Alan and I were out exploring Barnwell County. So far we had sipped from the Healing Springs at God’s Acre, and had visited several locations in Blackville. It was time to move on down the road to Barnwell, proper.
I’ve been through Barnwell several times on my way to various paddling trips on the Savannah River. I honestly didn’t remember anything about the town from those trips. As it turns out, I had bypassed most of the town, which is probably why I don’t remember it.
As we entered on Highway 3 from the north we took a couple of side streets that looked interesting. One took us past the old Presbyterian church, which now serves as an art center. We didn’t stop for photos, but I could see the backs of other old commercial buildings at the end of the street, which was blocked to us. Turns out that we were already past the town center, and that’s what I was seeing. A couple of blocks over, and past some amazing old homes, we found ourselves in the heart of town.
Alan was interested in the unusual vertical sundial that graces the grounds of the courthouse, so that was our first stop. The sundial was donated to the town in 1858 by a soldier from Barnwell. Supposedly it’s incredibly accurate. However, on an overcast day like today it was virtually useless. Even so, the sundial was a simple, straightforward design, and had a couple of statues around it.
To me, the courthouse next to the sundial was very reminiscent of a Robert Mills design, with its mirror curved sweeping staircases. built in 1879, and was the fourth courthouse to occupy that spot. The original exterior was red brick, but plaster was added in the 1930s.
As we were driving in I had spotted a familiar logo. I had forgotten that Edisto Outfitters was based out of Barnwell. Their sign caught my eye because it features one of my photographs.
The company had contacted me four years ago, requesting to use the photograph on some of their products. In exchange they sent me a whole bunch of really nice T-Shirts, some with my photograph and their new logo, and some done by other artists. I had kept track of the company, somewhat, but they were always on a mental back-burner. Seeing the sign brought it all to the forefront, and I had to pay them a visit.
Alan and I walked in the door to their small shop in full exploration mode, with cameras swung around our necks. The lady behind the counter asked what kind of photos we took, and my response was, “Well, just like the ones on the back of your t-shirts, to be exact.” I then introduced myself. The other store occupant stepped around the corner, and both Don and Garnett Alexander introduced themselves and expressed delight in meeting me.
We poked around their retail shop for a bit, which takes up only a small portion of their operation. In addition to t-shirts they have fishing shirts, ball caps, mugs, pillows – basically anything that can be imprinted with a design.
Don has a degree in textile chemistry from Clemson, and his expertise is in working with performance fabrics. The t-shirts are high performance, wicking shirts, which are perfect for kayaking. While the shop and Edisto Outdoors is a natural outgrowth of this expertise, Don is involved with other products at the industrial scale. His other company, Anovotek, develops products such as large-scale mosquito netting.
Don took us on a tour of their Barnwell facility. The retail shop is located in what used to be the town’s newspaper printing shop. Here they produce product on demand. They keep the t-shirts and other items in stock as blanks, then print as needed. This allows them to keep their inventory low, while still providing the desired item.
The building adjoining is the old town bank. The Alexanders have remodeled and converted this space into their office areas. Several fine pieces of antique furniture grace the front room, mainly because they didn’t have any other place to put them.
The original bank safe is still intact, and serves as more storage.
As with any remodel of this type, the Alexanders walked the tricky line between preservation and creating usable space. Don pointed out some of the historical features they tried to leave in place, such as the brick patterns on the wall, a brick cornice, and the imprint on the floor left by barrels of ink from the newspaper.
Glancing around I could see my photograph everywhere. Their logo features the north and south branches of the Edisto coming together, overlaid onto the photo. In addition to the sign out front, there was a banner in the store, and Don had been experimenting with printing on wood.
Garnett’s family is from the area, but Don grew up in Walhalla. They told us about their place on the South Edisto River, and invited us to use it as a launch point sometime. I invited them to join us for one of our paddling trips. It was a great visit.
We stepped outside and across the street with Don so that we could see both of their buildings in context. The old bank building has columns and a fantastic arch, as well as decorative work above.
Next to Edisto Outdoors is the Barnwell Methodist Church. We had to take a photo of that, too, although we resisted the urge to explore further.
Don wasn’t through with us, though. He led us around the corner to the old Berly Pharmacy. The drug store has the original soda fountain and counter with stools. There were displays of antique pharmaceutical equipment, and even a photo of George W. Bush visiting the store.
Alan and I said our goodbyes to Don and thanked him for being such a gracious host. We walked back past the courthouse to take a look at the Confederate obelisk. This was on a circle across from the courthouse and in front of another row of interesting looking stores.
Don had told us that we really needed to check out the old Episcopal church in town. It was already on our list of things to see, so we headed in that direction. We found the Church of the Holy Apostles south of the downtown area.
The church was formed in 1848, and the current wood-sided building with Gothic architecture church was constructed in 1857. It was spared destruction by Sherman’s troops at the end of the Civil War, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
There were some interesting stones in the cemetery, and, as one might imagine from a church of this age, some very old interments. However, something didn’t quite feel right. It as as if all of the stones had either been replaced or pressure-washed and cleaned. Everything was too…white. It could just be the type of stone or marble they used, or that they are very diligent with cemetery maintence, but there was no sense of age to the place, even when family plots were surrounded with old iron fencing.
Along the corners and buttresses of the church were small plaques indicating the stations of the cross. Pilate looked particularly smug as he washed his hands.
It was supposed to be sunny today. However, we had encountered clouds all morning. As we wandered through the Episcopal cemetery a light rain started to fall. To our astonishment, that light rain mixed with sleet and snow flurries. I called Laura back in Greenville to express my surprise, and she said it was sunny back home.
It was getting to be lunch time We saw that there was a barbeque place in town, so we set off in search of Hogg Heaven. There was a buffet line, but we weren’t sure if it was all you could eat, or what. The food was good, but I can’t say it was easiest place to negotiate. This sign just added to the confusion, and made us feel not exactly welcome.
After lunch the rain had let up, but it was still cloudy and very chilly. We decided to hit a couple more spots on our list then head home. There was still much to see and do on that outing. I’ll save that for Part 3 of this ramble.