Travel: Postcard from Greenville, South Carolina

Liberty Bridge at Falls Park in Greenville, South Carolina.
Liberty Bridge at Falls Park in Greenville, South Carolina. | Dennis Lennox

Main Street, with its tree-lined sidewalks, has a small-town feel that hides the fact Greenville is once again a bustling city.

Like some of the great cities of the Rust Belt, this city in South Carolina and seat of the eponymous county was long dominated by an industry that no longer exists. In Greenville’s case, it was textile mills.

At its peak, 19 mills were operational. In recent years many of the closed mills have been transformed into condos.

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Other regeneration efforts include Falls Park — a truly great example of an urban park. Here the 20-year-old Liberty Bridge, a pedestrian bridge spanning the Reedy River, has become a defining landmark in the cityscape. This is also where you can pick up the 28-mile-long Swamp Rabbit Trail.

The streets of Greenville, South Carolina.
The streets of Greenville, South Carolina. | Dennis Lennox

Many readers of this column might know Greenville as the home of Bob Jones University. What they probably don't know is the college museum has one of the country’s best collections of religious art. Much of the art is connected to Roman Catholicism, which is somewhat ironic since Bob Jones has a fundamentalist Protestant establishment.

Unfortunately, the Museum & Gallery has been closed since 2017 as funds are sought to reopen in a better location. The prolonged closure is beyond a travesty. It’s actually quite outrageous that something hasn’t been done to at least get more art on display somewhere locally.

Thankfully, I was able to get inside through a private tour with Erin Jones, who married one of the Joneses and runs the museum. Otherwise, the only real option is a visit to the campus chapel, which has seven works by the famed painter Benjamin West. The paintings, which depict biblical scenes from Genesis to Revelation, were commissioned by King George III for St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

While the Bob Jones museum is closed, the Greenville County Museum of Art is open. The collection of mostly American art is very notable for a county museum. Also worth visiting is the Upcountry History Museum, which as its name suggests tells the story of the region.

Given the plethora of churches from seemingly every denomination — Greenville remains one of those places where Sunday churchgoing is still very much part of the culture — one wouldn’t think there are a lot of potential converts for the Jehovah's Witnesses. And yet, street missionaries for the non-Christian sect were everywhere. Still, I’d rather see them than panhandlers or homeless camped out on sidewalks or under bridges.

If you go

Reedy Rides offer rental bikes for those who don’t want to walk the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

I stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which is a perfectly fine chain hotel. However, I really wished I had stayed at the other end of Main Street at the National Register of Historic Places-listed Westin Poinsett. Built in the 1920s, this is one of those old-school hotels — the kind of hotel they just don’t build anymore — even if it’s flagged under a brand that Marriott has all but ruined since acquiring Westin from Starwood.

Eat at Ristorante Bergamo, where Italian chef-owner Gian Pietro Ferro can be seen regularly working the floor and greeting customers. Also recommended is Soby’s, which has one of the most extensive wine lists that I’ve ever seen. For people watching over lunch, Passerelle Bistro with its outside tables overlooking Falls Park is unbeatable.

I flew into Greenville’s airport, which has great connectivity with American, Delta and United or their regional carriers. For most visitors, getting here shouldn’t require more than a single connection. And no rental car is needed. For airport transfers, Greenville Executive Limo is highly recommended. Otherwise, Uber is widely available.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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