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Anderson’s Historic District Blends Old Traditions with New Trends

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Enjoy the beautiful architecture of the historic buildings in downtown Anderson.

For a small, rural town in the foothills of South Carolina, Anderson has never had trouble keeping up with the times. Early in its history, it was heralded as the “Electric City" for pioneering the use of hydroelectric power. In recent years, it has transformed its historic downtown into a vibrant community center with hip breweries and bars, foodie-centric restaurants and a park for concerts and events.

Once Cherokee hunting ground, Anderson was named after American Revolutionary War hero Robert Anderson who explored the land with General Andrew Pickens in the mid-1700s. It was colonized after the Revolutionary War mostly by Scottish-Irish and English farmers from Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In preparation for the manufacturing boom in the nineteenth century, the town harnessed the energy from a hydroelectric plant on the Rocky River, becoming the first city in the United States to have a continuous supply of electric power and the first in the world to power a cotton gin by electricity. The innovation, which sparked the Industrial Revolution in the South, earned the town its “Electric City” nickname.

Anderson was awarded "All American City" status in 2000.

The city’s deep sense of community and civic spirit also garnered Anderson “All-America City” status in 2000, an honor awarded by the National Civic League. Today, it’s also known as the “City of Hospitality” and the “Friendliest City in South Carolina.”

One of the best ways to explore the city is to take a walking tour of its 16-block Historic District. Along the way, you’ll pass the Anderson County Courthouse, the P&N Railroad Depot, the Confederate Monument on the square, the Anderson County Museum and a 1764 Revolutionary War cannon dubbed “Old Reformer.”

Along with the many historic buildings, the downtown district is also home to an extensive array of casual and fine dining restaurants, from the elegant Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill to the retro Summa Joe’s, known for its locally sourced dishes.

Equally alluring is the eclectic collection of shops offering everything from handmade chocolates to one-of-a-kind apparel to fresh local produce and products. Add to that several fun craft beer taprooms and breweries, some of them offering live music on weekends.

Carolina Wren park in the downtown Anderson Historic District is the site of concerts and events throughout the year.

Just off Main Street is Carolina Wren Park, a popular outdoor venue for concerts and events, including a Thursday night block party, Friday movie night, holiday ice skating, yoga and Zumba classes and Shakespeare performances.

While you’re visiting the park, look for a Carolina wren sculpture hidden in plain sight. Part of a downtown scavenger hunt, the small bronze bird is one of 24 wrens that can be found roosting in iconic buildings and some unusual spots. You can pick up a brochure with clues to their locations in the Visit Anderson office at 110 Federal St., Suite 8. 

Some 350 goats make their home at Split Creek Farm, a goat dairy in Anderson.

Outside of downtown are several other acclaimed culinary landmarks, among them Split Creek Farm, a goat dairy that produces award-winning cheeses, yogurt and fudge, and Palmetto Distillery, the first micro-distillery in South Carolina to produce legal moonshine and the state’s most awarded craft whiskey.

Anderson also offers access to Lake Hartwell, named a Top 100 Bass Lake in America and one of the Southeast’s largest and most popular public recreation lakes. Visitors can get on the water from Sadlers Creek State Park, Darwin Wright Park or any number of nearby marinas.

The city is also the home of Anderson University, a private college serving some 3,000 students; the Anderson Arts Center, filled with original works of art created by regional, national and international artists; and the Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center, a 300-acre facility, playing host to concerts, sporting events, tournaments, festivals and more.

Warm and welcoming, Anderson will make you feel right at home however you choose to spend your time in this friendly Piedmont town.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.