One of the first trips I took with my parents outside of my home state of Connecticut was to Williamsburg, Va. Looking back, I remember two things: people in funny looking clothing and sitting on a cannon. I grew up to better understand the history that surrounds me, and my appreciation for the upkeep of historical items recently increased when I visited Cheraw.
The settlement that became Cheraw dates back to the early 1700s where it started its historic story as a small trading post on the Pee Dee River. This town was touched by both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. I learned this and other interesting facts from the informative brochures available from the Cheraw Visitors' Bureau, located in the Chamber of Commerce office -- the place to start a visit.
Cheraw has a wonderful historic district made for walking. My friend and I gathered our brochures and keys (yes, keys). By appointment, visitors are entrusted with keys to two Cheraw treasures: The Lycium and Old St. David's Church.
The Lycium is the first stop to understanding this beautiful town. It's one-room houses artifacts, such as a cross section of a 157-year-old long leaf pine, depicting the local history. We made sure to sign the registry before we left. After we locked the door, we faced the town green and an expressive 7-foot bronze statue honoring jazz great Dizzy Gillespie. Adjacent to the green is Market Hall, which started its life as a market (downstairs) and a court. It's now used for civic purposes.
The Cheraw Historic District showcases 74 Antebellum and Victorian era buildings. Earliest buildings have plaques corresponding to the information in the brochure, "A Guide to the Cheraw Historic Areas."
We walked across Second Street making our way to Old St. David's Church (not to be confused with St. David's Church built in 1916, which we passed on our way in) on Church Street. This was a state church of South Carolina's, the last one built under King George III. We let ourselves through the side door and stepped back into the 1700s. Bare of adornment, restored box pews face the high, black walnut pulpit. The handrail that leads up to the pulpit is original. It was a chilly day when we visited, and it was even chiller inside the starkly reverent room.
Dorr Depew came in before we left. His daughter was to be married there that afternoon. He said he moved to Cheraw 36 years ago from Charlotte. "This is a great place to live," he said.
We stepped outside to the graveyard with the first monument ever erected to the Confederate dead. Other graves date back to the American Revolution.
Walking back through downtown are independently owned businesses - except one chain store. We visited Hidden Treasures, Company's Comin' and Merle Norman, which is more than just beauty supplies. I found Miss Scarlett's Drunken Hot Bullets across the aisle from Webkinz clothing and accessories. Delores Isgett, proprietor, suggested we lunch at El-Sherif's, which serves Greek and Italian food in space that once housed a drugstore and soda shop.
After lunch, we crossed the street to the Tobacco Market. Built in 1914 by the Cheraw Hardware Co., the top floor was used for social gathering. At street level, wagons were able to roll inside to be loaded. Today it's a purveyor of tobacco products, as well as memory makers like slinkys, pick-up sticks, candy necklaces, lunch boxes, gags, metal signs and an antique gas pump showing gas was, at one time, 10 cents a gallon.
We window shopped our way down Second Street and finally stopped in at Martin's Antiques, home to Cathy's Stained Glass. Along with antiques and custom stained-glass creations, Martin's carries face jugs, one of a kind wrought iron pieces and works by local artists like Hank Alred, a potter who likes snakes.
Before we headed over to Huger Street to see Dizzy Gillespie's home site, we drove down Third Street to catch a glimpse of "The Teacherage," said to be the oldest (prior to 1785) home in the "original" town of Cheraw. The Dizzy Gillespie memorial is a wonderful gathering of unique stainless steel benches facing a sculpture depicting that famous bent horn. Designer Bob Doster went one better by incorporating the musical notes of one of Gillespie's favorite tunes, "Salt Peanuts," into the stainless steel fence that greets visitors.
We ran out of day before we could see the rest of Cheraw's 213-acre historic district "... rich with gardens and parks and architectural legacy of more than 200 years."
Susan Doyle of Rock Hill is a freelance writer. Her column appears monthly in the Lake Wylie Pilot. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Want to go?
WHERE: Cheraw, SC. Start at The Cheraw Visitors' Bureau, 221 Market St., 888-537-0014, cheraw.com. Group tours are available Monday through Friday. More businesses are open during the week.
GETTING THERE: Take I-485(outer) to Exit 51 toward Monroe (US-74). Follow US 74 to US-52. Follow 52 to Cheraw. (about two hours)
UPCOMING EVENTS: April: Spring Festival; October: SC Jazz Festival; December: Holiday Home Tour