I’ve always been fascinated by odd bits of masonry – remnants of long past days. Nothing so grandiose as the Sheldon Church ruins near Beaufort, or the Tanglewood Mansion columns in Seneca, these bits can be just a piece of a stone wall, a bit of a column that remains, or a set of stone steps that now go nowhere. This last bit was the target of my photo journeys on Saturday.
I’d had lunch at Furman with Laura and had lingered to take a few photos on campus. I had made my way to Travelers Rest and found myself at the location of the old Travelers Rest Elementary School, now the location of the TR branch of the Greenville County Library. The old elementary school is long gone, but some remnants remain. There are three identical sets of stone steps from the road up to the sidewalk, and another set of steps at one end of the sidewalk. They obviously lead to something that no longer remains.
This TR encounter reminded me of other sets of phantom steps I had seen around town, and so I went on a hunt. The larger streets in the area just north of downtown Greenville used to be populated with large stately houses. Almost all of those are gone now, but there are some hints of their locations. One of the most intriguing is a set of steps located behind St. George’s Greek Orthodox. There used to be many more steps like this along this block on Townes Street. Recent construction at the church has left only this reminder of the houses that were once here.
From Townes I drove the stretch of North Main from Academy to Stone. Where there were once large homes there are now vacant lots. Unfortunately, there are no phantom steps here. There isn’t enough height difference between the street and the lot to justify steps. Add to that the fact that most of these lots have been paved over, and the steps are nowhere to be found.
From Stone I drove down to the old Richland Cemetery area and hit pay dirt. This historically black cemetery has lots of steps that have been closed off. Strictly speaking, these stairs still go to their original destination, but they are no longer accessible. This one was blocked off by a chain link fence…
Just a block away on Church Street is another intriguing set of steps. There are twin sets that lead up to an old homeplace. I like to imagine what the house must have been like that sat on the shaded hill overlooking the cemetery.
From the Richland Cemetery/Church Street area I headed over to Cleveland Park. The narrow underpass for Washington Street appears to have an old set of steps that ascends from the lower street to Washington.
The park has several old sets of steps, but many of these seem to have been incorporated into the trails. I guess they can no longer be categorized as “phantom.”
Perhaps the most famous steps that have lost their phantom status are those found in the Falls Park area. These were built to provide access for Furman students to the downtown area. When Furman moved the stairs fell into disuse. Now that the Governor’s School is located on the old Furman grounds and the park is such a popular place, the stairs are getting much more use.
I thought of other possible places where I could find phantom stairs. Old mill villages where the mill is gone seems like good candidates. The area north of Academy Street beyond the Peace Center has not been developed, and seems like a place to find these. I didn’t explore more today, but these might be places I try in the future.