Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sesquicentennial State Park

Known affectionately as 'Sesqui' by locals, South Carolina's Sesquicentennial State Park is located not far from Downtown Columbia.  The park features numerous activities that allow for a fun day or an overnight stay.

The over 1400 acre park features numerous activities from a six mile mountain bike trail, six miles of hiking trail, a 30 acre pond that is popular for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, and a splash pad for kids to cool off in the summer months.  The park came about as a donation from the Sesquicentennial Commission in 1937 and a number of the building and facilities at the park were built by the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC).

The park also offers three different types of overnight lodging - RV friendly campsites with electric and water hookups, primitive camp sites for those wishing to rough it a little bit , and a retreat center for lodging of large groups.

Sequi is located minutes from Downtown Columbia and is very close to both Interstates 20 and 77.  It is a popular spot for those in the Columbia area but also a great break for those traveling through the area or a day trip for residents 1-2 hours away.  The park is also home to a two acre dog park which is a great break for those traveling long distances with pets.

Park admission is $5 for adults, $3.25 for SC resident seniors (65+), $3 for children 6-15.  Ages five and under are free.

Getting There:

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Possibly home to the most unique entrance into a town within either of the Carolinas, Montreat is a Buncombe County community surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Chartered by the Mountain Retreat Association in 1897, Montreat comes from the two words "Mountain" and "Retreat".  The charter was acquired by the Presbyterian Church ten years later.  The Church built the Montreat Conference Center and helped to establish Montreat College on the grounds.  The Conference Center continues to host many religious conferences and retreats to this day.

The town was incorporated in 1967 and is very well known today for being home to the late Reverend Billy Graham and his late wife Ruth.

The distinctive Montreat Gate was built in 1922 as a replacement of a wooden gate placed there in 1909.  The gate served as a toll booth for those wishing to enter the grounds.  The fees were typically paid by church conference attendees and was used to help cover costs for maintenance of the grounds and services.  In 1969, two years after Montreat became an incorporated town, the fees ended.

Twice in 2016, the Montreat Gate was damaged heavily by trucks.  A June 2016 incident involving a U-Haul severely damaged the gate.  The damage was estimated at $25,000.  Once construction started to repair the gate - it took less than 30 days to complete.  The gate was reopened to traffic that October.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens

Earlier this month, my family took a weekend trip to Columbia, South Carolina and spent sometime at the extremely popular Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens.  We have heard a lot about this zoo over the years and thought it would be a great idea to take a small family weekend trip to check it out.

The Riverbanks Zoo opened in 1974, and with more than one million annual visitors, it is one of South Carolina's largest tourist attractions.  The zoo is home to over 2000 animals and has numerous exhibits.  One of the things we like the best about this zoo is that it is flat and the entire zoo is a loop.  Though there were off and on rain showers at the start of our visit, there are numerous indoor exhibits to keep everyone dry.

This iguana can be found in the Aquarium Reptile Complex.
The zoo has a number of kid friendly exhibits and experiences from feeding giraffes, lorikeets, carousel rides, and more.  A number of these experiences and attractions are at an extra cost to your admission which can easily be purchased at various ticket counters on a re-loadable card.

For adults, there is ziplining which one can zipline through the zoo, over the Saluda River, and the entire grounds.  Depending on how much and what you want to experience the cost can be anywhere from $35-80 for non-zoo members.  Reservations are required.

In addition to the Zoo, the botanical gardens are part of the general admission to the park.  Opened in 1995, the gardens can be accessed via crossing the Saluda River over a pedestrian bridge and a tram ride up the hill.  Visitors do not have to take the tram to the gardens, they can walk.  However, it is a rather steep climb.  If you prefer, there is parking on the gardens side of the facility.
Fountains are the centerpiece of the walled gardens.
The 70 acre gardens have thousands of different species of plants and has an extensive trail network.  The focal point is the 34,000 square foot walled garden which is home to many season displays and beautiful fountains.

The gardens also has plenty of things for kids to do.  Waterfall Junction, which opened in 2016, offers a large dinosaur themed dig area, a splash pad, treehouses, and more.  If your kids are like ours, they could spend all day at the dino dig and the splash pad.

The zoo is a great day trip or part of a whole weekend trip from anywhere in the Carolinas and Georgia.  Admission is $15.95 for ages 13-61, adults over 62 and military are $14.95, kids 2-12 are $13.50, children under 2 are free.  You can save15% by purchasing tickets online in advance.  Also, if you are a member of the North Carolina Zoo you receive discounted pricing of 50%.

