By: Kristen Hegel
Across from the red caboose, where White and Main Street meet, stands a new downtown plaza in Fort Mill. The new park was revealed last Saturday at 10 a.m. Among the crowd were locals, Mayor Funderburk, Town Council members, Fort Mill Town Manager; David Hudspeth, and even SC representative, Ralph Norman. “It gives you a very nice vista of the downtown area,” Wink Rea, member of the non-profit organization Move Fort Mill Forward who works often in the caboose, said. “I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a project that will stand the test of time,” Mayor Funderburk stated during the dedication ceremony.
One of many excited about the project is Fort Mill town council member, Guynn Savage, who believes the new plaza improves the appearance of our downtown. “It does provide an area to sit, picnic, and reminisce. It better showcases the community’s nature to those who visit. It invites one to do more than drive pass our Main Street.” Savage, Fort Mill native, can recall an old Victorian home that sat on the hill when she was a child, “The lady who owned it bloomed hundreds of daffodils and had beautiful landscaping that added a feeling of warmth to the downtown area.” The idea of the project started a couple years ago. The first steps were taken, they put in a fence and retaining wall, but heavy rains delayed the project. For a while after, all that sat on the hill was an old black fence and a retaining wall, which was falling apart. The town wanted to bring back that “feeling of warmth” to downtown Fort Mill.
Now a brick patio area with Fort Mill’s name on it represents the newly updated downtown area. Millstone Park will serve as a new place for locals to come out and enjoy downtown Fort Mill on a regular basis, and during downtown events. There is room for picnics and relaxing, and according to Assistant Town Manager, Joe Cronin, they may soon add some benches, swings, and maybe some tables. There are also future plans to bring in some local artwork. “I think it’s pretty, it’s good for the city. Me and my wife plan on using it,” Steve Gribble, Fort Mill High School teacher and coach, said about the new plaza. The plaza is surrounded by Maple trees, which were planted last year by Fort Mill High School seniors as their senior project. This senior project saved the town a couple thousand dollars from the project’s fund, which was said to cost $184,197.
Although some residents believe there are better ways to spend the money, others say the new plaza leaves a good impression of the town. Passerby’s once drove through the downtown area that, according to Cronin, “didn’t look that appealing,” but now, whether in a car or walking, everyone can enjoy it. “It’s money well spent for the beautification of the city. I’m also looking forward to them raising money for the Veteran’s Park,” Gribble, long time Fort Mill resident, stated.
To Croning, Millstone Park makes a statement, “We get a lot of traffic that goes up and down Main Street. If you’re sitting at the traffic light, it’s really a great anchor to have at the foot of our historic district.” The center of the park contains a gristmill, and as many know, the town of Fort Mill was named after a fort and a gristmill. Cronin stated, “The millstone is recognition of the old Garrison-Webb Gristmill. Fort Mill grew up around that gristmill. People came to the mill to ground wheat and corn into usable products like cornmeal and flour. The millstone comes from the mill from which the town got its name.”
The millstone, once located in Georgia, has been relocated back to Fort Mill. “It’s a nod to Fort Mill’s history,” Cronin explained, “The fact that we were able to track down the millstone, which was a piece of this community’s history, and place it in a spot of significance. It shows our appreciation for the past, but it also gives us a good foundation as we seek to revitalize our community going forward.” Fort Mill, a fast-growing town, wants to bring back the historic town vibes with a new appealing look, Millstone Park is another big step in that direction.