Hartsville manages to combine big city amenities with small town charm and southern hospitality. The result is a magical southern town with a population of less than 10,000 and a million and one things to do!
Visitors to Hartsville can visit one of the many historical sites in the community. Several restored houses are open to visitors. Spend the day canoeing down Black Creek, exploring Kalmia Gardens, fishing on Prestwood Lake, or browsing through the many shops in downtown Hartsville. And, of course, be sure to enjoy a true southern meal from one of the many restaurants in town. Shrimp and Grits, anyone?
Be sure to visit Kalmia Gardens, 30 acres of flora and fauna nestled on the banks of Black Creek. Named for the mountain laurel that has always grown there, Kalmia's unique setting is of special interest to plant and tree enthusiasts, students, photographers and naturalists, as well as those who simply enjoy the quiet beauty of nature. The original 1820s home of Capt. Thomas E. Hart is located in Kalmia Gardens and is open for tours. Owned and maintained by Coker College, Kalmia Gardens' wooded trails, picnic areas, sensory garden, herb garden, and more are open to visitors from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
Black Creek Arts Council
The mission of Black Creek Arts Council is to promote and foster the Arts in Darlington County. BCAC's offices are housed in a state-of-the-art 10,000 square foot facility at 116 West College Avenue in Hartsville, SC. BCAC offers a variety of programs including art classes of all styles, after-school activities, pre-school aged programs, private music lessons, and various types of gallery exhibits. BCAC also offers assistance with arts management, funding, education, and program coordination to arts and cultural organizations in Darlington County.
In 1908, the Board of Directors of Welsh Neck High School, a private academy founded in 1894, made the progressive decision to establish a college for women. The Board named the new college in honor of its chairman, Major James Lide Coker, a well-respected industrialist, community leader and Civil War veteran. Now coeducational, Coker College is nationally recognized as one of the top regional liberal arts colleges in the country. The idyllic, tree-lined campus includes historic Georgian-style buildings and the original Welsh Neck High School bell. Visitors are welcome and can check-in at the Administration Building.
Coker Experimental Farms
In 1903 David Coker opened Coker Experimental Farms to develop a cotton-breeding program that would produce long staple cotton that could be grown throughout the South. Over time, Coker broadened his work to include other field crops as well. By 1963, approximately 65% of the cotton acreage of the Southeast, 80% of the oat acreage, 75% of the flue-cured tobacco acreage, 40% of the hybrid corn acreage, and an increasing percentage of the soybean acreage could be traced to seed developed by Coker scientists. Today the property has been recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark, one of only 14 representing agricultural industry in the country. Plans are underway for an interpretive learning center focusing on cotton to be built on the site.
Hartsville Genealogical Research Library
Located in the old Hartsville Train Depot (c. 1908), the Genealogical Library houses an impressive array of materials which include the South Carolina Genealogical Society Archives, the collections of the Old Darlington District Chapter, Pee Dee area newspapers from the 1820s to the early 1900s, and the genealogical collections of several local families. Each October the library is the site of a genealogical seminar on Pee Dee area research. Call for hours.
Kalmia Gardens of Coker College
Though officially named for its many mountain laurel, the Kalmia latifolia, the 56-acre garden began as Miss May's Folly. May Roper Coker was gifted the land by her brother-in-law. Many thought she was crazy when she divulged her plans of making the land into a garden. With a few workmen, a mule and an indomitable will, Miss May carved Kalmia Gardens out of the land. She deeded the gardens to Coker College in 1965 in memory of her husband, David Coker. Nowadays, Kalmia Gardens of Coker College is a thriving botanical attraction. New areas include an expanded boardwalk down to and along Black Creek, a sensory garden, an herb garden and a memory garden. The gardens also border the 700-acre Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve. Combined, the gardens and preserve cover an area almost as large as New York's Central Park, earning Hartsville the nickname, The Park with the City in It.
Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve
A 707-acre tract along Black Creek, bordering Kalmia Gardens of Coker College, the Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve is a birdwatcher's dream. It is home to pine warblers, pine siskins, brown-headed nuthatches, Acadian flycathers, prothonotary warblers, yellow-billed cuckoos, wood ducks, kingfishers, herons, and killdeer. Disclaimer: Little work has been done yet on the Preserve. As a result, the trails are extremely rustic and hiking is difficult.
Hartsville Recreation Complex
The City of Hartsville's Recreation Complex is a modern, professionally managed sports and leisure facility. The site is projected to be one of the largest of its kind in the state and will be fully lighted, supervised and monitored for the pleasure and safety of its patrons. Currently the soccer fields, bathrooms and snack bar are completed. Future plans include baseball/softball warm-up area, playground, Volleyball courts, gymnasium, Tennis courts, picnic area, walking trail, and a baseball/softball complex.
(c.1939-41) In 1938, local businessman Joseph J. Lawton donated the land on Prestwood Lake to the City of Hartsville for use as a recreation park. Hartsville received assistance from the federal Works Progress Administration to create the park and construct the pavilion. Nowadays the park has playground equipment, picnic shelters, tennis courts, the pavilion and two small docks.
The Hartsville Museum (c. 1930) is housed in the former post office (c. 1930) and library. The Museum offers both permanent and traveling exhibits and focuses on the history of Hartsville and the Pee Dee. The changing display area features local artists and historical exhibits. The Museum boasts a permanent collection of Native American artifacts collected along the Pee Dee River. Agricultural artifacts on display include the brown and green cotton still grown in Darlington County. A special display is dedicated to Eastern Carolina Silver Company, which was located in Hartsville in 1907. Children and adults alike are fascinated by the 1899 Locomobile Steam Car - the first automobile in South Carolina. The Hartsville Museum is the information center for Hartsville's portion of the South Carolina Cotton Trail. Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10:00am - 5:00 pm. Admission: Free. Handicap-accessible.
The park was developed in 1988 on the former site of the first school for black children in Hartsville, the Colored Graded School. The park was developed to reflect the pride of the community since the site had been a focal point of the black community for many years. Open to the public. Playground equipment, picnic benches.
Historic Buildings of Hartsville
Hartsville has an extensive array of historic sites throughout the town. Visitors can tour the Jacob Kelly House (where the Yankees spent a rough night), the John Lide Hart Cottage or the Thomas E. Hart House. Many other homes, which are privately owned, can be viewed from the road. Downtown also contains many historic buildings including the old Coker Department Store (now Sonoco offices and the YMCA), the Hartsville Railroad, and the Arcade Hotel. Walking tour guides are available.
The South Carolina Cotton Trail
The Cotton Trail is a heritage corridor showcasing the impact of cotton on the rural south. Stretching some ninety miles from I-20 to I-95, it links Bishopville, Hartsville, Society Hill, Cheraw and Bennettsville as well as such interesting smaller communities as Clio and Blenheim. Sites along the trail include museums, gardens, historic houses, working cotton fields, and working cotton gins. A companion tour, African-American Historical Sites Along the South Carolina Cotton Trail, is available. Self-guided tour. Groups welcome. Step-on guides available for groups of ten or more.
Bobo Newsom Highway
Visitors to Hartsville always ask about the Bobo Newsom Highway. Yes, Bobo Newsom was a real person! Bobo, whose real name was Norman Louis Newsom, was born in Hartsville on August 11, 1907. He grew up to be quite a ballplayer. During his twenty-five years in baseball's major leagues, Bobo made baseball history. He was one of the few men to top 200 in both wins and losses, recording 211 wins in the Big Leagues. He pitched for the St. Louis Browns, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees and Giants, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs and more. During his career, Bobo pitched to both Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and played in the World Series for the Detroit Tigers. A permanent display about Bobo Newsom is located in the Hartsville Museum.
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