A Development History of the Stone Avenue and North Main Street Area
By Bob Bainbridge
The oldest residence in North Main, and one of the oldest in the Greenville area, is Whitehall now on West Earle Street, but originally facing on Rutherford Road. It was built by Arthur Middleton in 1813, but was sold to the Earle family. In 1820, it was the home of George Washington Earle, nephew of early settlers Elias and Frances Wilton Robinson Earle. In 1840, Dr. Charles Stone of Charleston married Eugenia Earle who inherited the house and 400 acres of adjoining land.
About 1880, their son Eugene E. Stone and his wife Floride Lydia Croft laid out a street about 200 feet from the southern edge of his property. It was named Stone Avenue, with a projected extension across Main Street to the east. Stone also laid out the intersecting streets, and named the streets using other family names.
West Stone Avenue, Townes Street, and North Main Street as far as Stone are shown on Gray’s Improved Map of Greenville. The map is described as being “in use” by 1887, but is probably closer to 1883. The same streets are shown on the 1888 Sanborn maps, with Main Street extending beyond Stone. East Stone Avenue is not shown.
The Gray’s map purports to show every building in the city. There are none on either North Main beyond Springwood Cemetery or on Stone Avenue. The nearest house was Whitehall. North Main Street above Coffee Street was residential as far as Mrs. Cox’s house at the spot where Beattie Place intersects today.
The biggest building in the area was T. C. Gower’s tannery along the creek about at the east end of today’s McPherson Park. It was located at a bend in Old Spartanburg Road. Farther east, where the road crossed Richland Creek, there were three or four houses, which may have housed black families. These small houses, and the settlement of Bucknertown, now Viola Street, were the first houses in the general area.
City Park itself was donated by the Cleveland family about 1887, and developed slowly. Speeches of the candidates for Governor in 1890 spoke in the park, which has always been a North Main Street landmark. The streets were unpaved and were usually dusty or muddy.
In 1891, a sewer line map shows that both North Main and West Stone Avenue had sewers, either in place or planned. This was an important stimulus for residential growth. The main sewer line was in Carrier Street, now Park Avenue. From the area at the spring on Stone Avenue, the sewer had a right-of-way through the Bucknertown community near the creek. The residential lines flowed by gravity from Rutherford Street in the west and where Robinson Street would be in the east. From there, a separate line sloped east toward Townes Street and down that right-of-way. A final line went down Main Street. Water lines were installed about the same time.
Both Wilton and Robinson Streets are shown as “planned streets.” Between them there are six houses on the south side of Stone Avenue, and two on the north side. West of the spring and the creek there is only one house, the property of J. M. Perry, on the south side. It extended all the way to Rutherford and would remain for many years. There were two other houses on West Stone between Townes and Wilton.
Main Street at the time had four houses and all of them were almost halfway up to Stone Avenue from Carrier, starting with the house of J. P. Walker. There were three small houses near Townes and Carrier Streets.
The sewer encouraged some new construction, but not a lot. By the 1896-97 City Directory, there were four houses on the east side of Main Street and two on the west side between Carrier and Stone Avenue. But some of the initial builders came to stay, including the banker W. C. Beacham, J. P. Walker, and W. S. Alston. They were probably build on land previously owned by the Stones. The houses they built were substantial.
Stone Avenue had grown a little as well. The 300 block, between the still planned but unbuilt Wilton and Robinson, now had four houses on both the south and north side, so two new ones had been built since 1891. Farther west there was only J. M. Perry and one other house. Mr. Perry was the owner of Perry’s Business College on Main Street, and the father of “Miss Jim” Perry, South Carolina’s first female lawyer. To the east there were four houses between Townes and Wilton, three on the south and one on the north. It was a beginning, but there was still a lot of empty land.
There was still no East Stone Avenue. And the development of the Stone properties had been delayed by the family’s lease of the entire property to the government as a site for Camp Wetherill. The troops began arriving in November 1898, after the official end of the war, spent a cold winter in Greenville, and left in March 1899. Mrs. Eugenia Stone died the next year, and her daughter-in-law Lydia conveyed the property to the Stone Land Company which platted and divided it among her children, and began selling lots. They sold quickly.
