A Greenville Developer and others are investing in and planning development and restoration in Piedmont that some are saying could be the start of something similar to the transformation of Travelers Rest.
Greenville Developer Larry Webb has committed an investment of more than $2 million to restore the former Piedmont Manufacturing Company mercantile building.
That restoration project, along with historic preservation efforts for the “Footbridge”, could lead to a transformation for the former mill town.
Through recent years, Piedmont’s Main Street has barely survived as a home for businesses.
Other than Permanent Impressions hair salon, which has operated on Main Street for years, and a few other businesses that have come and gone, the Piedmont Community Building is the only building that is being used regularly.
With the closing of the Downtown Cafe in 2014 and a bank, Main Street has the look of a ghost town.
A central building is the old Mercantile Building, which is one of the largest buildings located on Main Street. The back side of the massive building overlooks the Saluda River.
The mercantile building, still known by many in Piedmont as Dolly Cooper’s Clothing store (until it closed in the 1980’s), once housed a variety of stores including a general store and a movie theater.
Webb’ s investment plan is to restore the 25,000 square foot building to its orginal architectural style and have space for small businesses.
Restoration will depend on getting the building on a historical preservation list and the associated tax credits.
In addition to Webb’s investment in Piedmont, members of the Piedmont Historical Society are looking into finding funding to restore the “Footbridge” which connects the Greenville County side of Piedmont with the Anderson County side.
Piedmont Manufacturing had textile mills on both sides of the river and the footbridge, was constructed in 1888 to get workers from Mills 1 and 2 across the river to Mill 3 and back.
The Greenville County Historical Preservation Commission and Piedmont Historical Preservation Society are working with Preservation South Carolina to find funding for this important restoration project.
In 1978, Piedmont Number One was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1983 a fire destroyed most of the mill building and what remained was demolished. The Anderson County plant closed in Feb. of 1985.
The footbridge, dam, and the smoke stacks are the remaining structures left to denote 130 years upstate textile heritage in Piedmont.
The dam is still producing electricity for ENEL, an energy group, however the footbridge is not owned by the company.
According to Ann Peden of the Piedmont Historical Preservation Society, a restoration project would have to have the support of a public entity to claim ownership of the historic structure.
Peden said surveys needed for making the area a historic district have already been done.
The organization is looking into additional funding for an engineering study, estimated to cost approximately $70,000.
Through the years, there were efforts to make more use of the Saluda River as an attraction, an idea which took off when Anderson County constructed Dolly Cooper Park and began sponsoring the Saluda River Rally to promote the river as a blue trail for kayakers and other water enthusiasts.
The opening of the Saluda River Grill in 2010 also contributed to the success of the Saluda River Rally, which began at Dolly Cooper Park and ended at the Hwy. 86 bridge in Piedmont.
The Saluda River Grill is located on Hwy. 86 and Main Street and overlooks the river.
The restaurant, which has been supported by the community, has become an anchor for Piedmont.
Representatives of both Anderson County and Greenville County including Anderson District 6 councilman Ken Waters and Greenville County Councilman Lynn Ballard have indicated their support for a restoration effort in Piedmont.
A small group including Lynn Ballard (Greenville County Council), Ken Waters (Anderson County Council), Larry Webb (KDS Properties), Kyle Dillard (lawyer and concerned citizen), and Anne Peden (Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission and Piedmont Historical Preservation Society) met last week.
An expanded group will meet next week. Included in the upcoming meeting will be Rusty Burns (Anderson County Administrator), Joe Kernell (Greenville County Administrator), Matt Schell (Anderson Recreation), Ty Houck and Don Shuman (Greenville Recreation).
Topics of discussion will be restoration, including reengineering, of the footbridge over the Saluda River dam, funding sources, and possible future uses. Also, to be considered is the proposed park and portage around the dam to bring recreation and revitalization of downtown and the mill village.
“The Saluda River Rally is quickly on us the first weekend in June,” Peden said. “Of course, possible funding of these projects will need to be planned as well.”
A public meeting on re-development in Piedmont is planned by the developers in June.