Tens of thousands of houses are spread across Greenville County. They line our streets, pack our subdivisions and stretch like a spider’s web from the center of town to outlying rural communities. We commute daily past a handful of homes that hold treasured links to the region’s past, cradling history like a protective mother. Today, the Greenville Journal pulls back the curtains for a rare peek at the foundation these legacy landmarks have formed over the centuries, creating the streetscape we travel today.
Falls Cottage/Touchstone House
615 S. Main St.
Built in 1894
No edifice has witnessed the rebirth of Greenville more intimately than Falls Cottage. In fact, the quaint two-story stucco structure, long abandoned within the heart of downtown, experienced its own renaissance with revitalization of the West End in the late 1900s. Today, the old “Touchstone House” stands sentinel over Falls Park, greeting groups of tourists strolling Main Street. It’s a far different scene than the vacant dirt road and bramble-filled riverbank that once surrounded the structure when it was built in 1894.
Camperdown Mill supervisor W.E. Touchstone and his wife, Matilda, constructed the brick house at the bend of South Main Street just before the end of the 19th century. Several families and mill workers lived in the structure with its steep staircase and four fireplaces until 1918. By then, car dealerships were taking over downtown, and the home was covered in stucco and converted into a gas station to service Model T’s and Model A’s for decades to come.
But by 1970, the property sat empty and dilapidated, an eyesore to those trying to bolster the West End. In 1982, the city of Greenville and Carolina Foothills Garden Club partnered to buy it, restore it and rename it for the iconic falls spilling just beyond its back door. Several restaurants have leased the charming home in recent decades. Kent Fisher is the current owner of Mary’s at Falls Cottage, and he says he pays careful attention to the building’s historic detail and significance.
“I definitely feel blessed to use this space,” he shares. “I probably get five to 10 inquiries a day from people curious about the history of the building. The old coal-burning fireplaces are a favorite, and we call the basement ‘the dungeon.’ It’s kind of spooky. Garden Club members frequently stop in. I want to be a good steward for them. I hope we’re here for another 30 to 40 years.”
City officials say the Garden Club has the option to continue leasing the cottage to tenants through June 2028.
8 Bennett St.
Built in 1834
Oh, if these walls could talk! Not only did Beattie House serve as headquarters for the Greenville Women’s Club for more than half a century, but the National Register of Historic Places documents this antebellum structure as the city’s “center of social, cultural and religious life” in the 1800s. Odds are high that when he built the home as a newlywed in 1834, Fountain Fox Beattie didn’t predict the influence or longevity the home would have. It’s the third-oldest structure standing in Greenville today.
Beattie House first stood on three acres at East North Street. The home grew as the family grew, with one-story wings extending in an Italianate style, off the central Georgian floor plan — all popular at the time of construction. The home remained in the merchant and banking family until World War II, when the city purchased it and leased it to the Women’s Club. The residence was even moved twice when “progress” threatened demolition. For decades, the socially strong Women’s Club leased the home for $1 a year, but as membership decreased and maintenance increased, the club disbanded in 2014. After multiple proposals, the city sold the relic to Jori and Ryan Magg, allowing the home to shelter a family once more.
“It will be two years this August since we finished renovating and moved in,” says Jori Magg. “My kids understand history now so much better and appreciate architecture. The home has so many features that are unique that you don’t see anywhere else.” The one-time public driveway is now closed off, and the parking lot is a new grassy play space. Living in a house with a grand staircase, 12-foot-high ceilings and regular visits from the Palmetto Preservation Society, the Maggs strive to balance family function with historical conservation. “To live here? It’s not lost on us,” admits Magg. “We definitely love it. The biggest compliment I get is when people say they feel welcome, not like they have to take their shoes off or they’re in a museum.”
Cherrydale Alumni House/Cherrydale Mansion
3300 Poinsett Hwy.
Built around 1852
Easter egg hunts, small receptions and alumni activities have recently spilled onto the lawn of this grand Greek Revival house that sits atop the highest point at Furman University. Its Palladian-derived front windows and three-bay portico feature the architecture that was popular in the mid 19th century. The fact the 180-year-old mansion still stands showcases its staying power. This is the second location the house has called home, and Furman is currently debating how to use it in the future, given its origin on a plantation that used enslaved laborers.
Around 1852, George Washington Green built a modest one-story farmhouse at the foot of Piney Mountain (near today’s Cherrydale Pointe Shopping Center). Green sold that structure to James C. Furman, the first president of Furman University. The home sat in the middle of a 1,200-acre corn and cotton plantation with apple, peach and cherry trees. The preacher and educator enlarged the dwelling, named it Cherrydale and lived there until he died.
The Furman family kept the mansion until 1939, when they sold it to Eugene Stone III, who established Stone Manufacturing’s facility nearby. Traffic came to a halt, literally, when the Stone family sold the site to AIG Baker in 1998 and offered the now two-story structure to Furman University. A company accustomed to relocating lighthouses took two days to painstakingly move the mansion at a snail’s pace up Poinsett Highway to where it sits today.
Faculty, staff and guests dedicated Cherrydale Alumni House in October 1999, but currently university officials say it will remain closed through the fall. Clinton Colmenares, Furman’s director of news and media strategy, explains, “We have a task force reviewing the history and future of the home. They are reviewing a lot of things. This is a chance for Furman to acknowledge its past and put history in context in a respectful manner. The house is not in use and won’t be for the near future.”
Chandler School/Granville Wyche House
2900 Augusta St.
Built in 1931
Traveling a congested Augusta Street, it’s hard to believe this was considered “the country” when Granville Wyche erected his ornate Italian Renaissance residence in 1931. The National Register of Historic Places notes the lawyer built one of the most elaborate and expensive homes of the time, spending $25,000. He injected Beaux Arts influences with a massive portico, grouped classical columns, window crowns and keystones, and honored the Wyche’s family focus on the outdoors with a small grotto, grape arbors and gardens. His grandson, Brad Wyche, recalls many good memories at the home. “We would go over there on Sunday afternoons,” Wyche recalls. “We would visit Papa. He had big fruit trees. We’d walk around and talk about his trees and garden.”
Papa Wyche lived to 97, and the home was sold to Kasper Fulghum, who marveled at its history. “On the corner of the property is a 5-mile marker, citing 5 miles from City Hall,” he says. “Five were placed in a star-shape across Greenville, and this is the only marker still in place. Granville wanted to be as far in the country as he could get but still have city protection.”
Fulghum eventually moved out, and the Chandler School operates on the property today. “The kids love the place,” shares founder and headmaster Dana Blackhurst. “It’s like Hogwarts. The old staircase is amazing. The secret hallway to the top. The hardwoods and alcoves. It’s like a British boarding school.”
Those who spy the house while motoring down Augusta will most likely see it for years yet to come. “I gave my word to Tommy [Wyche],” reveals Blackhurst. “I will always use this house for something good. There is too much history here to do otherwise.”