By the 1901-02 City Directory, there were a total of eleven houses on North Main between Carrier and Stone; five new homes had been built in five years. Of the houses, seven were on the east side and only four on the west side. A new long-time resident was attorney H. J. Haynsworth at number 769.
On Stone Avenue, the first three houses had been built between Main Street and Townes Street. All were on the north side of the street. Number 106 belonged to Boney Hampton Peace. The 200 block had one new house on the north side. In general, these homes were more modest than those on Main Street.
In the 300 block, one new house was added and two houses formerly occupied by black residents, disappeared. They were almost certainly associated with the Bucknertown community. Mr. Perry and his neighbor still lived farther down towards Rutherford Street. Stone Avenue still had no actual cross streets.
East Stone Avenue had its first two houses, at number 125 and 129, not far down from Main Street. West Earle Street had 14 homes, with none on East Earle. Whitehall, the old home of the Stone family, was listed as being “near Earle Street.”
In 1907, the Municipal League Greenville hired landscape architects Kelsey and Guild to prepare a citywide improvement plan. The published plan makes Carrier Street part of a citywide boulevard loop. The boulevard did not happen, but Carrier, renamed Park Avenue, pushed to connect with Buncombe Street in the west and Laurens Street in the east. A disgusting abattoir east of Rowley Street was closed.
About 1909, the Stone Land Company platted their land around East Stone Avenue. The area included East Earle and Garraux Streets, with the latter originally named Swiss Avenue. The plat also included the upper part of Rowley, Vannoy, and Bennett. Farther east the lots included land on Chick Springs, East Croft, East Earle Street Extension, and what is today Column Street. Most of the lots were about a quarter acre in size.
By the 1910 City Directory, the number of houses on Main Street between Carrier and Stone had doubled to a total of 22. There were few vacant lots remaining, and the street had a solidly residential character. The west side of the street saw more activity, with four new houses going in near Carrier at the low end of the street. By 1910, both sides of the street had eleven houses. A new long-term resident was W. N. Watson, who for many years owned the Firestone tire dealership in downtown. The house at 765 North Main was torn down, the first demolition in the neighborhood.
The first houses had been built north of Stone Avenue, with two between Stone and Earle, and two were built farther north.
West Stone Avenue gained new houses as well, with fourteen new dwellings giving a total of 31. Two were in the first block to Townes Street, which had now been built. Three more were in the second block to Wilton, also now a real street. Six were in the 300 block, the most densely built up part of the street.
East Stone Avenue had a spurt of growth, adding 16 more new homes for white families. There were eleven houses on the north side, five on the south. Most were between Main Street and where Elizabeth Street would be. Farther east, in the four hundred block, there were four houses near Richland Cemeter, all with black residents.
By 1910, West Earle Street had added five more houses, and East Earle had its first. More of the houses now had “auto houses” or “car barns,” those structures we now call garages.
The 1913 Sanborn Maps show that on North Main Street south of Park Avenue, the steep sloping lots on the west side were finally graded and developed. There were two residences and a large tenement complex right by the creek. On the east side of North Main Street was City Park.
Between 1910 and 1919, North Main Street between Carrier/Park Avenue and Stone Avenue had a few infill houses. Five new structures brought the total to 27, as shown in the 1919 City Directory and the 1920 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. There was only one vacant lot and it was on the west side of the street. Notable new residents included well-known businessmen T. M. Marchant, Eugene Gilfillin, J. A. Piper, and W. P. Childers.
Four new houses were built on North Main between Stone and Earle Streets, giving a total of six. One new house was built north of Earle, and one was torn down. The road did not yet go north across the steep canyon and the creek.
