Remember Dorothy’s famous line “there is no place like home” in the Wizard of Oz? Well, there’s no place like my hometown.
My hometown is a true southern gem. It is a city that has reinvented itself. It’s the blend of southern hospitality with European cosmopolitan. My hometown is Greenville, South Carolina.
When I was growing up, Greenville’s downtown was just a shadow of what it is now. It just wasn’t a place you went at night. Oh sure, there were plenty of businesses but it was far from what it is now. Downtown Greenville is now vibrant, fun, eclectic, and buzzing with folks exploring everything from the Mice on Main (yes my mom and I still look for then every time we’re downtown) to the many wonderful places to eat.
I mean any place that has a hashtag #yeahthatgreenville has to be cool right?!?! I think so and so does Forbes Magazine since they ranked it one of “America’s Ten Best.”
Let me give you a brief history synopsis of Greenville. Most of modern day Greenville was once hunting land for the Cherokee Indians. It was the falls of the Reedy River that attracted the first European settlers to the area. Richard Pearis was married to a Cherokee Indian and established a trading post and grist mill at the base of the falls in the early 1770s. The gem of downtown though is a river. In the 19th Century business began to boom along the river as flour mills, sawmills, textiles, a paper factory and other industries flourishes. But as the 20th Century saw the demise of industries like textiles, downtown Greenville visibly began to crumble. In the mid-1980s, the Carolina Foothills Garden Club and the City of Greenville put their efforts together to create a master plan to create an area of beauty to be a gathering spot. In August 2002, then Mayor Knox White announced the plan “In Full Bloom in 2003.” It was a $13 million initiative to transform the 20 acre Falls Park into a public garden and oasis. The Liberty Bridge was completed in fall of 2004 and so began my love affair with this picturesque place in my hometown.
Falls Park on the Reedy is stunning. It’s a true oasis in the city. I almost always venture over to the Falls when I visit my mom. I find them relaxing yet rejuvenating.
I love seeing so many people taking advantage of a spectacular spot. There are gardens to just sit and soak in the beauty. There are trails for walking, running, and biking. And, there are falls and the one-of-a-kind Liberty Bridge. It’s a 345-foot-long, 12-foot-wide, curved suspension bridge supported by a single suspension cable. World-renowned architect Miguel Rosales designed it and there is nothing else like it in the United States.
When you stand or walk on it, you might notice it sways a bit. It’s the perfect place to take in dramatic views of the falls on one side and the gardens on the other. It is the primo spot for a selfie and of course, extra special when I get a selfie with my mom. We’ve taken quite a few over the years standing on the bridge.
The sounds of the water rushing over the falls, the sounds of children laughing as they dip their toes in the water below the falls, and the sounds of ducks quacking as they swim by on the Reedy River make the 40-foot tall falls an urban sanctuary. If you visit, do what I do and view the falls from several different spots.
Trust me, it never gets old. Of course, stand on the bridge but then venture over to the side closest to Main Street and take in the view of the rock formations and how the river has carved its path over time.
If you’re adventurous, even just a little, venture down to the base of the falls. This is where Greenville started in 1770. It’s the spot where Richard Pearis opened his trading post and grist mill. I can only imagine as Greenville grew in those days, that it was a center of a lot of activity, much like it is today but on a much grander scale.
I love to follow the river on the Swamp Rabbit Trail as it winds through the collection of modern buildings with mill ruins that have been transformed into architectural gems in downtown Greenville. The trail is a 19.9 greenway connecting downtown Greenville with Travelers Rest, a town that has also gone through revitalization and filled with cool cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. The trail traverses the river but here’s what is really cool. It follows an old railroad corridor. Guess the saying “what’s old is new again,” really holds true.
If you ever find yourself in my hometown, and you really should, hopefully, you’re there at sunrise on a beautiful Sunday morning. If you are, take a walk like I did recently with my childhood friend Ashley. While walking and chatting, we truly had downtown Greenville to ourselves as the sun came up. The beauty and serenity you of sunrise over the falls and the sun starting to shine on the red brick of the historic buildings along the Swamp Rabbit Trail is spectacular.
My hometown has made it on to all of the “it” lists as a quaint travel destination and phenomenal place to live. This town nestled at the base of the Foothills is the place I’m lucky to call my hometown.