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Old and New Blend to Create a Dynamic Fort Mill

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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Like so many small towns in South Carolina, Fort Mill is experiencing a revival of its historic business district. The commercial buildings along Main Street—built after the railroad came to town in 1852—are home to a fun collection of restaurants and shops, among them the famed PuckerButt Pepper Company where you can buy the hottest pepper in the world.

Many of the structures have been restored, revealing vestiges of their past life, including a century-old Pepsi-Cola advertising mural that now looms over diners at The Improper Pig.

The burgeoning corridor, which includes the circa 1904 Confederate Park and bandstand, has become a venue for town-sponsored events like Trick or Treat on Main Street, the Christmas Parade, Lighting of the Tree and the July Third Celebration, featuring food trucks, live music, fireworks and the annual firing of two Civil War-era cannons at Confederate Park.

Topping the festival lineup is the week-long South Carolina Strawberry Festival, held each spring.

While Fort Mill continues to embrace its old-fashioned Southern traditions, it also offers plenty in the way of cosmopolitan attractions and amenities, from the 2,100-acre Anne Springs Close Greenway to Carowinds amusement park.

But it’s Fort Mill’s geographic location along I-77 that has transformed the former textile town from a sleepy hamlet into a major suburb of Charlotte, which lies 20 miles north. According to U.S. Census Bureau data released in 2018, it was the fastest-growing city of its size in the nation.

The first population boom in the area dates back to the late 19th century when the Fort Mill Manufacturing Company, later called Springs Industries, began establishing textile mills in town. Despite the waning business of textile manufacturing, Fort Mill has continued to prosper with the addition of distribution centers for companies like Ross Stores, US Foods, Inc. and Stanley Black & Decker.

The growth in population has given rise in recent years to two major developments—Kingsley Town Center and Baxter Town Center, both offering a variety of restaurants, shops, businesses and residences.

Originally home to the Catawba Indians, Fort Mill was settled by Scotch-Irish immigrants in the 1750s. The name Fort Mill was taken from a colonial-era British fort and a grist mill that operated on nearby Steele Creek. Visitors can learn more about the origins of the town in the Fort Mill History Museum.

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.