Eighteen new houses were built on West Stone for a total of 49 homes in the 1919 City Directory. 52 are shown on the 1920 Sanborn Map. The area between Townes Street and Robinson Street was almost totally built out, but there were still vacant lots further west, and in the block between Main and Townes. A major addition was the Stone Avenue Primary School at the corner of Robinson Street. The building still exists today as part of Earle Street Baptist Church.
Development on East Stone spread steadily down the street. There were seven new houses in the 100 block, seven more in the 200 block, and one in the 300 block. There were grocery stores and 127 and 135 East Stone, the first commercial businesses in the area.
By 1920, Rowley, Elizabeth, and Vannoy Streets had been completed. Vannoy had 19 houses and Rowley had 26. Elizabeth Street connected to East Earle and Garraux, which had a few new houses as well.
In the 1919 City Directory there were still four houses in the 400 block of East Stone with black residents.
The Sanborn Insurance Maps show water lines in place in all the major streets. They are not shown on Vannoy, Elizabeth, or East Earle.
An Automobile Suburb
North Main Street and Stone Avenue were too far from businesses in downtown for a comfortable walk, especially with the big hill sloping down to Tanyard Creek. The hill was also too steep for a trolley. By 1924, as shown in a street map, Greenville’s first bus route came out North Main, turned west on Stone, and went up Rutherford Road as far as Ashley Avenue.
Sometime before, Buist and Ashley had been laid out farther toward the north, well beyond the City Limit which extended 6600 feet (100 chains) from the intersection of Main and Court Streets. Most other streets stopped at the edge of the city except for Chick Springs Road. North Main Street was platted beyond Buist, but the northern part was not connected to the southern section of the street.
East North Street had been extended past the Overbrook neighborhood and connected to Old Spartanburg Road. It probably served as the first U. S. Highway 29, but avoided the North Main/Stone Avenue area, though the 1924 Map shows the words “to Spartanburg” on Rutherford Road. Elford Street, which ran along the east side of Springwood Cemetery, was extended to Old Spartanburg Road, where it became Miller Street (now Column St.) and connected to Chick Springs Road, now Mohawk Drive. In essence, much of the awkward geometry of the “triangle” area was already established by 1924. Many date to the earlier Plat by the Stone Land Company for the East Stone Avenue area.
Several new streets are illustrated and named, including Robinson, Whitehall, Croft, Randall, Garraux (earlier Swiss Ave.), and Harcourt Circle. Park Avenue extends to Elford St. and Laurens St. in the east, and connects with Atwood to Buncombe Street in the west. Parkview Road goes behind the back of the cemetery and angles across the stream into Park Avenue. Much of Old Spartanburg road has disappeared.
The growth since 1920 had little impact on North Main Street between Park Avenue and Stone; by the 1926 City Directory, no new houses were built, and none were torn down. One new house was added between Stone and Earle, and two more were added between Earle and Garraux.
West Stone changed more dramatically. A total of 24 new houses were built for a total of 69 residences. Some of the new residences were infill on vacant lots between existing houses. The last block, renumbered as the 300 block, from Robinson to Stone, accounted for 13 of the new houses. There was one business, a cleaner and dyer, at 113 W. Stone, between Townes and Wilton on the south side of the street.
Houses on East Stone extended east into the 300 block on the north and the 200 block on the south. A total of 10 new houses were built, resulting in a total of 37. There were three grocery stores located at 9, 17, and 105 East Stone. All were on the north side of the street. The First Christian Church is listed at 315 East Stone, past the intersection with Bennett. The small black-occupied houses in the 400 block are no longer listed.
Between 1926 and 1931, the depression had already come and settled in to Greenville. But land development did not immediately stop, at least, not in the North Main area. The biggest new subdivision was called Northgate, and included East and West Avondale, and the extension of North Main Street to Rutherford Road. Closer to town, Buist Circle is now shown as Mountain View and Ashley is shown as Buist Avenue. A new Ashley Avenue is shown between Buist and Randall. In all likelihood, the streets stayed where they were, and were simply mis-labeled on the 1924 map. Russell Avenue was build across Bennett, and Bennett was extended to the branch of Richland Creek near Summit Drive. Summit was connected all the way to Rutherford through Avondale Farms.
