I grew up here. A quaint old Southern
town, former resort town for rich Yankees
such as The Buckleys
and the DuPonts. Not an imaginative
place, but kind of pretty
in a barren sort of way. Camden's the only place I've ever run across that has street signs proclaiming "Horse
s forbidden on sidewalk". This is because it is one of the bigger horse towns in South Carolina
, hosting the Carolina Cup and Colonial Cup steeplechase
races. The Carolina Cup is nominally a horse race, but really ends up being the largest outdoor cocktail party in the South.
Boasting of being the oldest inland city in South Carolina, its also notable because it escaped being burned by Sherman during the Civil War. There's actually some pretty good historic architecture in town, including Bethesda Presbyterian Church, built in the early 1800s and designed by Robert Mills.
Its also one of the settings of The Patriot, as the main headquarters of General Cornwalis during his campaigns in the Southern theatre of the Revolutionary War. The historical and culural legacy of the English is reflected in the name of this area of South Carolina, called the Olde English District.
All this said, Camden also has a lot of the less desireable elements of the rural South. The legacy of slavery is, of course, still present in the minds of some folks. Racism is on the wane, but change is slow. Furthermore, Camden has so far failed to benefit much from New South economic development. Parts of the town still resemble the turn-of-the-century (20th century, that is) mill towns that
dot the south. Especially since the downturn in the textile industry, these mill towns have gone into even greater decay than they represented in their heyday. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company built a large synthetic fibers plant in Camden in the late 1950s (which brought my family there from a similar plant in Waynesboro, Virginia) where most of the nylon in your Du Pont Stainmaster Carpets comes from, among other things, but employment at this plant has been steadily dwindling over the past two decades.
Lugoff, SC, a small town across the Wateree River (named after the Wateree tribe) has been growing rapidly as a bedroom community for Columbia, SC, but what impact this will have on Camden remains to be seen.
In the past 5 to 10 years, the downtown district of Camden has seen some revival, with several failing stores converted to nice restaurants and upscale-but-laid-back bars, along with the ubiquitous antique shops. If there, I highly recomend the Camden House of Pizza and Subs, run by Greek immigrants who've managed to beat the pants off the local Pizza Hut, and where it can be tough to get a seat.