Aiken's 'Winter Colony' featured in historical museum

Monday, April 2, 2012 4:36 PM
Last updated 9:32 PM
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Even before the Masters Tournament lured visitors to Augusta, Aiken was already earning fame among the famous.

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Aiken County Historical Museum Docent Mary Ahern (right) discusses an exhibit with Polly Naramore. The museum is housed in one of the mansions in the city's Winter Colony district.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Aiken County Historical Museum Docent Mary Ahern (right) discusses an exhibit with Polly Naramore. The museum is housed in one of the mansions in the city's Winter Colony district.

“It was a playground for the American aristocracy,” said Elliott Levy, the director of the Aiken County Historical Museum, which includes
exhibits chronicling the city’s famous “Winter Colony” and its homes and horse stables owned by the nation’s wealthiest families.

“They were all here – the Rockefellers, the Mellons, Henry Ford,” he said. “This is where all the power was in the United States.”

The museum, housed in one of the elegant mansions in the heart of the city’s Winter Colony district, also has exhibits covering the creation of the “bomb plant,” now called Savannah River Site, where 38,000 workers once toiled in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

When the government acquired land for the 310-square-mile site, farms – and entire towns – were lost. Among the museum displays is the counter from Moody Drugstore, which once stood in the town of Dunbarton, which vanished. The display features a 1950s fully-stocked counter, complete with the store’s original soda fountain.

Other rooms at the museum feature science and nature, the famous pottery manufactured in the 1800s in what is known as the “Edgefield District” of South Carolina and a room devoted to North Augusta, where the largest wooden structure in the world – the Hampton Terrace Hotel – opened December 17, 1903, and served guests including Harvey Firestone, Marshall Field, and President-elect William Howard Taft.

There is also an exhibit that highlights golf in Aiken County, featuring the Palmetto Golf Course (the second oldest continuous running 18-hole course in the country) where Harry Varden, Byron Nelson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Bobby Knowles, Bing Crosby and many others have played.

“This is where the power was, and golf, of course, is where it all got shared and talked about,” Levy said. “It’s interesting stuff.”

THE SERIES

Whether you are visiting this week or enjoying time off, there is always something to see.

SUNDAY: Aiken’s Thoroughbred Museum

MONDAY: Magnolia Cemetery

TODAY: Aiken County Historical Museum

WEDNESDAY: Woodrow Wilson House

THURSDAY: Augusta Museum of History

FRIDAY: Augusta Canal

SATURDAY: Morris Museum of Art

APRIL 8: Canal headgates

MUSEUM HOURS

ADDRESS: 433 Newberry Street SW Aiken, SC 29801

TELEPHONE: (803) 642-2015

HOURS: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Masters Week open Monday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

COST: free


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