Five historic buildings in the Old 96 District turned eateries, accommodations, event spaces, and more.
By Nicole Letts
History has deep roots in South Carolina’s Old 96 District. In the five counties comprising the district, countless historic sites and markers dot the area. However, did you know many of these places of the past have been given a new, contemporary twist? Thanks to neighbors and creative visionaries, what was once old is now like new!
Sharon Manor Bed and Breakfast, formerly Sharon School
From the approach to Sharon Manor, you’d never guess it was once a school. The beautiful brick facade with a semi-circle driveway looks more like a stately farm home than an alma mater. However, this historic building has been painstakingly transformed into a well-appointed four-bedroom boutique inn helmed by the Chupp family. Through the front door, close your eyes, and you can almost picture the gymnasium that once filled the the main living space and dining room. Bedrooms are housed in former classrooms, each one uniquely styled and decorated. As you move around the spaces, you might imagine the screech of tennis shoes on the floor or the scent of chalk in the air. Sharon Manor is a familiar, warm respite for visitors.
Carolina Moon Distillery, formerly office space
Edgefield’s Carolina Moon Distillery is centrally located on its charming square. It is here, in the place where a judge once described the local moonshine as “mean enough to make a rabbit spit in a bulldog’s face,” that Carolina Moon distills, bottles, packages, and yes, serves, its products. And that aforementioned quote? Rabbit spit is the name bestowed on the brand’s own 116 proof white lightning. Before housing the distillery and adjacent tasting room, the circa 1892 building was an office space. First it was a dentist office for Dr. Horace Parker who installed the upstairs bay window for ample lighting. Later, it became a hardware store until being reimagined into the distillery it is today.
Abbeville Opera House and Municipal Office Building, formerly Abbeville Opera House
Just because the name hasn’t changed much since this historic building’s inception doesn’t mean the site itself hasn’t experienced a few shifts over the years. Opened in 1904, the Opera House was built as a place to showcase traveling performances that were popular during this time period. According to sources, one of the prominent traveling companies journeyed a path between New York and Atlanta. Thanks to its central location, Abbeville became an overnight stop along the way, and the city capitalized on the stop, errecting a permanent place for performances at the Opera House. The theater has hosted many guests over the years with one of the most well-known being Harry Houdini. In addition to holding regular performances, the building is also home to city hall.
Abbeville Farmer’s Market, formerly the Livery Stable
Today, the Livery Stable holds the Abbeville Farmer’s Market most Fridays as well as countless private events (including weddings) throughout the year. Its origins, however, are a lot more literal. The building as it stands today was constructed in the late 1870s after the original 1840 structure was destroyed by a fire. Once used for horses and their necessities, the stables later served as a warehouse before becoming today’s event space.
Dorn Mill Complex, formerly the Dorn Mill
Located in McCormick, the Dorn Mill Complex is housed in the historic Dorn Mill. Built in 1898 as a cotton gin and later used as a grist mill, it was an essential part of the area, staying open well into the 20th century. Today the mill is operated by the McCormick County Historical Commission which hosts community events at the complex like food truck gatherings, fireside chats, art exhibits, and an annual holiday event, the Festival of Trees.
Nicole Letts is an Atlanta-based freelance journalist focused on the modern American South. Her work has been published by some of the country’s top magazines and digital publications including AAA Explorer Alabama, Architectural Digest, BBC Travel, Fodor’s Travel, Garden & Gun, Good Grit, Southern Living and many more. She is also the author of the new book, Unique Eats and Eateries of Alabama. When she’s not writing, you can find stitching cheeky needlepoint canvases or perusing local antique shops for her online business, Grandmillennial Shop.