Explore Spartanburg’s rich history and revitalized downtown with a stay at Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens.
by Vanessa Infanzon
Spartanburg, S.C., is a former mill town steeped in history, with fine dining and plenty of outdoor activities. A closer look proves the city about 75 miles southwest of Charlotte is also an unexpected romantic getaway.
Spartanburg, founded in 1787, is named for the Spartan Regiment, one of the militias formed in western South Carolina during the American Revolution. It’s known as the “Hub City” because at one time, seven railroads led to and from the area. City planners have taken advantage of the history and location to restore factories and renew parks and trails. The revitalization has attracted homegrown restaurants and businesses to the downtown and surrounding areas.
Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens, a 4-acre estate on the west side of town, offers three luxury rooms in a 1913 home. The house, built as a wedding gift to Conrad and Louise Bomar Cleveland, was once on a 448-acre farm. Paul and Pontheolla Mack Abernathy, married 32 years, bought the inn in 2012. They renovated the home and opened 18 months later.
Guest rooms and the living and dining rooms are decorated with restored antiques and period artwork. The Ohana Suite and The Wren offer access to a rooftop patio overlooking gardens with meandering brick pathways. One garden path leads to the MackRail Cabin Car, a restored caboose with a queen bed, two bunk beds, a sitting area and a small bathroom that provides a fourth lodging option. A private deck and fire pit facing the gardens adds to the charm of sleeping in a bright red 1947 Southern Railway Caboose.
The inspiration for adding a caboose to the property came from a story told to Pontheolla by 98-year-old Elisabeth Cleveland Welch, Conrad Cleveland’s daughter. The night Welch was born, a train passing through town broke down. Cleveland walked to the train and invited passengers into the house for tea.
The Abernathys continue this tradition of hospitality by treating guests to a gourmet breakfast each morning. Dishes might include French toast brioche topped with sautéed Granny Smith apples and maple roasted pecans, or crab cakes Benedict: a Charleston crab cake and poached egg served on an everything bagel with peppers, onions, sautéed spinach and aioli.
Throughout the year, Clevedale offers wine and dinner pairings, wine tastings, and music programs featuring bands or soloists. For Valentine’s Day, a guest chef prepares a four-course dinner with a wine pairing. In February, Brevard-based jazz chanteuse Rockell Scott will perform at this special event.
Clevedale has received national attention, including recent inclusion on Forbes list of 7 Black-Owned Hotels Across the U.S. to Visit on Your Next Road Trip. Paul is a retired Episcopal priest and a contributor to Preaching Black Lives (Matter), a collection of reflections about social justice. Pontheolla worked for an NPR affiliate in Columbia, S.C., and then a Washington, D.C.-based media organization before following her lifelong dream to own a bed-and-breakfast.
For couples with a need for speed, the BMW Performance Driving School is just the ticket for adrenaline junkies. A professional driver leads participants through three experiences in various BMW models on a private off-road course and racetrack. The adventure ends with a hot lap: A trip around the track at top speed. Though not for the weak-kneed, BMW staff members make it a fun opportunity to try something different.
If you prefer a slower pace, Spartanburg’s parks and preserves offer plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, kayak and canoe. Two options are Glendale Shoals Preserve & Waterfalls and Croft State Park. Rent a bicycle from Spartanburg BCycle and explore the 2.1-mile Mary Black Rail Trail, or follow the Spartanburg Revolutionary War Trail to learn about battles in and around the city. A visit to the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site provides insight into this significant fight won by the Patriot militia in the American Revolution. Guided tours are available. Travel through time on the British Camp Trail and the Battlefield Trail, with views of the Enoree River and Horseshoe Falls.
Spartanburg features restaurants and shops in a walkable downtown. Morgan Square is the center of the city’s business district, hosting special events and home to restaurants such as Delaney’s Irish Pub and The Crepe Factory.
The Kennedy’s small plates and handcrafted cocktails are served in an art deco-inspired setting. Heirloom’s brisket, buttermilk chicken or pork tenderloin will fuel tomorrow’s adventures. The farm-to-table restaurant, housed in the former Spartan Mills, is inspired by the city’s textile-mill history. Make a stop at AC Hotel’s Level 10 Rooftop Restaurant or Bar 1884 for drinks.
Just 2 miles away, the revitalized Drayton Mills adds more options for coffee, meals and drinks: Dray Bar & Grill, Holliday Brewing and Mozza Roasters, to name a few. SP
GETTING THERE: Spartanburg is a straight shot from Charlotte: A 90-minute drive on Interstate 85 South. Check out visitspartanburg.com to learn more about the city.
photographs by OneSpartanburg, Inc., Chris Rogers, J.W. Boom, Pontheolla Mack Abernathy, BMW Performance Driving School