Tuesday, October 4, 2011

South Carolina on the Move: Archives Month 2011

By Jessica Childress, State Historic Preservation Office graduate assistant

October 2011 is Archives Month in South Carolina and the theme for this year is "South Carolina on the Move". (To learn more about Archives Month go to http://scarchivesmonth.palmettohistory.org/.) The following blog post highlights some of the tranportation-related resources in South Carolina listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

From plantation agriculture and coastal shipping to the expansion of the railroad and air flight, the transportation of people and goods has played a crucial role in South Carolina’s history. Methods of transportation not only connected South Carolinians and their products to each other and the North but were also targeted during the Civil War as resources worth capturing or destroying. Many of these resources in South Carolina’s transportation history have been preserved and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The road has been a basic unit of transportation since the pre-colonial era. The Cherokee Path in Calhoun County and Nation Ford Road in York County were Native American trading footpaths and were later used as blueprints for highways. Colonial roads in Charleston County include the Wescott Road on Edisto Island (part of the colonial King’s Highway) and the Ashley River Road (see above), which was crucial in troop movement in the Revolution and has been in use since 1691. The stage coach institutionalized travel on these roads and required stops along the way. Vaughn’s Stage Coach Stop in Fairfield County from ca.1820 provided respite from the highway between Columbia and Winnsboro, and the ca. 1841 Cornwell Inn in Chester County was a stop on the main road from Charleston to Charlotte.

Sometimes the roads encountered rivers or swamps and required ferries or bridges to get across. Eighteenth century ferries include Gallivant’s Ferry in Horry County and Berkeley County’s Cainhoy Historic District, which was a ferry landing and prosperous river port. The brick John Seabrook Plantation Bridge was part of a system that connected Charleston to the coastal islands, and the wedge-stone 1820 Poinsett Bridge in Greenville County was part of the State Road from Charleston to North Carolina. The only remaining covered bridge in the state is Greenville County’s 1909 Campbell’s Covered Bridge (see below). Modern bridges such as the 1935 metal swing bridge in the Socastee Historic District in Horry County helped complete the Intracoastal Waterway, while the 1937 Waccamaw River Memorial Bridge in Horry County and Gervais Street Bridge (1926-28) in Columbia represented the rapid growth of highways and modern bridge engineering.

The canal was also a major development in extending water transportation. Berkeley County’s Santee Canal from the 1790s was created as a shorter and safer water route to move cotton to Charleston from inland plantations, and the ca. 1823 Landsford Canal in Chester County was also a part of the water navigation system from the upcountry to Charleston. The Columbia Canal, completed in 1824 as part of a plan for cheap, efficient transportation, has remained an important source of hydroelectric power and commercial and industrial development.

Boats were required for navigating waterways and have been part of South Carolina’s shipping industry and transportation since the colonial period. The Georgetown County wreck of the Brown’s Ferry Vessel dates from the early 1700s and represents the earliest evidence for local commercial shipbuilding. The Paul Pritchard Shipyard in Charleston County was one of South Carolina’s first shipyards and was later used to convert these merchant ships into military vessels during the Revolution.

Coastal ships needed lighthouses as navigation beacons. The Georgetown Lighthouse dates from around 1800, was a Confederate observation point before it was captured by the Union Army, and operated until the late 1980s. The Cape Romain Lighthouses (see below) , Morris Island Lighthouse, Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse and Rear Lighthouse of the Hilton Head Range Light Station were also part of the system to guide shipping vessels around the coast and were valuable to maritime navigation and transportation in the nineteenth century.

The nineteenth century saw the biggest development in transportation when the railroad came to South Carolina in 1827. The William-Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures in Charleston County represent an antebellum railroad terminal, serving the first railroad to use only steam engines, an American locomotive and to carry state mail. The Southern Railway Passenger Depot at Branchville is at the site of the oldest railroad junction in the country, and its trains sent cotton to the coast. The incomplete Oconee County Stumphouse Tunnel was begun in the 1850s as part of a Mississippi-Atlantic shipping route that would have been the longest railroad in the country, but was discarded due to a lack of funding. Many of the state’s railroad tracks were targeted for destruction by Union troops during the Civil War. In the last decades of the 19th century the development of rail lines spurred the development of new towns and the construction of many related buildings. The 1911-12 Great Falls Depot in Chester County is a turn of the century rail station, and featured a segregated waiting room typical of the time. Numerous other depots have been preserved and reused in South Carolina.

Other major twentieth century transportation developments include air travel and the automobile. The Curtiss-Wright Hangar at the Columbia Owens Downtown Airport was built in 1929 to accommodate passenger flight and airmail and was later used for civilian flight training. Automobiles brought a new efficiency to roads and highways expanded. Columbia’s Greyhound Bus Depot from 1938-39 represents the transition to bus travel and the Art Moderne style typical of the Great Depression era.

Developments in transportation over the centuries have strengthened the economy, promoted industry and have kept South Carolina “on the move” since its earliest days. To learn more about any of these properties visit http://nationalregister.sc.gov/nrlinks.htm

1 comment:

  1. Your writing is so vivid! It brings it to life.