In early 2018 Preservation South Carolina released its state list of most At Risk historical sites. From the eight properties listed, of local concern was the Piedmont Manufacturing Company Footbridge spanning the Saluda River over the dam. This dam is still producing electricity for an energy group after 132 years. The Footbridge site is an historical, industrial property, and the dam and footbridge were constructed in 1888 when the mill built the third plant on the Anderson County side of the river. The footbridge allowed quick movement by operatives from Mills 1 and 2 to Mill 3 and back.
After the Greenville County Mills burned in the 1980s, the footbridge, dam, and the smoke stacks were the main structures left to denote over 130 years of Piedmont and upstate textile heritage until last Thursday, February 6th, about 5 pm. For hours the five or more inches of rain that inundated the upstate in less than a day sent debris hurtling down the mighty Saluda River toward Piedmont. Locals stopped by to watch and photograph as the flood rushed over the dam and filled the shoals almost up to the spillway. I had been there earlier in the day but gone home to watch the news again. Checking Facebook, a friend had just posted the devastating photo of the dam without the bridge. Shock took over as I starred. The phone started ringing and the realization set in.
After going back to downtown and taking in the view, those of us who love that bridge began to grieve. Tears were shed, memories shared, and wishes voiced. For hours the bridge was covered completely by the waters, and when she finally surfaced the following day, the view of her tangled steel split our hearts. Everyone wants to do something, to remember the ties that bind the two sides of the village together, and to memorialize Piedmont Manufacturing Company’s heart – the Footbridge.
So, to show solidarity for the mill village’s history and for its bright future, Piedmont blue ribbons were placed on the Hwy. 86 bridge Sunday, and we hope they will last until Discover Piedmont Day on March 7th. The Piedmont Historical Preservation Society will sponsor the 2nd DPD with memories of the Footbridge in the museum, a 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament in the gym, crafts in the Rowell Club Room, and gospel singing in the gym in the afternoon. Of course, there will be food, breakfast by the Black Sheep Café, hotdog lunch by the society, and food trucks in the afternoon.
There is much to hope for – for the bridge as our major symbol, for the revitalization of the mill village up coming, and for the continued dedication to preserve Piedmont’s rich history. ♥