When it comes to preserving South Carolina history, Pendleton is all in. The entire Upstate town—all 3.8 square miles of it—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Laid out in 1790 and virtually unchanged since its founding, Pendleton is one of South Carolina’s earliest upcountry towns and home to one of the largest historic districts in the nation. More than 50 buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries remain in the town or just outside the town limits.
Among the most notable is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in 1822 and featuring a Jardine pipe organ that has filled the white clapboard church with music for more than 170 years. The church’s cemetery is the final resting place for Clemson College founders Thomas Greene Clemson and his wife, Anna Calhoun Clemson, daughter of U.S. statesman John C. Calhoun.
Once Cherokee land settled by Scottish and Irish farmers prior to the Revolutionary War, the town became a popular escape for wealthy Lowcountry landowners in the 1800s. Lured by the Upcountry’s cool temperatures and fertile soil, the well-to-do planters built luxurious summer homes, several of which still stand today. The landmark residences include Ashtabula, a large clapboard farmhouse built by prominent Charlestonians Lewis Ladson Gibbes and wife Maria Drayton Gibbes, and Woodburn, the magnificent summer plantation residence of another Charleston resident, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a Revolutionary War veteran who served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.
Inside the Village Green, which served as the centerpiece of the town, are the Farmers Society Meeting Hall, now featuring the acclaimed 1826 Bistro, and Hunter’s Store, the heart of commerce in 1850 and currently home to the Lake Hartwell Country Visitor Center.
Today, the Village Green remains the focal point of the town with neat rows of antique shops, boutiques and restaurants drawing residents and visitors to the town center. It is the site for many of the community’s most popular annual events, including the Pendleton Fall Harvest Festival and the Historic Pendleton Spring Jubilee, a juried arts and crafts festival held the first full weekend of each April.
Along with the restaurants in the Village Green, Pendleton also offers one of the best barbecue joints in South Carolina. The Smokin’ Pig is a favorite dining spot of Dabo Swinney, head coach of the Clemson University football team in neighboring Clemson.
Another must-see during your visit is Timms Mill, built on the banks of the Six and Twenty Creek in 1784 and moved to its current site in 1898. Abandoned after more than 176 years of continuous operation, the historic gristmill was restored and brought back to life in 2001.
Using the renovated 14-foot waterwheel to power the original stones in the mill, David and Lisa Wortham grind grits and cornmeal available for purchase on-site and in area stores. Free tours are available by appointment on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the mill is in operation.
And if you play golf, you’ll also want to schedule a tee time at Boscobel Golf and Country Club, a Fred Bolton layout opened in the 1930s. The 18-hole course features rolling terrain surrounded by mature oaks and pines, offering an old-fashioned design with modern Bermuda fairways and bentgrass greens. It features five par three holes and small greens that require players to have accurate approach shots to score well.