You won’t walk far along Rock Hill’s Main Street before you encounter the creative genius of one of the city’s most famous former residents, the late New York illustrator Vernon Grant, best known for his Rice Krispies’ Snap, Crackle and Pop characters.
Beloved by the community where he lived much of his life, Grant continues to have a presence in Old Town Rock Hill, where you’ll find his illustrations in storefronts up and down Main Street.
It was Grant who created Glen the Frog, the mascot of the city’s popular 10-day Come-See-Me Festival held each spring. Since his debut in 1964, the well-dressed amphibian has become Rock Hill’s most recognizable ambassador.
Inspired by Glen and his companion, Glenda, the city launched “Old Town Frogs,” a collection of small frog sculptures strategically placed for visitors to find in notable spots around town.
Among the winsome bunch is Nelson, an African desert rain frog found in the Freedom Walkway. The public art project, one of several themed alleyways along Main Street, is adjacent to the old Woolworth’s store and features both historical painted advertisements and new artwork cleverly blended on the wall of the building’s brick façade.
A tribute to the civil rights movement, the walkway includes elements symbolic of African-Americans’ struggle to achieve liberty and justice. Nine cylinders of gray granite are embedded in a mosaic pathway, representing the lunch counter stools of the old McCrory’s Five & Dime where Friendship Junior College students staged a sit-in on February 12, 1960, after being denied service.
Now known as the “Friendship Nine,” the group was arrested and attracted national attention for their “jail, no bail” strategy. Engraved plates at a now-closed restaurant mark the stools where the men sat. You can read more about the sit-in on a historic marker outside the building at 135 E. Main St.
The Main Street corridor is also home to Tattooed Brews, a hip bar/restaurant/coffee shop serving deli fare, craft beer, wine, cocktails and coffee. Another Main Street favorite is Amélie’s French Bakery and Café, located in a former bank. Whether you come in for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, be sure to check out the bank vault, which sits behind the pastry case and serves as a walk-in cooler.
Down the block on Caldwell Street is Rock Hill Brewing Company, a boutique brewery serving a rotating list of really good beer straight from the tank. If wine is your thing, try Cat’s Paw Winery, offering 17 varieties of whites and reds made in the true small-batch craftsman style.
Winthrop University, with its many historic buildings, is a worthy stop on any Rock Hill visit. The hidden gem here is the beautiful Hardin Family Garden with its fountain wall and many artistic and geometric elements.
A cemetery may not make it on most vacationers' itinerary, but Rock Hill’s Laurelwood Cemetery is one you won’t want to miss. Established in 1872, the historic property serves as a peaceful backdrop for some 11,400 grave sites, many featuring interesting funerary art. At least 171 Confederate veterans are buried in the cemetery.