the house a whiff of New England style for his Connecticut bride. The interesting cross halls and balustraded roof were formed during the 1852 remodeling. Several of the owners of this house were involved in the buying and selling of cotton and the manufacture of cotton thread.
230 3rd Street
Built prior to 1780, “The Teacherage” is said to be the oldest dwelling in Cheraw. The south “L” was added in the 1840s by the Malloy family who were merchants and cotton brokers. Teachers once boarded here in the mid-20th century so residences like this were known as “Teacherages.”
219 3rd Street
This house was built in the 1830s by the Coit family and subsequently purchased as the first Presbyterian manse in 1859. At one time it was completely surrounded by porches.
Presbyterian Session House
northwest corner of 3rd Street and Market Street
This small one-story frame Greek Revival structure dates to 1842. The Session House was used for midweek Prayer Services, the Men’s Bible Class, weddings, baptisms, and other special services.
TURN LEFT ON MARKET STREET AND CONTINUE TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT A HALF-BLOCK AWAY.