Houston, Alan, and I were on our annual MLK Weekend photo trek. So far we had visited churches, old schools, and cemeteries across Newberry and Faifield Counties. We had just wrapped up at Ebenezer ARP Church and were about to head into Winnsboro proper.
Along the way we turned onto the road that leads to the Anderson Quarry. We didn’t linger or stop for photos, but I pointed out the mine and all of the houses and other structures built from Winnsboro Blue Granite. Most impressive was the granite serpentine wall that encloses the Kincaid-Anderson Plantation on Landis Road. The Georgian house is made of brick, which seems out of character with the rest of the houses in the community. Apparently, this house was build first, and a ten-acre rock consisting of the blue granite was discovered, leading to development of the quarry. So, the house predates the quarry. Later out buildings are made of the granite.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Even though we didn’t stop to take any photos, Google Earth shows an elaborate estate with formal gardens. Looks like it would be a fantastic place to visit.
We headed on into town pretty much without any further detours. It was lunchtime, so we were in search of food. Our route dropped us onto the town bypass where all the fast food places were located. I advised my companions that this would probably be the only place to find food, but they insisted on looking for some local cuisine. We drove into the town and found…nothing. Unless we really missed it, there were no quaint cafes open on Main Street, or anything else that looked appealing. As we drove through the town we made note of places we wanted to visit, but reluctantly we headed back to McDonalds on the bypass.
After a fine repast (or, at least, as fine as you can get at McDonalds) we headed on back into town. The first thing that had caught our eye was an old house on Main Street that looked in serious need of renovation. There were building permits on the door, so it looks like it will be getting some TLC.
We moved the car on down Main Street and parked near the iconic clock tower. The clock building was constructed in the 1820’s as a covered open air market. As we walked past the arched windows we could see that it was still just an open space inside. The tower was added in the 1830s, with the clockworks shipped from France in 1837. The clock has been running continuously for the past 100 years, making it the longest-running clock in the United States.
Across from the clock tower is the Robert Mills designed courthouse. It has the twin sweeping staircases so characteristic of Mills’ designs. It being a holiday, the building was closed. I would have loved to have gone inside. I did climb the steps to get a couple of shots from the balcony.
We walked on down Washington Street, taking photos of the gaslights in front of the municipal building…
…the Greek Revival styled Sion [sic] Presbyterian Church…
…and Washington Baptist Church.
We rendezvoused with Houston and made our way over to Mount Zion Institute.
This particular area was rich in history. A marker indicates that this was the camping grounds for General Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. The Institute itself was founded by the Mount Zion Society in 1777 as an academy. The first structure was made of logs, but eventually a Classical Revival Style building was constructed prior to the Civil War. This structure burned in 1866.
A new, larger brick building took its place in the 1880s. In 1878 it became a public school, the first in the state outside of Charleston.
The current school was built in 1936. It continued to serve as a public school until 1991. After that time it sat unused, and in 2008 the Town of Winnsboro began seeking contracts for demolition of the site. The Friends of Mount Zion Institute began a campaign to save the building, and are slowly renovating the structure as funds are available. Here’s a video that outlines the campaign:
The building was still in pretty sad condition when we arrived. Almost all of the windows were broken, and it looked like they hadn’t really begun work. There was a sign out front proclaiming the group’s plan. Houston spotted that it looked like a cornerstone had been removed for some purpose. The letters MZI were embossed on a shield over the main entrance.
We drove around the town a bit more, then decided it was time to make our way back. We headed westward on Highway 34 – back toward Newberry. Even though we were headed back, we still weren’t quite done.
Outside of Winnsboro we spotted the first sign of Alan’s family, literally. The sign was for Aiken Brother’s Park, located next to Lebanon Presbyterian Church.
Of course, we had to check it out, as well as the cemetery.
Continuing on westward we came to Salem Crossroads, and shortly thereafter we came to an unusual row of commercial buildings. These had faux facades made of Winnsboro Blue, and looked like they had been there for quite awhile. There was a gentleman across the street, and I asked if he knew anything about the history of the area. He didn’t.
When I got back I did some digging. While I couldn’t find out anything about the buildings’ origins, I was able to find out about its most recent history. Apparently it had been a rowdy juke joint known as “G’s Palace.” I was able to find a court ruling revoking their beer and wine permit because of excessive trouble at the site.
Due to the high number and the severity of the criminal activities at this location, I find that the operation of G’s Palace constitutes a public nuisance. I further find that the continued operation of G’s Palace would be detrimental to the general welfare of the surrounding community. There is ample evidence in the record establishing that Respondent’s property is the site of frequent criminal activity ranging from disorderly conduct and assault and battery to a shooting and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. The number of criminal incidents at this location has also put a strain on law enforcement in Fairfield County by often requiring a large number of the deputies on duty to respond to incidents at this location during its hours of operation.
The ruling goes on to enlist a long line of crimes committed in that establishment. I’d still like to find out the origin of this little place.
Houston had to get back to Athens, Alan had dinner guests, and I had a rehearsal that evening. There was so much more we could have seen and done. Future trips await.