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Preserve America Community:
Aiken, South Carolina

Aiken, South Carolina, (population 29,750) got its start when William Moseley established a trading post in the area in 1790. In 1830, William Aiken, Sr., president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, built a line to connect Charleston with Hamburg, South Carolina, that ran through what would become Aiken. In 1833, the first train arrived in the newly established town of Aiken, and the city was incorporated in 1835.  

After the Civil War, Aiken began to attract wealthy northerners, who were lured to the area by equestrian sports. Aiken’s celebrated “Winter Colony” included such eminent visitors as Elizabeth Arden, Thomas Hitchcock, William C. Whitney, and Harold Vanderbilt.  

Aiken is rich in historic homes and buildings from the Winter Colony years, including the Willcox (1898), an elegant inn that was a Winter Colony gathering place, and Rose Hill (1900), built as a winter home by Col. Sheffield Phelps and the first Aiken property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A 2,000 acre urban forest, Hitchcock Woods, is located in the center of town.  

In the early 1950s, the Savannah River Site, an atomic energy plant, was built in Aiken County and remains a major employer in the region. 

Aiken holds a Black History Parade each February and celebrates the community’s agricultural heritage in November at the Farmer’s Market, when farmers dress in vintage clothing and demonstrate the use of antique farm and kitchen tools.  

The community recently restored the “Aiken Colored Cemetery” (Pine Lawn Cemetery), which gained National Register listing in 2006. The cemetery dates to 1852 and includes gravesites of veterans from the Civil War to the present, ministers, teachers, paupers, slaves, and former slaves. Headstones illustrate common black burial customs over a period of more than 150 years.  

For more information

City of Aiken: www.aiken.net

Aiken County Historical Society: www.aikencountyhistoricalsociety.org

Posted March 16, 2009

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