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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Fountain Inn, South Carolina

Established on Christmas Eve in 1886, Fountain Inn (population just over 7,000) began as a crossroads for Native Americans, then later was a stagecoach stop between Columbia and Asheville for travelers seeking its cool Piedmont springs. It has been a destination within coastal-mountain transportation and trade routes.

Fountain Inn’s unique name comes from an inn that featured a fountain built from one of the area’s many springs. The community has many Victorian-era homes, transitional neighborhoods, modern residential areas, and a downtown.

Southern Greenville County, of which Fountain Inn is part, was a major textile manufacturing area but faced an economic downturn in the mid-1970s. The area’s economy has since shifted to housing, retail, modern manufacturing, and heritage tourism.

The catalyst for downtown revitalization was the adaptive reuse of the historic Fountain Inn High School. The 19,000 square foot building has been converted into the Civic Center for the Performing Arts. The school, built in 1939 by the Public Works Administration, is an excellent example of Art-Deco/Moderne architecture from the New Deal Era. Back in 2002, after a year of renovation, the center hosted classes, a banquet hall, and an auditorium. Later, the Fountain Inn Chamber of Commerce and city leaders decided to focus their efforts on revitalizing the historic downtown with the Civic Center as its cornerstone. The vision was to make the Civic Center a community theater. It has since kicked off its Community Theater Series, and the Fountain Inn Repertory Experience performs Broadway productions.

The city of Fountain Inn works with the Greenville County Preservation Commission on various projects and activities. Additionally, Fountain Inn has a non-profit organization, the Fountain Inn History Board, which has been instrumental in raising funds for the new museum and helping to improve the condition of heritage assets in the community.

Fairview Church Reenactment is an annual event each May demonstrating the Greenville-Laurens County Civil War involvement. Many of the southern soldiers of the time were buried at Fairview Presbyterian Church from the 1860s to 1900. On the first Saturday of October the community comes together for the Aunt Het Festival, named after former newspaper publisher and noted journalist and humorist Robert Quillen’s cartoon character “Aunt Het.” The town also celebrates native son Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates who was a famous dancer. The Peg Leg Bates Foundation hosts annual events to honor his achievements.

For more information

City of Fountain Inn: www.fountaininn.org

Chamber of Commerce: www.fountaininnchamber.org/site

Posted May 13, 2009

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