Spring Park Inn
Written by: Brandy Amidon, Mayor of Travelers Rest
In 2019 the Travelers Rest Historical Society was approached by the owner of the Spring Park Inn with a request to donate the historic home and its surrounding property to the historical society for restoration and preservation. Originally constructed before 1820, the Spring Park Inn served as a home and place of lodging for travelers on the Old Buncombe Road throughout the 19th century. With the establishment of the Swamp Rabbit Railway, the Inn hosted families from the low country escaping the heat and disease of summer on the coast. Mrs. Gibson was the last descendant of the Anderson family that had owned the home since 1873. The society accepted the property with an easement from Upstate Forever and a historic designation from the Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission to provide monitoring and oversight. The society worked with Preservation South to develop a plan for the restoration of the building based on its appearance in the late 19th century that would allow the building to serve multiple functions including an interpretive space showing it as the Spring Park Inn, a space for the display of the museum’s collections, and a space for community functions.
Following a significant fundraising effort, the project commenced using a large team of craftspeople to undertake the various detailed scopes. On the exterior, the building was scraped and prepped by hand and repainted in its historic color scheme, determined by historic photos and paint analysis. The roof was replaced with wood shingles on the front where it is visible from the Swamp Rabbit Trail, to match a section found in the attic, and asphalt shingles on the rear to conserve funds. The front porch was reconstructed based on historic photos, which were painstakingly scaled by contractor John Carrol to make sure the details were in proportion to the original. The historic windows were removed, refurbished, and reinstalled, and new shutters were constructed to match the originals. The chimneys were repaired with their original height restored, and the late 19th century lightning rod system was recreated to function.
On the interior, the kitchen and residential bathrooms were removed, and a catering kitchen and accessible bathrooms were installed. The carpet was removed, and the wide pine floors were refinished and carpet appropriate to the period was installed in some of the higher style rooms. All new MEP systems were installed, and period fixtures were sourced from as far away as Poland to be electrified and installed. Paint analysis of the interior was completed, and period replica wallpapers were selected to align with the historic color schemes. The papers were meticulously laid out and trimmed by Mario Russo, who graciously came out of retirement to assist his son's team in installing them based on the detailed interior plans. Antique furnishings included with the home's donation were retained and recovered in a period appropriate manner. The home is decorated with furnishings that are 85% original to the home.
The building, now protected and restored, will soon open its doors to visitors wishing to learn more about the history of Travelers Rest. It will once again serve as a hub for the community and a legacy of the generosity of Nell Anderson Gibson for her home.
The impact that this historic property has for the town of Pelzer community and the state of South Carolina is that so many historic buildings that were built in Pelzer have been destroyed and no longer there. The community holds on to the legacy, heritage, and importance that the Pelzer Presbyterian church stood for. A place to worship for so many that lived in the community and a place to lean on in good times and bad. And for the state to still recognize the history of the 1800's. For a small community such as Pelzer it means a lot to the town and citizens that this historic property was restored to its glory by the grace of God. Citizens can now look at this historic property as something to be proud of, to talk about and visit instead of a vacant lot where it once sat. For us it was our pleasure to bring life back into the Pelzer Presbyterian Church for all to enjoy, talk about, visit and be proud of.
The degree of difficulty in restoring this property: Was in the details of the building. Floors needed to be repaired, ceiling coming down and cracked, bead broad was coming apart, smells needed to be addressed, painting of the whole interior, HVAC needed to be replaced along with some electrical issues. The bathroom floors were rotten all the way through to the crawlspace, windows need to be fixed and others installed that we found in the crawlspace, separation of attic wood that invited squirrels and bats to live needed to be fixed and wildlife removed. Replacement of lighting from the 60's back to original lighting found, repair of doors, banisters, removal of trash and forgotten items, and so much more.
We use historic paint colors and trims with the same materials to repair and bring beauty back into the property. We spend many hours with furnishings that had the same feel and textures as the original period. We used everything we found in the church such as old bibles, books, pictures, toys, furniture from the upper mill as well as the lower mill to adore this property's integrity.
The most degree of difficulty of this project: Was that we did not qualify for any grants, loans, credits, or any other funding for this project. We did it all without any resources. With hard work and resources that we provided ourselves was the hardest part of this project. Our commitment to the preservation of the Pelzer Presbyterian Church lies within ourselves, our commitment to the town of Pelzer and the community.
Our degree of which the project serves as an example of outstanding commitment to historic preservation and exemplary preservation techniques: It was our willingness and love for historic property from being destroyed or turned into a property not matching it beauty and tradition of what the building was built or stands for. The town of Pelzer and the Community of Pelzer can look at this historic property and be proud to call Pelzer home.