OLD 96 DISTRICT MURAL TRAIL
by Clayton Hensley
A couple of decades ago, people were sending postcards to family and friends the old fashioned way, by snail mail. Now in this age of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook our selfies let everyone know where we’ve been and if there’s a mural nearby you can bet it’s going to be shared with others.
The Old 96 District, an area of South Carolina known for its historic settings, charming small towns and natural wonders now includes a trail where you’ll find more than a dozen outdoor murals. So, if you’re in the area head out and enjoy these colorful works of art and send your friends and family a picture postcard showing off the wonders of the Old 96 District.
Just off I-385, the city of Laurens welcomes visitors with a spacious Courthouse Square, historic homes and buildings, and a scenic park along the Little River. Whether walking around the square or driving through town you’ll find some of the newest and oldest murals in the Old 96 District.
Greetings from Laurens
Pride of the Piedmont sits at the entrance to Laurens on North Harper Street. This work by Greenville, SC artist, Adam Schrimmer resembles a vintage postcard with different scenes from the city filling each of the letters in the city’s names. The historic Laurens County Courthouse is featured prominently in the corner of the mural. Show off the pride of your vacation by using this colorful creation as the backdrop for a photo.
Bull Durham Tobacco
The days of tobacco advertising on the sides of buildings may be a thing of the past, but bright remnants of a Bull Durham ad remain on the side of a building on the Laurens square. Bull Durham’s “Standard of the World” loose leaf tobacco was first sold in the mid 1800’s and according to multiple sources was well known for its innovative marketing. Today, strings of lights run high above Silver Street running between the building adorned with the “Bull Durham” ad and the one next to it.
Restored Coca-Cola Billboard
Across the country, you will find the remnants of hundreds of Coca-Cola ads plastered on old buildings, but it’s not that often you run into a vibrantly restored ad for this product described universally as “delicious and refreshing.” The “Drink Coca-Cola” ad in Laurens has become one of the most popular spots for taking pictures in Laurens and like the Bull Durham mural just up the street, is also adorned with lights above the alleyway.
River Tracks Cafe
Heading east out of Laurens, a support column for an old railroad bridge serves as the canvas for a faded mural pointing people to the “River Tracks Café.” Although the restaurant near Little River Park closed many years ago, the steam locomotive depicted in this mural is a pleasant reminder of the days when trains rolled through here every day. The “River Tracks Café” mural is located on the east side of the bridge across the Little River. Because of the way it faces, you probably won’t notice it when traveling westbound on the highway.
Revolutionary War historic sites are plentiful in this part of South Carolina and that includes the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site not far from the town of Clinton.
This small town along I-26 is home to Presbyterian College which was founded in 1880.
Musgrove Street Mural
A group called Clinton Canopy has been working to enhance the green space in and around the city of Clinton for several years. After renovating a small park downtown, Clinton Canopy set out to create a mural that would, through art, “fill” the area with trees and flowers where the park ended and the buildings started again. The result was the 20’ x 80’ mural along Musgrove Street. The artist, Janette Marvin is a native of Brazil. She has been painting murals in different states for more than three decades.
Each June creative topiaries pop up all over the city of Greenwood as part of the South Carolina Festival of Flowers. It is a display of public art that rivals that of much bigger cities. Uptown Greenwood’s stores, restaurant and boutique hotel, The Inn on the Square make this a perfect home base for exploring the Old 96 District.
Tree by Skip Shelton
Uptown Greenwood is home to one outdoor mural. Skip Shelton, who was from Greenwood, became known around the region for his seemingly endless pursuit of creating art. On the back of a building facing Long Street, you will find a painted tree rising up one story with its branches stretching out lengthwise along the rest of the rest of the building. If you look closely, you’ll also see a bird hanging out on the trunk of the tree.
With the charm of Charleston (and the history to go along with it), Abbeville welcomes visitors with its brick streets, picturesque town square, brightly colored buildings, an Opera House, and the historic Trinity Episcopal Church (built just before the Civil War).
Poliakoff Department Store
Sometimes just a simple word or two is all you need to see to recognize an institution or product. In Abbeville, the name D. Poliakoff was synonymous with shopping for more than 100 years. The name of the store remains on the side of the building at the corner of Washington & S. Main. However, the store itself is no longer in business. The D. Poliakoff name is spelled out in black and white letters. This simple mural serves as a reminder of this retail landmark started by a Russian Jewish immigrant back in the year 1900.
Railroads, rivers and the search for gold shaped the town of McCormick and the surrounding area. Today, McCormick serves as a gateway to Hickory Knob and Baker Creek State Parks and is the last town along U.S. 378 before you reach the state of Georgia.
The Natural Pace of Life
Today, the “Natural Pace of Life” mural at the corner of Gold & Main Streets helps tell the story of this area along the Savannah River. As part of the mural says, in McCormick County “the pace is slower, the tea is sweeter, the trees are taller, and the gold shines brighter.” Be sure to stop and see the mural and afterward take time to explore all this small town and county has to offer.
Whether you are in town for the Peach Blossom Festival or just passing through the Johnston, the town promises that people come to town as visitors and leave as friends. The town grew up around the railroad and today produces about 60% of South Carolina’s peaches.
International Peach Exchange
Just miles from the border with the “Peach State”, this small South Carolina town helps set the record straight that South Carolina leads Georgia in peach production. Johnston, South Carolina was an early producer of peaches in the Palmetto State proudly claiming to be the “Peach Capital of the World.” In the middle of town, a tribute to this “peachy” part of history is spelled out in a mural depicting the International Peach Exchange. While the focus is on the importance of the Peach Industry in the area, several prominent people from the Johnston area are also featured in the mural with new people added from time to time.
In Edgefield there’s a lot more than just peaches. It is home to ten South Carolina governors, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and a legendary potter. Much of the history of Edgefield is spelled out in its murals so it is easy to walk around town and soak in its history.
Home of Ten Governors
Just off the town square a mural welcomes you to “Historic Edgefield: Home of Ten Governors.” Above the town moniker you’ll find the names of the Edgefield men who held the state’s highest office. While admiring this mural, be sure and be on the lookout for the wildly painted turkeys on display nearby.
The History of Edgefield
In a town dating back to the 1700’s it’s no surprise that many buildings have come and gone. Sometimes it was because a bigger space was needed and sometimes it was because of a tragedy. Along Potter’s Alley in Edgefield, you will find a work depicting a few major events in the town’s history including the 1881 fire that destroyed part of the square.
Lee Work Clothes
Above the mural about history, a faded advertisement harkens back to a time when buildings doubled as billboards. This ad for Lee Work Clothes boasts a satisfaction guarantee and the fact the clothes are “Sanforized”, a patented term for pre-shrinking the fabric. The History of Edgefield Mural lays right beside it.
Dave the Potter
One of Edgefield’s most famous residents (who wasn’t a politician) was a slave who became known as “Dave the Potter.” He was known for his remarkable glazed pottery creations as well as his signature and poetic verses he added to them. Several books including a Caldecott Medal winner have been written about this legendary artist. The mural depicting Dave and his creations is at the end of Tompkins Alley near the Old Edgefield Pottery store and museum. Read more about Edgefield Pottery here.
Historic Edgefield and the French Connection
Maxmillian and Pierre Fabian La Borde made quite a mark on Edgefield. Today the two men of French descent are immortalized in a mural on Lynch Street. The two were key players in the founding of the local newspaper, The Advertiser, the oldest continuously printed newspaper in South Carolina. Maxmillian served as South Carolina Secretary of State while Pierre volunteered to fight at the Alamo.