On Randall Street, Stone Elementary School had been built at the corner of Wilton Street. The old Stone Avenue School endured as well. During the 1930’s a new building was built for Allen School on Cemetery Street near the junction of Elford Street and Column Street. Stone Avenue did not yet connect to Laurens Road.
With the Great Depression and then World War II, North Main (south of Earle) and Stone Avenue changed little. The 1940 City Directory shows a net loss of one house on North Main between Park Avenue and Stone since 1926. Two houses were torn down and one was built. Between Stone and Earle, one house on the west side was torn down to make room for a four-unit apartment. One new house was built on the east side. But on the east side of North Main, where Rite Aid is now, there was a new A&P Food Store, the Rogers Stores grocery, and Poinsett Pharmacy, Inc.
Several blocks further up Main Street there were 20 new houses. That part of North Main was finally connected to the Stone Avenue and downtown.
Changes on West Stone were also modest. Two houses were taken down for three four-unit apartment buildings at 17, 19, and 117 West Stone. One of those buildings probably still be there today. Seven new houses were built, with five of them between Robinson and Rutherford. The net change in fourteen years had been a gain of four houses and twelve apartment units.
On East Stone from Main to Bennett, one new house was built. The grocery at 105 East Stone became Kitchen’s Shell Service Station. The woman living at 208 East Stone sold sandwiches. Past Bennett, four new houses were added for a total of seven. But the new highway was having an impact. 300 East Stone now housed the Super Hwy Service Station; and 312 East Stone was the Curry Service Station. There was a residence in between. Past Chick Springs Road there were three more houses.
The first development had also gone in on the angled part of Chick Springs. The Waco Jones ESSO station was at number 400; the Omar Johnston filling station was across the street. So right by that one intersection there were now four filling stations.
Earle Street was well built up by 1940, as were Rowley and Vannoy. Bennett street had two four-plexes, but nothing north of Stone Avenue.
The reason for the service stations was the building of the new highway. The first four-lane segment was completed in 1938 and extended 5 ½ miles out of Greenville. It was originally called New Spartanburg Road, and did not become Wade Hampton Boulevard until 1950. By 1941, there was only an eight-mile gap in the four-lane between Greenville and Spartanburg. Then work halted for the war. The highway officially opened on March 13, 1946.
The Suburban Strip and Residential Decline: 1946-2010
The completion of the super-highway and the end of World War Two brought substantial changes to North Main Street and Stone Avenue. Some of the changes came quickly, and others took more time.
In 1946, North Main Street still had 23 residences, down three from 1940. But two old houses were now listed as “furnished rooms.” The number dropped to 21 in 1950/51, 8 in 1960, and only 3 in 1970. Several houses were listed as “Vac” or vacant before they disappeared. The desirability of the old neighborhood fell rapidly, though some old-timers held on.
By 1946 there were three apartment buildings between Park Avenue and Stone Avenue, and one more between Stone and Earle. More businesses came as well. In 1950-51, a Dairy Queen sat on Main Street at Park Avenue. Next door was the General Motors Acceptance Corporation. On the east side of the street, there was a life insurance company, and at 634-36 was the Dixie Home Stores grocery. Past Stone Avenue, there was a pharmacy. But the block between Stone Avenue and Earle Street was the transition point between office and retail businesses and residences.
Farther up North Main many new houses went up, with 27 between Gallivan and Montclair, and 30 more between Avondale and Rutherford. In general, the North Main Area was developing a population large enough to businesses around the edge.
West Stone Avenue changed more slowly. In the 1950-51 City Directory, the block between Main and Townes had 8 residences, 3 gas stations, (2) 4-unit apartments, and an ambulance service company. The next block, to Wilton, had 17 residences and one 4-plex. The Wilton to Robinson Street block had 20 residences and the Earle Street Baptist Church Sunday School that the church had purchased from the school district.
