If you live somewhere other than the southeast, you probably have never heard of Greenville, South Carolina. I only learned of Greenville because my friend and her sister raved about it after multiple visits, assuring me that I would love it. So on our way back from Birmingham, Vinny and I decided to break up the eight hour drive with a stop in Greenville.
From the outskirts, before we found downtown, we were disappointed; it looked like just another small city. However, once we turned down the appropriate street we were amazed by the vibrant downtown, aesthetically pleasing streets, the number of people out and about, and the mix of stores and restaurants. Greenville is much more than a small southern town. Whether you like cultural events, art events, downtown shopping, parks, the river, historic buildings, it seems like a great place to live. Check out the Greenville website and you’ll find that there is a university, a zoo, a sports arena, public gardens, historic districts and tours, and listings for festivals, free movie events, museums, sporting events, and more. The “Shoeless Joe” Jackson house is in Greenville (think Field of Dreams).
We only had a few hours, so we didn’t see much beyond the main downtown district, but we did walk down to Falls Park. It is as impressive as it sounds. Falls Park is in downtown Greenville, on the Reedy River. The bridge was constructed in 1990, as part of the downtown revitalization efforts.
One of the most exciting things, for a preservationist, may be the shell of an old factory, the Wyche Pavilion now, that is used as a venue for dinners, parties, weddings, and other ocassions. I think it’s brilliant, like a permanent tent but unbelievably better! Across the river there is new development, but it’s sensitive in that it faces the river and still provides pedestrian access.
Greenville is one of my favorite success stories for main street revitalization. In the 1960s, suburban development hit Greenville hard, pulling residents and businesses away from downtown. However, citizens recognized this and began their revitalization efforts very soon after (still in the 1960s). With a landscape architect, Lawrence Halprin, oh hand, the town focused on narrowing streets, creating parking spaces, and making downtown more inviting. Efforts of revitalization continued encouraging business relocation (to downtown) and rehabilitation for businesses and residences. It’s obvious that Greenville is a great place to visit and/or live and will remain so, for many years to come.
It is a town that you will be glad to visit for a few hours or for a weekend.