South Carolina’s Olde English District offers a window to the past and a gateway to the future. Just a short drive from Charlotte, the district is made up of seven counties — Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Union and York — all in the state’s piedmont region.
The district gets its name from the region’s early English settlements in the mid-1770s.
Much has changed since then.
Today, the Olde English District offers a plethora of Black-owned restaurants, shops and nuggets of Black history, as I pleasantly discovered during a recent visit.
It’s also a great place to reconnect with nature.
Chester County sits just west of the Catawba River, giving various access points to waterways and plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun, including Chester State Park. Check out what Chester County has to offer.
Inn Upon Moon River Plantation Blues B&B
This comforting stop is more than just a bed and breakfast. This plantation-style home was built in 1904 and also features a blues museum, perfect for the music enthusiast looking to research and discover all the genre has to offer. Multiple art pieces and gems scattered throughout the home make it a vital stop along the Olde English District.
Chester State Park
If you’re trying to escape the hustle and bustle, this 523-acre park offers a 160-acre lake, a 27-hole disc golf course, nature trails and camping amenities. Chester State Park is located two miles west of Chester on S.C. Highway 72, giving perfect access to travelers looking to stop in for a few hours or to spend a weekend taking in the natural beauty of Chester County.
Chesterfield County is the perfect getaway for anyone looking for a quaint, cozy experience in the Olde English District, as well as a little piece of history. It’s the birthplace of legendary jazz musician and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie. It also features an championship golf course and a plethora of homegrown dining options. Check out what Chesterfield County has to offer.
Southern African-American Heritage Center
The Southern African-American Heritage Center is dedicated to collecting, documenting and preserving the contributions of African Americans from Chesterfield County, from as far back as the 1800s to the present day. It includes collections from Dizzy Gillespie, the Coulter Memorial Academy, and photographs highlighting the contributions of the great bridge builder, Cheraw native Horace King. Tour and school groups are welcome by appointment.
Dizzy Gillespie Memorial and Statue
When most people think of jazz, one of the first names they associate with the genre is Dizzy Gillespie. The virtuoso trumpeter, composer and founder of modern jazz sprang from roots in Chesterfield County, and he’s been permanently enshrined in the county’s history with a memorial and statue in downtown Cheraw. The seven-foot bronze statue was unveiled in Oct. 2002, on the 85th anniversary of his birth.
A place for the thrill seekers of the world, Fairfield County offers 2,600 wooded acres of ATV and UTV trails, as well as the South Carolina Railroad Museum. Must-stop destinations include Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway and the longest continuously running clock in the United States in Winnsboro. Check out what Fairfield County has to offer.
Lake Wateree State Park
While the centerpiece of this state park is the namesake 13,800-acre Lake Wateree, it’s also home to many campsites, playgrounds, swimming, a nature trail for biking & walking, and a camp store & tackle shop. It’s the perfect place to unwind and take in the beauty of Fairfield County.
South Carolina Railroad Museum
Established in 1973 by a group of dedicated railroad enthusiasts from the Columbia and Charleston areas, the South Carolina Railroad Museum contains a multitude of pieces of rolling stock, including various types of freight and passenger cars.
Kershaw County has bountiful scenic pleasures, but the most popular is the vibrant downtown Camden. The area is complete with exquisite eateries, distilleries, attractions and shops that invite visitors to stroll and stay awhile. Take a peek into what makes Kershaw County an exemplary destination in the Olde English District.
African American Cultural Center of Camden
Immerse yourself in Camden’s African American history through exhibits, tours, talks and more. One of the highlights of the center is its “Let’s Talk About” series, which shines a light on the history of Camden’s African American community through events and conversations.
Bonds Conway House
Experience a piece of history as you visit the home built by Bonds Conway, believed to be the first African American in Kershaw County to buy his freedom. Built around 1812, the home also serves as the office of the Kershaw County Historical Society.
This thriving community serves as an intersection of art and the outdoors. There are several places to experience both in Lancaster County, including Bob Doster’s Backstreet Studio and the Lindsay Pettus Greenway. See why Lancaster County is a memorable stop in the Olde English District.
Lancaster County’s prolific soul food restaurant, Mully’s, is a slice of home and then some. Pop in and sit a spell as you indulge in favorites like mac & cheese, yams, fried chicken and more from the all-day buffet. See the Mully’s Restaurant Facebook page for daily specials.
Lancaster’s Wall of Fame
See some of the county’s best and brightest at the Lancaster Wall of Fame. Here, you can learn about Lancaster residents who contributed significantly to American society. They include figures such as President Andrew Jackson, NASA astronaut Charles Duke and Broadway star Nina Mae McKinney.
Sample a piece of history and some good BBQ in the heart of Union County. Part of South Carolina’s Upstate, the county has several gems you’ll want to see.
Indulge in some of South Carolina’s finest BBQ at Midway BBQ. This old-school destination has been serving American staples like ribs, chicken and more since 1941. Midway BBQ is locally owned and known for its beef hash, chicken stew and good vibes.
Union County Museum and Historical Society
Come to where the past meets the future in Union County. At the Union County Museum, you can explore a plethora of antiques, artifacts and more.
York County, our neighbor to the south, has a little bit of everything for everyone. From mystic walks along the Anne Springs Close Greenway to memorable nights at the Pump House restaurant to experiencing a piece of history at Kounter and the Jail-No-Bail exhibit that honors the Friendship Nine, York County has it all. Check out why it’s a memorable stop in the Olde English District.
Jail, No Bail Exhibit / Kounter
Get a piece of history and a great meal, all at Kounter and the Jail, No Bail Exhibit. The latter is an interactive telling of the story of the Friendship Nine — college students who staged a 1961 sit-in for civil rights. See the original McCrory’s lunch counter where the history-making sit-in took place.
Fresh Vibes Juice Bar
Having a drink at Fresh Vibes Juice Bar is like a sip of heaven. This plant-based, drive-up juice bar offers a plethora of options, including juices, smoothies and plant-based hot dogs, burgers and more. Drive up for the refreshing juice and stay for the immaculate vibes.