The block out to Rutherford Road had 24 residences, and at #310-312 had the City Wading Pools. So West Stone stayed more residential than Main Street.
East Stone was similar, with 8 residences from Main to Rowley, 8 more to Vannoy, 14 more to Bennett, and 6 more to Wade Hampton, with that street listed as “formerly New Spartanburg Road.” The majority of the residences were on the north side of the street.
At #10 East Stone was the Greenville Labor Temple, with offices for more than a dozen different unions. Nearby businesses included a beauty shop, a contractor, and an auto parts store. Near the Wade Hampton intersection there were 3 service stations and an auto sales lot.
Between Wade Hampton and Column Street there were two major new landmarks. On the south was the new 2-story Sears, Roebuck and Company, recently moved from 234 N. Main Street in downtown. On the north side was the Pet Dairy, including a plant and a restaurant and a retail outlet that faced on Wade Hampton. Just past Column Street were the Elms Restaurant and a liquor store. As in the past, there were four small houses near the corner. But the street now continued on to East North Street and a junction with Laurens Street. Along the new section were 3 auto sales lots, a laundry, a filling station, a liquor shop, a fire station, and an oil heating service.
A 1955 street map clearly show that Stone Avenue is connected to Laurens Road as U. S. Highway 276. U. S. 29 comes in Wade Hampton to Stone and then to downtown. U. S. 25 comes in on Rutherford Road at the west end of Stone Avenue. All in all, Stone Avenue had turned into a major highway, and both Stone and North Main south of Stone Avenue were widened to four lanes by 1960.
The North Main Community added several new streets, including the connection of Summit and Bennett Streets to provide a second north-south arterial parallel to North Main Street. Several new streets were cut in off of Summit Drive and others were added in the West Hillcrest Extension area. Hindman Drive, Woodbine, and Parkwood are all new. The North Main Rotary Park is shown for the first time.
At the time of the 1960 City Directory North Main Street between Park and Stone had lost ten residences and had only eight left. The grocery store was now the Winn-Dixie store, and McAfee Funeral Home had built a fine new facility. The last lot before Stone had become a gas station on both sides of the street. Lower Main Street had little residential character left.
Between Stone and Earle, there was a printer, a drug store, and a pizza and spaghetti restaurant. The number of residences dropped from eight to three.
On West Stone, the first block now had two gas stations, six 4-plexes, a church, and only 3 houses. The block to Wilton Street had a four-plex, 2 small businesses, and 14 residences. The last two blocks were unchanged from 1950 with 20 and 24 residences, the Sunday School, and the wading pools.
On East Stone, the first block to Rowley was almost unchanged. The second block to Vannoy lost six residences, leaving only two. The main addition was Fidelity Savings and Loan. From Vannoy to Bennett there was more activity. At 201 was a Toddle House. At 209 was a two-story office building with fifteen tenants. At 217 was another office building with 15 tenants. Both office buildings remain in 2010. At 221, South Carolina National Bank had a new branch that would last for forty years. It has been remodeled but is currently vacant. Eight residences had been torn down, leaving only three in the whole block.
From Bennett to Wade Hampton there were still five residences, a Gulf Station at Bennett Street, and two other small businesses. The next block was still Sears and the Pet Dairy. 500 East Stone now housed Capri’s Restaurant, another long-term landmark. Between Cemetery and Hilly Street the new Shives Office Building had six tenants. On towards East North Street was The Clock drive-in restaurant and eleven other businesses including Fair Way Motors, predecessor to today’s Fairway Ford.
Wade Hampton had a Texaco station followed by four two residences and six businesses before Mohawk Drive, formerly Chick Springs Road, angled off to the north. From there to the creek was a restaurant, an auto sales lot, and two gas stations. Even Mohawk had 7 businesses below Cary Street, then one house and one business to Gallivan.
