Newberry, South Carolina is a charming small town that is big on history. Located in the midlands region north of Columbia, Newberry has a well preserved downtown with a number of prominent buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lovely historic homes grace its tree-lined residential streets, and a local college has buildings dating to the late 19th century. A driving tour affords visitors the best opportunity to view Newberry’s historic sites. Here are the some of the highlights to see.
The Newberry Opera House, with its French Gothic style clock tower, is a downtown landmark. Constructed in 1881 at 1201 McKibben Street, the building once contained city offices, a jail, and a firehouse on its ground floor. The upper floor housed an auditorium that was used for lectures, variety shows, and other entertainment. In the 1920s the building was converted to a movie theatre. After years of neglect, the Opera House underwent a $5.5 million renovation and reopened as a state-of-the-art performance venue in 1998. Today the Newberry Opera House hosts nationally known performers and touring Broadway shows.
Another prominent downtown building is the Old Courthouse at 1207 Caldwell Street. The building was designed in 1852 by Jacob Graves as Newberry’s fourth courthouse. The architecture is Greek Revival with six Tuscan columns across the front façade. The courthouse was remodeled after the Civil War with side porticos added. The building was used as a courthouse until 1906, when a new Neo-Classical style courthouse was constructed on College Street. Today the Newberry Visitor Center is located in the old Public Lounge of the courthouse, with the entrance on the Main Street side.
The Coppock House, at 1503 Nance Street, houses the Newberry County Museum. Built in 1820 in the Classical Revival style, the home once belonged to a successful Newberry merchant. The 1808 Gauntt House is on the grounds of the museum. The vernacular style structure is the oldest house in Newberry. Both buildings are open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays from 1-4pm. Admission is free.
Newberry College is a small liberal arts college established in 1856. Four brick buildings on campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Smeltzer Hall (1877) and Keller Hall (1895) with its bell tower have typical late 19th century institutional architecture with Italianate and Romanesque Revival influences. Holland Hall (1904) is a Neo-Classical building, and Derrick Hall (1925) was built in the Colonial Revival style. Newberry College is located at 2100 College Street.
Wells Japanese Garden is located on Lindsay Street behind City Hall. It was designed as a private garden in 1930 by Newberry architect W. Fulmer Wells. The garden’s design was influenced by the Japanese Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Japanese elements include two ponds, a tea house, a moon bridge, and a red torii gate. Plantings include Japanese iris, lotus, water lilies, crepe myrtle, and dogwood trees. The garden was donated to the city in 1970.
The Main Street Historic District is located on the east side of downtown. The area contains many upper class historic homes dating from the 1840s-1950s. There is a range of styles including Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Victorian, and Neo-Classical. Most of these homes are privately owned, and many are listed on the National Register.