Paris Mountain State Park - a sturdy wooden bridge with a reddish-brown railing, supported by stone pillars, extending across the frame from the left foreground to the midground on the right. Surrounding the bridge is an abundance of lush green trees under bright sunlight
Foot Bridge built by the CCC beside Lake Placid

Civilian Conservation Corps in South Carolina

The most popular program of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was easily the Civilian Conservation Corps. The program was aimed at helping unmarried and unemployed young men by providing meaningful work where they lived in CCC camps away from home and learned a trade. The families back home benefited in having one less mouth to feed and the CCC member was expected to send some of his pay back to help support his family. People in host communities benefited by having new forms of outdoor recreation after “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” finished their work. Many of these communities had little or no access to recreation facilities before. During the nine year lifetime of the CCC, they built more than 800 state parks across the United States. Sixteen of those parks are right here in South Carolina. Some of these parks offer a glimpse into the CCC’s rise and eventual fall.

Kings Mountain Parks

log cabin with a front porch and a chimney on the right side. A single door and window in the front and a single window on the left side.
The privy at the Living History Farm was originally at the Kings Mountain Military Park where it served as a station of CCC guides to the battlefield.

Kings Mountain is one of the more interesting Civilian Conservation Corp projects in South Carolina for a number of reasons. For one, the Kings Mountain tract of land was broken into two separate projects and managed in two separate CCC camps in the Bethany Community of York County. The first was Kings Mountain National Military Park authorized by Congress on March 3,1931 and work completed by Camp Military Park-1 (MP-1).

1815 Chronicle Marker (on the left) is the first marker placed at Kings Mountain. As the inscription eroded, a second marker (right) was erected to preserve the original text.

The Military Park built on the site of the Battle of Kings Mountain was already fairly well developed. The first marker on the battlefield was placed in 1815 and over the course of the following century, many more monuments were placed. The CCC’s role was largely building roads and clearing brush. Their work helped open the historic site up to more people and they worked as tour guides for a time passing on the story of the battle. They didn’t plan any recreation facilities here because of the much larger project going on about a mile away.

stonework steps leading up seen from the left angle with small wall to the right side
The stone steps and retaining wall around the bathhouse typify CCC stone work using local materials in whet was referred to as “parkitecture”

Civilian Conservation Corp Camp State Park-7 (SP-7) was in charge of building Kings Mountain State Park. The National Parks Service selected Kings Mountain State Part as a Recreation Demonstration Area (RDA), one of only two in the state and one of forty-six in the nation. The RDA’s concept would take worn out and sub-marginal farmland and transform it into recreational facilities focusing on low income groups. During the rest of the Great Depression and World War II, these affordable recreational facilities gave the locals a much needed break from the stresses of the day.

water flowing over old dam on left then splinting around a small island before reconnecting and flowing under bridge
The area behind the CCC built dam would be a great place for a picnic, but bring a blanket because there aren’t any tables.

Aside from being one of only a handful of Recreation Demonstration Areas in the country, many of the buddings at Kings Mountain State Park became the models that the National Parks Service used when constructing other parks around the country. Those include latrines, camper cabins, and counselor cabins. Other construction at the park that included overflow dams to create two lakes, the wooden bathhouse, and the impressive stone work around the bath house culminating with the steps to lake. Roads were built and hiking trails around both parks were laid out.

stone staircase leading up to brown wooden building in wooded area
CCC Bathhouse with stairs leading down to the lake.

Paris Mountain State Park

Civilian Conservation Corps constructed bathhouse at Paris Mountain State Park - Stone single story building on a hill with a small stone wall in front and a single stone staircase leading down to a landing where a pair of stone stairs begin to another landing and finally a single stone staircase leads to the base of the hill - a stone retaining wall runs along the length of the of the base of the hill.
Once the center of activity at Paris Mountain State Park, the Bathhouse built from locally sourced stone has been repurposed to the park visitor center and office. It remains one of the best surviving examples of CCC construction in the southeast.

