Greenville was once a textile mill town, and in the 1970s, a community group came together with a vision to revitalize the Reedy River and downtown areas. Falls Park, the city’s central playground, ties downtown to the historic West End, and you can see the growth continuing for a mile or two. Part of their success is it’s a place that welcomes artists, young entrepreneurs, retirees, and big businesses like Michelin, GE and BMW. The locals are quite friendly and polite, though I did hear the word “Yankee” once or twice, and saw the Confederate flag flying as well. While there’s still housing opportunities here, if you want to live in the chic locations, bring a very large check.
When I landed in Greenville, I had a two-week WorkAway scheduled with a young couple who are renovating a 1902 house that had been vacant for ten years! They are also creating a self-sustaining lifestyle, and have chickens, rabbits (not pets), and raised bed gardens. There was never a lack of work to do from yard clearing and gardening, to sanding, painting, and floor prep.
In exchange for 25 hours of work, I lived for free in a tiny house that they built a year or so ago. While I used the kitchen and bath in the main house, it was great to have my own little haven in the backyard. Meals were also provided, and were fresh and healthy, from picking greens right out of the garden to homemade cheese, kimchi, and wheat-less pancakes. Beth is a wealth of info on nutrition, wildcrafting and permaculture, and I left with some great resources for the future.
In my spare time, I explored as much as possible – the park, downtown, museums, and more. The house is just a mile to the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 21-mile (and growing) multi-use greenway that I cycled to see the sites. While Greenville doesn’t have an interconnected bike network, the Trail currently runs from Falls Park to the quaint town of Traveler’s Rest, home to George Hincapie’s Hotel Domestique. I don’t want to give the impression that Greenville is picture perfect. Once you leave the downtown radius, it has its industrial areas, strip malls, and mill housing neighborhoods. That said, I wonder what it will look like in 5 years!
I’ve now put up my homestead at Paris Mountain State Park, just five miles from downtown. Originally land of the Cherokee Indians, private ownership was taken by Richard Pearis of Virginia, before it became the source of water for Greenville from 1890-1916. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the Park, which is over 1500 acres with 14 miles of hiking trails. The air smells like honeysuckles.
Tomorrow, I pitch the tent at Stone Mountain in Roaring Gap, NC for a week.