In the late 1950’s, Greenville and the State Highway Department undertook the construction of the Church Street Viaduct so that U. S. 29 could by-pass downtown Greenville. The road was opened in 1959 but first shows up in the City Directory in 1962. The Church Street Extension crossed Stone Avenue on a Bridge, and ran between Capri’s Restaurant and the Allen School. Column Street connected into the new four-lane highway. Elford Street became Church Street beside Springwood Cemetery.
In the 1970 City Directory, North Main Street had acquired some new landmarks including Calhoun Towers, Davis Electrical, and the American Legion. The old residential area was all but gone; between Park Avenue and Stone only three residences remained, though some of the businesses may have been in the old residential structures. Between Stone and Earle, there was a new 24-hour store.
On West Stone Avenue, the first two blocks were almost entirely non-residential, with only six houses and one four-plex left. Wilton to Rutherford remained predominantly residential, though the last three properties by Rutherford road had become businesses and the Greenville Urban Ministry.
East Stone, never fully built out with residences, had lost many of the ones it did have. There were now four houses in the first block, and one in the next block. There were two more between Bennett and Wade Hampton. Everything else was businesses.
In the City Directory for 2000, the big new landmark on Main Street was the Bi-Lo complex, built in the late 1980’s. One of the old gas stations at Main and Stone was a Kwik Shop store in 2000, and many of the other gas stations were gone, too. The Amoco at Stone and North Main was still there in the 1990’s before being replaced by Horizon Records and The Bohemian restaurant. The Handlebar music hall and bar was another former automotive facility. The Shell station on North Main just below Stone is the only service station left. In the first block of East Stone there is still a tire shop. The once substantial presence of automobile related retail is all but gone today.
After 2000, a new, high-end but low-rise condominium project was built on the west side of Main Street. It had been a long time since any residences had been added to that stretch of North Main.
In 2000, West Stone had only four residences left, along with the one four-plex between Townes and Wilton. Many of the old residential buildings had simply been converted to office use, though a few were torn down.
East Stone was also down to four residences, though some of the old residential structures had simply been converted to commercial use.
The old Sears store was now Canal Insurance. Sears opened a new store in Haywood Mall in 1981, and sold the old building to J. P. Stevens, a large textile manufacturer. J. P. Stevens fell on hard times, and reorganized, in part, as JPS Textiles. They ultimately sold the building and the triangle where the dairy had been to Mr. Bill Timmons and Canal Insurance.
Many of the small commercial buildings between Capri’s Restaurant and East North Street have changed tenants on a regular basis. But the fire station has endured, and the old Allen School building is still intact just off Stone Avenue.
North Main Street, West Stone Avenue, and East Stone Avenue developed in different ways at different times. The results look superficially similar, but there are still underlying variations.
North Main Street between Park Avenue and Stone was one of Greenville’s premier residential streets from the 1890’s to the end of World War II. But increased traffic from the super-highway led to widening to four lanes and the loss of residential integrity. It became an entirely commercial street, with two large vacant land parcels.
The first four blocks of East Stone Avenue and the first two blocks of West Stone came a little bit later and had a different history. The entire six-block stretch was never fully built out as single-family residences. The number of residences peaked about 1926, and by 1940, apartments and commercial businesses were moving in. East Stone Avenue kept more of a residential character on its north side.
The part of Stone Avenue west of Wilton to near Rutherford did not have its residential peak until the 1940’s, and still has a reasonably intact residential fabric today. One new residence was built within the last two years. In a rezoning, West Stone became OD, or office district, and many of the old houses are now office businesses. East Stone is zoned C-2, a moderate density commercial area, after being down-zoned from C-3, the densest commercial zone.
Looking at the City Directories, it appears that the three streets did not become commercial because they were attractive commercial locations, the Sears Store and Pet Dairy being the principal exceptions. What happened was that as traffic grew, the streets became undesirable for residences, and homeowners looked for any tenant or purchaser they could find. Some houses remained vacant for years before attracting a new use. The old commercial buildings have faced some of the same challenges, as parts of North Main and all of East Stone are not terribly attractive for retail uses or for offices. There is no great demand for such buildings on four lane asphalt roads.