Getting There:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Grove Arcade Building - Asheville

The 1920s saw numerous new buildings pop up in Asheville, as the city grew into an urban center.  Buildings like the S & W Cafeteria, the Kress Building, Asheville City Building, and others that part of the downtown's unique landscape all were completed during this time frame.  One of the most notable is the Grove Arcade which takes up a full city block between O'Henry and Page Avenues.

The Grove Arcade is the brainchild of E.W. Grove, who is the founder of the Grove Park Inn.  He wanted Asheville to have a strong and successful downtown and saw that his arcade would be one of the centerpieces of that downtown.  Grove hired local architect Charles Parker to design it.  The grand plans for the building was to have a five story base supporting a 14 story office tower.  The design would be home to shops, offices, apartments, and more.

Unfortunately two events caused Grove's larger dream to not become reality.  First, Grove passed away in 1927.  After a brief pause, Walter Taylor continued with the construction of the base.  The second item that halted further construction of the building was the Great Depression.  Though the Depression halted any vertical expansion of the Arcade, inside it was one of the busiest places within the city.  As throughout the 1930s, a wide variety of shops from specialty groceries, bookstores, barber shops and more filled the first floor with offices located on the upper levels.

The 1940s saw a dramatic change to the Arcade, as part of the World War II effort, the federal government took over the building.  In one month's time, all businesses and offices were evicted.  In total, 74 businesses and 127 offices left the Arcade. (1)  After the war, the building remained under the ownership of the federal government and became home to the National Weather Record Center which would later be renamed the National Climatic Data Center.  The NCDC would be the main occupant of the Arcade until 1995.

During the 1980s, while the federal government considered plans to expand and renovate the building, local citizens and leaders began to push back wishing that the Arcade retain its architectural design and return to its former use as a civic market and office complex.  In 1985, a Mayor's Task Force was formed to achieve those goals.  In time, the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation was formed, and in 1997, the City of Asheville gained title to Grove Arcade and signed a 198 year lease with the foundation. (1)

Renovations to restore the Arcade to its original grandeur and purpose began immediately.  Five years later, in 2002, the Arcade reopened as a civic center home to numerous restaurants, shops, specialty food vendors, offices, and apartments.

The Tudor / Late Gothic Revival building features many intricate details.  On the North end of the building, Palladin style winged lions adorn that entrance.  This grand entrance was in front of the Battery Park Hotel and was designed as such to entice tourists to visit and shop.

Throughout the exterior, 88 gargoyles can be found.  Some even function as downspouts.  Located along the exterior parapet are heart shape symbols.  The Arcade was and is now considered the 'heart' of Asheville - and the heart is actually a floral symbol of an ivy leaf which was seen as a symbol of eternal love during medieval times. (2)

The Grove Arcade was a vibrant symbol of a growing downtown in the 1920s.  After over five decades of service to the US Government, the Arcade once again became the heart of Downtown Asheville.  Though the Arcade may not have reached its original lofty goals, the City's perseverance and dedication to return this storied building to its original grandeur allowed the Grove Arcade to not skip a beat nearly 90 years after it was first constructed.

All photos taken by post author - June 7, 2008.

How to Get There:

Sources & Links:

Monday, February 19, 2018

S & W Building - Asheville

Downtown Asheville is home to many beautiful and historic buildings.  The S & W Building at the intersection of Patton Avenue and Haywood Street is certainly one of them.  Built in 1929, this gorgeous Art Deco style building was home to the S & W Cafeteria for over 40 years.  During the company's 70 year history, S & W Cafeterias offered southern-style food in many cities throughout the southeast.

The three story building is one of the best preserved examples of Art Deco design within North Carolina and certainly is one of the more attractive buildings in Asheville.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  The S & W Cafeteria moved to a suburban mall in 1974, where it would operate until closing in 1981.  After a second cafeteria, Dale's, failed in the mid-1970s, the building sat idle until Walter Ploeger, Jr. of Arden began an extensive renovation effort in 1983. (1)
The building has seen numerous tenants come and go in the years since the renovations.  An event catering company, another run at a cafeteria, and numerous restaurants all called the S & W Building home at one point or another.  Recently, a new venture called S & W Artisanal has opened within the building.  The S & W Artisanal Eatery features a Greek Cafe and Market, a fine dining restaurant, bakery, coffee and cocktail bars, and private event/dining space.  The Eatery opened in January 2018.

How to get there:

All photos taken by post author: June 7, 2008.

Sources & Links:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Social Plains

Social Plains is located in the southern-most tip of Franklin County.  It is an unincorporated community that is also not listed in the Gazetteer.  It is possibly named after the Baptist Church shown in the picture.

Rocky Cross

Rocky Cross is an unincorporated community in Southwestern Nash County.  The community is not listed in the Gazetteer and may possibly be a crossroads named after the nearby church.

Popular Posts