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The Old Becomes New Again with Spartanburg History and Arts

Rachel Pittman Rachel Pittman
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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It’s easy to spot signs of a rich history all around Spartanburg. Blending the past with the present, the Spartanburg history and arts scenes manage to preserve tradition while cultivating cutting-edge cultural ideas, and the city and its surrounding areas are a vibrant tapestry of museums, house tours and arts facilities.

 

Old Spartanburg

Step back into yesterday’s Spartanburg by taking a stroll or drive through historic Hampton Heights, a neighborhood built in the late 1800s. Many of the historic homes have been renovated, and you’ll find beautiful examples of original Queen Anne, Craftsman and Neo-Classical architecture.

One of South Carolina’s oldest congregations, Nazareth Presbyterian Church, continues to meet in a sanctuary constructed in 1832, now the oldest continuous-use public facility in the state. Visit the sanctuary to see an old Spartanburg center of community and worship, or walk through the historic cemetery and view the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers.

The Hub City Railroad Museum traces Spartanburg’s industry and development with interactive railroad exhibits, a working telegraph system and displays charting the city’s peach and textile industries. While you’re here, check out a historic caboose, ring the locomotive bell and watch working trains coming to and from the Amtrak station located at the site.

Be sure to take a self-guided tour of Spartanburg's textile mill history while you're exploring the past. The Textile Town Tour covers mill locations and includes shopping and dining options related to this specific piece of Spartanburg's rich past.

 

More History Just a Short Drive Away

Explore Spartanburg's role in the American Revolution with the Revolutionary War Tour, a self-guided journey to several battlefields, monuments and other sites of interest. The tour includes the sites of two key battles in the war—the Battle of Musgrove Mill and the Battle of Cowpens. These two conflicts took place just minutes from Spartanburg, and the battlefields are some of the area’s most engaging bits of history.

Now a peaceful meadow, Musgrove Mill State Historic Site is where an outnumbered Patriot militia won a surprising victory over the Loyalists on Aug. 19, 1780. The site has a highly informational visitor center and more than two miles of walking trails offering views of the Entree River. Living history and reenactment programs are presented throughout the year.

Cowpens National Battlefield pays tribute to a crucial battle of the Revolutionary War with a visitor center, museum and battlefield trail. The Battle of Cowpens on Jan. 17, 1781 saw a key victory of the Americans over the British Army that served as a turning point in the war. You can easily spend an entire day at the battlefield learning the history behind this conflict.

 

Thriving Visual and Performing Arts Scene

Part of Spartanburg's downtown is also known as the "Spartanburg Cultural District," and it's here where visitors can find art galleries, street art and live music on every corner most of the year. The area was only the second cultural district to be officially designated in the state of South Carolina. The Johnson Collection offers an extensive look at art of the American South over the past few centuries. The gallery focuses on giving visitors a comprehensive overview of the region through artwork.

The Chapman Cultural Center is just a couple blocks away from the cultural district and is responsible for much of the city's flourishing arts scene. The center is the home of the Spartanburg Art Museum, a regional museum that is the oldest contemporary art museum in the South. During your visit to the Chapman, check out what else the center has to offer, including the Spartanburg Regional History Museum, featuring an interactive timeline exhibit of Spartanburg’s history, the 500-seat David Reid Theatre and the John F. Green Science Center, a facility with interactive exhibits on fossils, rocks, minerals and more.

The West Main Artists Co-op in the cultural district is a set of studios open to the public with two exhibition galleries and a shop featuring handcrafted goods from co-op artists. West Main artists often teach workshops in their own personal disciplines as well, meaning you can get an up-close-and-personal look at local artists’ methods during your visit.

 

See A Show

In addition to the Chapman Cultural Center's full calendar of performances, there are a few other spots in Spartanburg to rock out at a concert, take in a dance performance or get wrapped up in a play or musical. Converse College's Twichell Auditorium is a historic theater built in 1899. Located in the center of the beautiful Converse College campus and famous for stunning acoustics, this theater is Spartanburg's go-to destination for incredible classical or jazz concerts and other musical events.

The Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts is a space belonging to nearby Wofford College that features performance venues and art galleries. Catch a theatrical, dance or musical performance in the black box theater and be sure to visit the center's collection of Chihuly glass sculptures as well.

Boasting a theater with more than 3,000 seats and a 2,500-seat arena, Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium is the city’s hot spot for popular traveling events like big-name concerts and off-Broadway tours. Be sure to check the auditorium’s calendar in advance of your visit to snag tickets for a show you don’t want to miss.

Rachel Pittman
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.