Unlike other CCC parks around the state, the lakes at Paris Mountain predated the Great Depression by almost thirty years. Built in the 1890 to provide a water supply for Greenville county and later used as a resort before the company that owned the land went bankrupt. What the Civilian Conservation Corp did was come in and build the state park infrastructure that still survives to this day.

wooden bridge built atop stone pillars across a ravine with lake in background
Foot Bridge built by the CCC beside Lake Placid

In fact, Paris Mountain State Park boasts some of the best examples of CCC workmanship found in South Carolina. Like all early CCC projects, Paris Mountain retains the rustic style of park design with a focus on both recreation and conservation. The buildings were constructed with local materials so to not stand out too much from the natural surroundings. Paths and walkways too blend seamlessly into the surroundings, and landscaping was focused on not just looking nice but prioritizing native plants and removing invasive species of flora.

wooden picnic shelter with 2 fireplaces
Picnic shelter built by the CCC at the Sulphur Springs parking area

Most of the buildings at the park today were built by the CCC including picnic areas, swimming area, administration buildings, and the impressive stone bathhouse that’s currently used as the park office. Deep in the park in a secluded mountain cove, the CCC built Buckhorn Organized Group Camp around 1936 that’s still in use today. The camp consists of a lodge and accompanying cabins along Lake Buckhorn and can be rented by groups with a two night minimum. Otherwise, the camp isn’t accessible.

Rustic lodge built brown in color with wooden fence infront
Lodge building at Camp Buckhorn

Lake Greenwood State Park

water fountain made of large stones
Stone Water Fountain near Shelter #1 built by the CCC

Lake Greenwood State Park clearly illustrates the final days of the Civilian Conservation Corps. In the late 1930’s he Public Works Administration (PWA) was building a hydroelectric dam along the Saluda River and the lake was expected to offer 40 miles of shoreline. This new lake gave the CCC an opportunity to build a new state park providing much needed recreation facilities to the surrounding area.

Wooden picnic shelter with two chimneys open area around front with columns and picnic tables
Picnic shelter #1 at Lake Greenwood State Park completed by the CCC

Plans for the park were approved in May of 1938 with construction beginning that fall when CCC Company 2413 arrived. As the dam wouldn’t be completed until 1940, most of the CCC’s work at this time was harvesting resourced like timber and living plants for landscaping from the are that would soon be flooded to form the lake. Even as the dam was completed and Lake Greenwood began to fill, support of the Civilian Conservation Corp was waning at the Federal Level, but then the unthinkable happened.

unfinished wall curving to the left. only the right side is completed as it follows the curve it gets lower and lower until it is only a single stone high
A wall started by the CCC just days before the attack at Pearl Harbor.

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the US Navy Pacific Headquarters at Pearl Harbor. War had come, and men throughout the country rushed to enlist, and that included the men serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Shovels were dropped and projects left unfinished all over the country, but especially at Lake Greenwood. A memo dated March 6, 1942 informed those still at Greenwood that their camp was to be abandoned within the week.

Large rough cut stones laying randomly in the woods.
When word arrived of Pearl Harbor, workers rushed to enlist leaving these stones.

The most striking example of this shift to a wartime focus is right at the entrance to the park. The CCC had planned a large stone entrance way to the park. Work had begun, but had to be abandoned. The work that was completed still stands today – unfinished, and the woods are full of roughly cut stone waiting to be fashioned into the entrance wall. But if you look closely, you’ll see other examples of the work left undone.

Stone Retaining Wall at Lake Greenwood State Park - Stone wall with grass on the right side and lake on the left - at the end of the wall there's a small landing where a series of steps lead down to the water adjacent to the wall.
The retaining wall of the boat basin was designed by the CCC and built with locally quarried stone.

The original plan called for a number of picnic shelters to be built along the lake, unfortunately only Picnic Shelter #1 was finished by the time the camp was abandoned. The others shelters were built in the years to come, and while they may pay homage to the original CCC design, differences are obvious. The manager’s house and a pump house were completed. Much of the roads including the circle drive in front of the modern office were completed as well as much of the landscaping.

stone retaining wall at edge of lake with steps leading to water on left side
CCC retaining wall behind the park office.

The rest of the park was built in the following years, often times trying to follow the original CCC plans. Of the projects completed later, the stone retaining wall of the boat basin was the most successful. Looking at it, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.