Museum explores early transportation in Anderson County

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The Anderson County Museum (ACM) will continue to explore the evolution of transportation in Anderson County with the opening of Phase II of Routes of History on April 8. Phase I opened in 2013 and told the story of the building of the Anderson Airport and Amelia Earhart landing in Anderson. Phase II shares the history of the Anderson Traction Company and Buena Vista Park.

With William Whitner’s successful long-distance transmission of electricity from the Portman Shoals Dam came infinite options using the source of power. The Anderson Traction Company (ATC) was part of the early reaction to electricity and hired J. A. Brock in 1904 to provide an electrified street railway system through Anderson and surrounding communities. With the assistance of the new General Electric Company, track and trolley wire was installed along North and South Main Street and East Whitner Street for the first routes. At 11 a.m. on February 19, 1905, the first streetcars departed along their designated routes.

Also in 1905 Andersonians were supporting the beautification of downtown Anderson with the lush plantings on Anderson Plaza. These beautification projects were driven by the Victorian idea of the necessity of city parks for the public good. As the ATC saw ticket sales drop drastically for their trolley system on the weekends, the building of Buena Vista Park into a weekend destination for trolley riders took shape. The park was located on River Street in Anderson and opened July 4, 1906, to 7,000 enthusiastic Andersonians.

The entrance into Buena Vista Park was through an impressive wood arch, which the Anderson County Museum has reproduced for our visitors. A new transition wall will give visitors a glimpse into the interior of the park and the carefully manicured and lighted paths with exotic plantings of bamboo, banana trees and greenery. The park became the open-air “living room” for the community and offered a swimming pool and a ball park. Buena Vista Park existed for only 10 years and by 1915 the lots were sold for homes. The structures were torn down and most of the plantings disappeared, except for the giant bamboo which can still be seen along present-day River Street.

“We are so excited to share this wonderful exhibit with the public,” said ACM Executive Director Beverly Childs. “Included in Phase II is a scale replica of an Anderson Traction Company trolley. The Anderson Trophy is back home and will be on display along with the newly restored 1893 Ames one horse buggy. Phase III is scheduled to open in 2015. It will be the largest and most extensive phase of this permanent exhibit featuring railroads and all other forms of transportation,” Childs said. The opening reception is on April 8 beginning at 5 p.m. Sponsored by the ACM Friends Board, the reception is free and open to the public.

The Anderson County Museum is at 202 East Greenville Street, in downtown Anderson. The Fred Whitten Gallery and Museum Store hours are Tuesday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Reading and Research Room is open 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays and by appointment. ACM is handicap accessible and admission is free. Donations are always welcome. For more information, contact the Anderson County Museum at (864) 260-4737.