Thom Anderson

While I have some knowledge, less than some people think, of old things in Florence, there are questions I would like answers to.

For instance, I have a memory of being taken to what I thought was an electric-generating power plant on the north side of the Columbia railroad tracks about at Coit Street. What I wonder is whether there was such a power-generating plant in town and who ran it.

If anyone knows the answer to that question, I would love a phone call about it.

In another case, I know the first hard-surfaced street in town left the railroad station and went down Church Street toward Florence National Cemetery, where thousands of Union soldiers were buried during the Civil War. That was because so many people from all over the country were visiting because they had relatives or friends buried there.

That seems established in local histories, but I wonder if Cherokee Road might have been the first local street paved by the state or local authorities. In one state road-building effort, Cherokee from Five Points to Church Street was listed among roads that were paved.

In some old clippings from the 1920s or ’30s, I once read that there was to be a tree-planting project lining each side of the highway between Florence and Darlington. The clippings said it had been started but obviously wasn’t finished, so I wonder why.

I remember as a kid riding by the Florence airport, which I think then had grass runways before the Army came in and built an air base there and paved the runways. I just wonder if I was right and the first paved runways out there came with the World War II air base. Buildings put up there by the Army largely went into civilian use after the base closed. Among them was the old airbase movie house that became home for the Florence Little Theatre for about 20 years.

Newcomers might be puzzled by the railroad underpass they go under just east of the city. That at one time was the Seaboard Airline Railroad line that ran down through Pamplico and to junction with another Seaboard line that runs from Charleston to Dillon. The Seaboard crossed the ACL yard on a bridge that has disappeared. The tracks went around the north side of town, going into a station that is now a building of Trinity Baptist Church.

Not-very newcomers might remember the Smoke Shop as a small eatery near the corner of Evans and Irby, but it goes back further. It started in the 100 block of East Evans Street in a storefront with a passageway into the lobby of the old Hotel Florence. It was a newsstand with a nice collection of magazines and a soda fountain as well as the tobacco products that the name suggests. The soda fountain grew, but the rest of it did not, and when it reopened on West Evans Street, it had become a small eatery and eventually, the magazines and newspapers disappeared. Then the rest of it closed later, but I think it would be a good idea if somebody named a small place downtown the Smoke Shop. I promise I’d come.

The downtown Front Street once was lined with ACL freight, and cars often were unloaded and reloaded there. It also was paved with brick well into my memory, because there had been an argument on the City Council about what would be used to harden surface streets. The present pavement came out the winner in the long run, and the brick pavement on Front and a couple of other downtown spots disappeared. Front Street, by the way, later was renamed N.B. Baroody Street.

I always thought that the 100 block of East Evans Street was the liveliest in town in the 1940s. Besides the Morning News office that was busy all night, there were restaurants, pool rooms, two hotels, the Sanborn and Hotel Florence and Western Union.

Before World War II, many residential streets in town were unpaved, and much paving was done after the war as the town spread.

Things change as time goes by, and that’s good because it means the city is growing and developing.

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Thom Anderson is a former editor

of the Morning News.

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