Every small town in South Carolina has a Main Street, even if that isn't its exact name. For Seneca, the main drag is part Main Street and part Ram Cat Alley. How cool is that?
First, a little history. Seneca, South Carolina, is hometown to politicians John Edwards and US Sen. Lindsey Graham as well as TV personality Todd Chrisley. The town began life as a railroad junction in 1873 and quickly became a shipping point for area cotton farmers, who would line up their wagons for blocks awaiting the train. Soon, a passenger terminal, hotels and a park built up around the depot.
All that cotton led to the building of textile mills just before the turn of the century. Textiles dominated the town's economy for nearly 70 years. But like so many textile towns, Seneca saw most of its plants close up during the 1980s and '90s. The town also was home to the Seneca Institute, which was an African-American junior college from 1899 to 1939.
Now Seneca thrives as a bit of a tourist town with nearby Lakes Keowee and Hartwell, as well as Clemson University.
If you stop by on a Thursday from April through October, stick around for Jazz on the Alley with various bands playing from 6:30-9 p.m.
And now for your virtual stroll down Ram Cat Alley:
Brews on the Alley
This is your spot for coffee, espresso and craft beer, which you can sample in flights, presented atop flight paddles handmade by a local craftsman. You also can mix and match a six-pack of craft beers to take home. Sample some of their artisan pizza while you are there.
Enjoy an ever-changing menu featuring fresh seafood, chef-inspired pasta dishes and steak and pork specialites created using the highest quality, in-season ingredients. Located in one of the Alley's historic buildings, the restaurant offers outside seating and an inviting bar with extensive wine and beverage selections.
The Red Door has an eclectic collection of décor and gifts, including stylish lamps, clocks, antiques and baskets. Many items are pegged to nearby Lakes Keowee and Hartwell.
M. Tannery & Sons
This huge store is filled with antique furniture, china, housewares and things that are just plain odd. You can easily spend hours here.
This independent gift shop specializes in pottery, natural handmade soaps, hand-blown and slumped glass, Fair Trade baskets and toys. If you are looking for a quirky gift, this is the place to stop.
The Healthy Olive
This store offers a variety of wines, olive oils, flavored vinegars, spices and dips, as well as gifts and novelties. Be open-minded as you sample. If the salesperson tells you raspberry vinegar tastes good on vanilla ice cream, trust her or him and try it.
Spot on the Alley
The Spotoffers typical bar-style food, lots of burgers and chicken wings, with occasional veggie and gluten-free options, in a casual atmosphere with pool tables, trivia nights and live music every Friday night and karaoke on Saturday.
A little off the main drag:
Lunney House Museum
To glimpse antiques in their natural setting, take a stroll from downtown to 211 West South 1st St. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the home of Dr. W.J. and Lilian Mason Lunney. Call ahead to see if you can get a guided tour through the painstaking renovations of the Queen Anne-style bungalow and the story of the family that lived there.
Ye Olde Sandwich Shop
For a little more casual fare, this is the spot. Check out the burgers and long list of deli sandwiches here. There also is a selection of dinners, including a Greek veggie platter or a rib eye steak with all the fixings.
Blue Ridge Arts Center
This center displays works by local and regional artists for show and for sale. The center also has programs for kids in the summer, check ahead for details and times.
Seneca Presbyterian Church
The congregation for this church was organized in 1875 and the current sanctuary building dates back 100 years.