Years ago, I frequently headed to the courthouse to ask the older people questions about Florence’s past. Now, however, it’s hard to find anybody who can answer my questions. I’m so old now.
First: When was Irby Street cut through to Coles Crossroads from Cherokee Road? Apparently, the previously accepted way to head south toward Charleston was down Church Street to Coles Crossroads. Why I never thought to ask older-timers that question when I could have is a great puzzle to me. Now Irby is the obvious route to most people except those who want to ride I-95 and I-26 all the way.
I also wonder if Cherokee Road was the first paved city street, although it was actually just outside the circular city limits of the time. We know that the first paved road to connect two municipalities in the Florence County was between Florence and Timmonsville. I have read some stuff that makes me wonder if that paving turned at Five Points and went through Cherokee to Church Street. Cherokee was approximately 100 yards south of the southern city limits, and at that time state paving usually stopped at city limits, leaving communities responsible for their streets. I’ve seen no indication that the paving from Timmonsville went onto Palmetto.
I’m old-timer enough to be able to comment on the Carolina Bank headquarters at the corner of West Evans and Irby streets. Until just after World War II, it had three stories that housed two retail spaces on the ground floor and a nice entrance between that led to the upper floors.
The Masonic Temple was on the top floor, which later was occupied by the Elks Club. In the early 1950s, the top floor came off, leaving the building unfinished-looking. It was a nice-looking building before amputation of the third floor. Now Carolina Bank has restored the old third floor, and the building is as impressive as it once was.
The bank headquarters building was built before 1910 at the same time as the old post office. The oldest building at that intersection is at the southeast corner and might have been from the 19th century. Old-timers probably remember it once housed Riley’s Drug Store.
It seems a little weird to me that in the early days of paved roads, the road through Florence was what is now U.S. 301 and once was numbered U.S. 17. It also was known as the Coastal Highway. Present U.S. 17 now runs along the coast and also is known as Coastal Highway, which seems more appropriate.
I’m also old-timer enough to remember when Front (now Baroody) Street between Darlington and Irby streets was paved with brick. It seems that at least one member of the Florence City Council way back promoted bricked streets and managed to get several blocks downtown paved with brick. Asphalt finally won out.
I’m old-timer enough to remember some old buildings that once were on the 100 blocks of Evans, one being the second First Presbyterian Church on the east block. It became a parking lot until a state office building went there recently. It is said that when the ground was broken for that church building in the early1900s, the pastor invited a tramp who came through town on a freight train to take part. Pretty Democratic, huh?
On the other 100 block, the old City Hall was a fine-looking building with a great clock over it and goldfish ponds in front. In an unfortunate 1950s effort to modernize, the building lost its charm, and what was left was later improved into 18 parking places. I wasn’t sad to see it go at all.
There once was a city park called Chase Park at the corner of West Cheves and South McQueen streets that at the time surrounded the Masonic Temple. Since then, parking for Florence-Darlington Technical College and a dental clinic pretty much have wiped out the park.
You had to have been around for quite a while to remember all of this, but if any old-timers can remember the answer to my first two questions, a phone call would be greatly appreciated.