What's in a name? If land owner Lemuel Alston had gotten his way when the village was designated in 1797, Greenville residents might have been called Pleasantburgians. Alston had many plans for the village, including naming the area Pleasantburg. While some of his other ideas were adopted, the name of the village was changed, first to "Greeneville" and shortly after to today’s spelling without the extra "e."
One of Greenville’s most famous residents, Joel Poinsett introduced the poinsettia to America in 1826. After being named U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Poinsett, who was also an amateur botanist, brought the Christmas plant back to the states. The plant was originally called painted leaf or Mexican fire plant, but it was eventually renamed poinsettia in honor of the man who brought it into American culture.
Most Greenville locals know about Mice on Main, an Art in Public Places feature that has nine bronze mice hidden along the length of Main Street. But not everyone knows that Jim Ryan, a high school senior when he hatched the project in 2000, used his mice idea because he couldn't afford his first few ideas like statues of Joel Poinsett, Vardry McBee or Shoeless Joe Jackson. Great things can come from a limited budget.
Bike riders can get even farther by catching a lift on a city bus. (Yep, with their bicycles, too!) Greenlink Transit’s buses each have a fold-down rack on the front that holds two bicycles for no extra charge. It’s just another part of Bikeville, a bicycle friendly community initiative that includes special bike lanes, bike trails, bicycle parking and bicycle friendly businesses.
Famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright built one of his unique homes in Greenville in 1954. Like Wright’s other creations, this private home blends with its natural surroundings in a way that almost suggests it was grown there. It has natural stone walls, a huge, sheltering roof, and innovations like heated concrete floors. Wright named the home Broad Margin after this line from the book Walden, by Henry David Thoreau: "I love a broad margin to my life."
Falls Park on the Reedy features the country's only curved, cantilevered pedestrian bridge. While Liberty Bridge is a full 345 feet long and 12 feet wide, a cable suspension system makes it almost appear to be floating on air.
The Hampton-Pickney Historic District is one of Greenville’s oldest residential neighborhoods and a great place for viewing Victorian architecture. The whole district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It has 70 historic buildings, including three churches and the area’s first home, the McBee House, which was built all the way back in 1835!
When the Greenville mayor wanted to build a performing arts center in 1985, three branches of the Peace family stepped up to pledge $10 million in memory of Roger C. Peace, B.H. Peace Jr. and Frances Peace Graham. As the Peace Center for Performing Arts took shape, the whole community got involved. One project, the 88 Keys Campaign: 88 cents for 88 keys in 1988, led thousands of schoolkids to donate 88 cents each toward one of the center’s Steinway pianos.
The historic Poinsett Hotel was built in the boom days of the mid-1920s for the enormous (at the time) sum of $1.5 million. This luxury hotel suffered during the Great Depression but eventually flourished under the direction of General Manager Director J. Mason Alexander. Nicknamed "Old Admiral Spit and Polish," Alexander was so intent on cleanliness that he had the staff polish all coins before putting them in the cash registers. (Now that’s a luxury hotel!)
Locals are aflutter at Roper Mountain Science Center’s Butterfly Garden—local butterflies, that is. The Greater Greenville Master Gardeners maintain the garden with host plants and nectar plants that attract butterflies and support the insects' whole life cycle. The garden was certified a National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat in 2002. Locals of the human variety are welcome to visit the Butterfly Garden whenever the center’s main gate is open.
Did you already know about the Mice on Main and other Greenville fun facts? Then check out our round up on Asheville.