The surprising history of Greenville’s Falls Park

    falls park Greenville
    Photo Credit: JeffersonDavis via Compfight cc

    Greenville’s Falls Park on the Reedy is one of our city’s most beautiful and popular attractions. The 32-acre park, with its gardens, walkways, iconic suspension bridge, and dramatic waterfall has been a major key to downtown Greenville’s revitalization, and has made Greenville an area destination.

    So it may surprise you to know that only a few decades ago, this area was virtually unknown, polluted, and in many respects an eyesore! Here’s a brief history of how it happened and what changed that.

    Reedy River’s Mill History

    The area that is now Falls Park was once part of a thriving mill community. Several factories set up along the river, processing textiles, paper, wood, iron, corn, and more. (In fact the open-air Wyche Pavilion, now a popular wedding venue, was originally the Markley Carriage Factory Paint Shop!)

    While textile mills were foundational to Greenville’s economy, in the mid-20th century an unfortunate side effect was the pollution of the Reedy River. The water was filled with chemicals—including dyes that discolored the water. And as the textile industry failed, abandoned and derelict mill buildings surrounded the river.

    In the 60s, the construction of the Camperdown Bridge—where the pedestrian Liberty Bridge now stands—obstructed the view of the falls for most people, and the area was mostly forgotten.

    Restoration begins

    Initial work to clean up the area started in the late 1960s, long before Falls Park became a public attraction. The Carolina Foothills Garden Club worked little by little for several decades to reclaim and beautify areas around the river and to clean things up. The Garden Club worked with the City of Greenville, Furman University, and other local organizations.

    In the 90s, plans began to expand the park and make it an attraction for the public.

    Creating Falls Park

    Greenville’s long-standing mayor, Knox White, was instrumental in making Falls Park a reality. He pushed for the city to invest $13 million into the project. City officials were at first reluctant, but White eventually won them over.

    The Camperdown Bridge was demolished in 2002, opening up the view of the falls once again.  Not long after, construction began on Liberty Bridge, a unique pedestrian-only suspension bridge that affords an unobstructed view of the falls.

    In 2004, much of what we know as Falls Park on the Reedy was completed, and crowds flocked to enjoy the park’s beauty.

    By 2006, that initial $13 million investment had brought in $100 million dollars as new businesses, restaurants and attractions sprang up around the now-popular area. And it’s only continued to grow and thrive since then!

     

    Falls Park on the Reedy offers Greenville’s visitors and residents a place to explore, relax, dine, and enjoy the rugged beauty of nature. This year Falls Park celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Here’s hoping for many more decades to come!

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