Monday, April 14, 2008

A Waterfall Downtown

Left: The Reedy River falls, downtown Greenville, SC. Photo taken yesterday by your humble narrator. This is from the footbridge, looking down on the falls.

The first time I realized I had moved to a locality with a waterfall downtown, was, I think, 1988. I remember thinking I was hallucinating, circled the block, got out of my car on what was then the Camperdown bridge. Holy shit, Niagara Falls below! I told my husband, who thought I had imagined it. "Probably some water-power system for the old textile mills," he said, and in fact, that is exactly how Greenville became a textile town. I finally took him to the falls, then hidden under a gargantuan, ancient and thoroughly ugly concrete bridge. There is a waterfall downtown!


Left: The footbridge over the river, taken from the Wyche overlook.

Very, very few cities can claim a downtown waterfall. Certainly, I've never heard of any others.

You just GAPE at it, rather like coming upon a mountain, an orange grove or some other natural wonder in the middle of a town--huh? What?

For years, Greenville was embarrassed by it's pre-electric, pre-TVA past, and hid the waterfall. Like me, newcomers weren't sure they'd even seen it; you could drive right over it. But then came the trendy global-capitalist, latte-town dreams of the Chamber of Commerce. Various rich investor-newbies to Greenville took one look at that waterfall and went--OMIGOD! Dollar signs lit up the eyes. They moved Mr Billy Mitchell out of his famous record store. They built a Hampton Inn, Quiznos, Starbucks, and the rest. But most importantly, the thing they got right? They tore down that nasty old bridge and exposed the beautiful waterfall for the people to see. A $4.5 million suspension bridge, named the Liberty Bridge, went in. Following the natural ravine around the river, a park was landscaped, connecting the new Governor's School for the Arts with downtown.

And what else goes with a lovely new park along the waterfall and river, but pricey restaurants and condos?

I guess you know the rest. Appropriate for tax time: It used to be cheap to live here, and now it isn't.

Edit: Some construction photos of the pedestrian bridge, for engineering geeks and other interested parties.

Photo at left: from the south side of the park.

Listening to: The Who - Heaven and Hell
via FoxyTunes


Mr. Fabulous said...

Damn...I used to work there and I never saw that.

Probably because I was busy chasing deadbeats in the projects.

Daisy said...

That is really pretty! A waterfall in a downtown area is so unexpected.


How gorgeous is that! Wow, I've lived by mountains and the ocean but never by a waterfall--you definitely have bragging rights! I couldn't think of a more beautiful way to divert the eye from the concrete jungle...

karloff said...

Wow, it looks like an amazing sight. Its always a little sad to lose a 'secret spot' like that, but if that's the price you need to pay to get better coffee... :)

I'm kidding, but it does look like the new work at least hasn't subtracted from the natural beauty.

ArrogantWorm said...

Oo, that's pretty. The only water we've got downtown are two ponds, the waterfall is in the larger park and for the best view I'd need to hike a small ways. Not a good idea to do in spring, they don't exactly have fences for the dropoffs and it's muddy. There's a string of wire around some of the edges to mark it, but half of it's gone,, not a good idea. Fear of heights.