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The name “Travelers Rest” explains the city’s historical significance: it is indeed a place where travelers have rested for over 300 years. This area at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains — originally the home of the Creek, Catawba and Cherokee tribes — was an ideal stop for livestock drovers. Stagecoaches transporting summer vacationers to the mountains also stopped here.
Once railroads and highways brought businesses, schools and churches to the area, it became the city it is today. The best of Travelers Rest features places and businesses that embody the community’s traveling spirit.
The History Museum of Travelers Rest
Originally a grocery store built in 1926, the History Museum of Travelers Rest features artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the city. The museum opened after the building was donated and then relocated in 2010. Admission is free, so anyone can visit on Saturdays and Sundays 1–4 p.m. or by appointment.
John H. Goodwin House
On the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, the John H. Goodwin House is a historic site that embodied the Travelers Rest spirit. Built in 1793, the house was once a stagecoach stop for travelers going to places like Asheville or Saluda. It was also a farmhouse and at other times a post office, trading post and general store. For a time it was even a welcome center for those traveling on the highway. The house is also one of the best surviving examples of early Upcountry architecture in Greenville County.
Listed in the National Register since 1983, the John H. Goodwin House (or the Blythe-Goodwin-Hagood House) has changed from the original structure. The original farmhouse — a two-story, single-pen log building — was expanded around 1840 to include a two-story braced-frame addition and one-story frame kitchen. After the Civil War, a small red building was added in front of the house.
By 2016, extensive renovations to the building’s exterior were underway, and the house is now restored to its former glory. In the future, it may become a museum, but for now, it is not accessible to the public.
Trailblazer Park has become a hub for the community. Home to festivals, an open-air amphitheater and the Travelers Rest Farmers Market, this park is a cultural center that brings everyone together. The park also hosts outdoor concerts and, every Saturday in August, free movies while showing off mountain views in the background. It is accessible to the Swamp Rabbit Trail via a spur trail.
Swamp Rabbit Trail and Railroad
Throughout Greenville and Travelers Rest, “swamp rabbit” is present in many names whether they be businesses or sports teams. The name is derived from the old #110 steam engine that traveled through the Reedy River swamps like a rabbit. The railway it followed consequently bore the nickname as well.
In the late 1800s, the Swamp Rabbit was built as the first part of the Carolina, Knoxville and Western Railway that was intended to connect Augusta, Georgia, and Knoxville, Tennessee. However, what was built only stretched from Greenville up to River Falls and had 13 stations. Throughout multiple ownerships, it mainly hauled lumber.
RailTex purchased the line in 1997 but decided to sell it in 1998. Greenville County bought it in 1999, and the abandonment from railroad usage was officially approved in April 2006. Over the next few years, sections of the new 22-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail were completed and opened to the public. The flat paved trail is perfect for walking, running or biking.
The popularity of the trail has helped Travelers Rest grow over the past 10 years.
A few miles south of Travelers Rest, Swamp Rabbit Station, a mini-park along the trail, features a 1947 Southern Railway train car. The car came with the purchase of the railway in 1999.
Read more about the Swamp Rabbit Trail in this Around Greenville post.
The oldest outdoor store in South Carolina, Sunrift Adventures has been serving the Upstate since 1980. As outdoor activity has become more and more popular, Sunrift supplies the community with bikes, boats, gear and apparel. In fact, it has the most kayaks in stock compared to any outlet in South Carolina, selling 600 a year. Since Travelers Rest is the threshold to numerous mountains and lakes, this store plays a vital role in the Upstate community.
The store’s current property was first the site of a blacksmith shop in the 1870s. Another blacksmith shop was built on the same spot in 1916 and was there until the 1950s. By the 1920s, the Blue Ridge Cotton Oil Company was operating on the property until Grover Brown bought it. He built a new building and opened Brown’s Feed and Seed in the 1960s, which Sunrift Adventures bought in 1995.
The Carolina Honey Bee Company
Family-owned and -operated, The Carolina Honey Bee Company has added to the emphasis on outdoor activity in Travelers Rest since 2004. Not only do they sell local honey and beeswax-based skin products, they also offer beekeeping supplies and classes for those who share their passion.
The Whistle Stop at the American Café
During the railway days, whistle stops served guests taking unscheduled stops for food which the conductor signaled by blowing the whistle. Such was the original purpose of the Whistle Stop at the American Café, the oldest café in the Upstate.
In 1932, Arthur Williams built the restaurant and called it the Williams Café. By the early ‘40s, the name changed to the American Café to reflect patriotism during World War II. Troy Styles Sr. bought the café in 1945, and his family has owned it ever since. Currently, Styles’ granddaughter Vickie Vernon Hawkins owns the Whistle Stop.
When Hawkins bought the café in 2013, she expanded, renovated and renamed the historic landmark. The café is now three times its original size. The original grocery store and service station is now a dining room, and Hawkins added an outdoor rooftop dining area and little red caboose along the Swamp Rabbit Trail for desserts and other snacks. Murals and railway paraphernalia are everywhere. Despite the changes, the Whistle Stop keeps its original charm with original counters, barstools and terrazzo floor along with exposed brick.
The menu offers a wide variety of classic and gourmet entrees — or a twist of both — that will satisfy anyone.
For over 45 years, the Traveler’s Restaurant has been an integral part of the Travelers Rest community. The reasonably or even cheaply priced entrees do not undermine the quality of the homestyle cooking. A previous BJUtoday article shares details about their breakfast menu and other local breakfast nooks around Greenville.
Tandem Creperie and Coffeehouse
Located in a quaint brick building on Main Street, Tandem Creperie and Coffeehouse has been a Travelers Rest favorite since it opened in 2014 — especially to the students of BJU. With its wide variety of sweet and savory crepes and rustic atmosphere, Tandem attracts many customers for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Saturday mornings are especially busy, so an early arrival is best for avoiding long lines.
If the small parking lot is crowded, free parking at Gateway Park is just around the corner and a short walk down the street.
Both Traveler’s Restaurant and Tandem Creperie and Coffeehouse may sound familiar. They are mentioned in our Local Breakfast Nooks article.
Catch up on our Around Greenville series to see more of what our city and the area around it has to offer.