Walking Tour of Aiken, South Carolina

I don’t know if you all know this but I’m in L-O-V-E with old houses. There is just something about the character in an old house that you can rarely find in newer builds.

When I was assigned to work in historic Aiken, South Carolina I jumped at the chance to go on a walking tour of the town. Tours like this are an easy and excellent way to learn about the history of the area from a local. Plus in a historic town like this there are beautiful historic homes around every corner! (Did I mention this was a ghost tour?)

Here are a few pictures I snapped on a walk around town. I’ve even got some historic tidbits about some of them to share! Enjoy!!

Saint Thaddeus Church

Saint Thaddeus Episcopal Church & Graveyard

The graveyard is filled with Confederate soldiers along with other notable people such as Eulalie Salley, a well-known figure in the women’s suffrage movement of the 1920’s. Frederick and Elise Willcox opened the hotel now known as The Willcox. The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The Willcox

The Willcox.

This hotel was internationally known during the Aiken Winter Colony heyday. It has hosted famous guests such as Winston Churchill, Harold Vanderbilt, Elizabeth Arden & Count Bernadotte of Sweden. The Prince of Wales was once turned away due to lack of space. This hotel was originally built in 1900 and listed on the Historic Register in 1982.

DSC_0564

Sorry this one is a little blurry! I was in a rush.

DSC_0575

DSC_0573

DSC_0563

DSC_0574

DSC_0576

DSC_0565

The sidewalks are all paved and lined with oak trees. These are some of the smaller oaks.

DSC_0578

Old Post Office now known as the Savannah River Nuclear Solutions building

The post office was built in 1912 and served as a postal facility until 1971. It was built in the palladium style and had all the modern conveniences for its time. The building houses 19 foot ceilings with dental work molding, terrazzo floors with marble inlay and a rotunda with a 23 foot high ceiling. The tour guide had lots of stories about this old beauty. Here are a few I can recall:

  1. The postmaster during WWII used to spy on his workers by a trap door that led into the ceiling. Apparently one of the ladies decided it was a good place for an illicit tryst. Her husband found out and as the tour guide said “three people went up and only two came back down.”
  2. The doormen who were responsible for polishing the brass railings and the dome had to climb up onto the dome from the exterior of the building. When they were finished polishing it they had to be careful to slide down towards the roof and not towards the front of the building. One poor guy didn’t slide the right direction and ended up splattered on the steps out front. They say some days when it’s nice and rainy you might get a glimpse of a man polishing the dome or the rails.
  3. After the new post office was built a local photographer bought the building to use as his studio. He needed to have the old steam heat furnace removed so it could be replaced with modern heating. He had people come down to cut it apart. The workers suddenly came running out of the basement. He asked what happened and it turns out when they cut the furnace open there was a body inside. They never could identify who it was so they cut out a section of the floor in the basement and buried the man there.
  4. Each morning a group of onlookers enjoyed watching Fred Astaire come to the post office to pick up his own mail. He was known for lightly dancing his was down the steps much to their delight.
  5. Last one…..When they were installing the safe it was right before Christmas. They had put the door up but not the lock. As the last worker was leaving to head home for the holidays he was met by a woman asking him for money. He said no but she offered her services in exchange for money. He told her to go inside and wait in the safe for him. Laughing to himself he left. When he came back two weeks later and opened the safe the woman was still there. He, of course, contacted the police but when they arrived there was no body in the safe. Needless to say if you ever visit and are asked for money it would be better to give up a few dollars than being pranked by the ghost.

I hoped you enjoyed this brief (and somewhat haunted) history of Aiken, South Carolina. If you get a chance to visit I highly recommend it! It rained almost the whole time I was there and I didn’t get a chance to go everywhere that was recommended so if you go check out Hopeland Gardens, the Rye Patch, polo fields, go to the outskirts and see the horses (they’re known for thoroughbred training). Play a game of golf like the rich and famous used to do. Just remember to share your experience or photos with me!

#, #, #, #, #, #, #