A lot of South Carolina towns sprung up around the railways. Although many of the railroad depots are no longer train stops, communities around the state have banded together to preserve these buildings. By repurposing the charming depots they are able to remember their town's history while providing new opportunities for present and future citizens and visitors.
Such is the case with the Historic Belton Train Depot. When it was built in 1910, it served more than 60 trains and trolleys. But by the 1960s, it was out of service entirely. It lay dormant for two decades, bu, after years of renovations, it was rededicated in 2007. Since then the Belton Train Depot has been home to two very different museums: The Ruth Drake Museum and the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Ruth Drake Museum explores the agricultural, industrial and railroad history of Belton and the Upstate and provides genealogical resources for people who trace their family tree's roots to the area. Now through Dec. 17, visitors can enjoy the exhibit Mill Hill: A Self-Contained World, which looks at life on "Mill Hill," an upstate textile community.
Next door, you'll find the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame, which features tennis memorabilia donated by tennis players, coaches and professionals with connections to South Carolina, including three Wimbledon participants. The museum also displays portraits of tennis champions by artist Wayland Moore, a native of Belton, whose style has a great way of capturing the energy and action of the sports world.
A great time to visit these two Belton museums would be during the upcoming "Heritage Days at the Depot." On Sept. 29-Oct. 1, the green around the depot will be filled with costumed historical interpreters giving demonstrations of 18th and 19th century arts and crafts.
Among the artisans performing at Heritage Days will be Catawba Indian potter Keith "Little Bear" Brown, sweetgrass basket maker Jeannette Gaillard-Lee, and Revolutionary War Patriot Militiaman re-enactor Ricky Roberts. They will be joined by dulcimer maker Harold Turner, whose family has been making and playing violins for over a century. Millie Chaplin also will be on hand making cornhusk dolls, and bladesmith Bobby Branton will demonstrate his knife-forging skills. There also will be demonstrations by an herbalist, a rugmaker, a flax producer, a calligrapher and more.
The museums are open Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. I recommend calling to confirm opening times; the phone number for The Ruth Drake Museum is (864) 338-7541 and you can reach The S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame at (864) 338-7400. Find out more by visiting the Belton Area Museum Association webpage.
Click here for more information on Heritage Days.