Turn Back Time in Saluda

Turn Back Time in Saluda

Time seems to stand still in the pleasant town of Saluda

As you stroll along the peaceful streets of Saluda, it’s easy to allow yourself to be carried back into the early days of the community when residents rocked on the porches of the lovely Victorian homes and listened to the hiss of the trains that brought lowcountry visitors up the mountain to escape the heat. Even in the late 1800s, word had spread about the “thermal belt” in the Blue Ridge Mountains where warm air collected and moderated the temperature throughout the year.

Today, the town remains a prime attraction for visitors seeking pleasant weather, small-town friendliness and charm, and a place to slow down and savor the moment. The historic district, where Victorian homes still reign, has a business area steeped in history. Pace’s Store has been a focal point of downtown Saluda since 1899 and remains a marvel of timelessness.

Locals will tell you there’s been a Thompson running a store on Main Street. for almost as long as there’s been a town. Thompson’s Store, founded in 1890, is the oldest grocery store in the state of North Carolina and still serves the community. Ward’s Grill was added to the store in the late 1950s, and is a guaranteed step back in time with many a homemade sausage biscuit and chili cheeseburger having passed over the counter to locals and visitors. Among the most popular items are homemade cornbread salad and the CJ Burger, a legendary combination of ground beef and sage-flavored sausage.

After leaving the counter, a stroll down Saluda’s Main Street is probably a good idea. Plus this is a designated North Carolina Scenic Byway along which are a number of key sites, such as the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration and the Orchard Inn, both on the National Register of Historic Places. Another worthwhile excursion is to the Green River Plantation, located about 20 miles from Saluda on the Rutherford/Polk county line. This restored 42-room mansion was built in 1804 and also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s obvious history’s call is strong in and around Saluda, but so is nature’s. Nearby is the 10,000-acre Green River Game Lands where you can fish, hike, canoe or just enjoy the tranquil mountain vistas. Or drive the 10-mile Pacolet River Byway that follows the Pacolet River from Tryon to Saluda, providing glimpses of waterfalls, wildflowers and beautiful landscape. One natural site not to be missed along this scenic journey is Pearson’s Falls. This North Carolina Heritage Site offers an easy quarter-mile walk up a well-maintained path to a 90-foot waterfall. The glorious view is accented by the wildflowers that populate the river’s edge and rock ledges, and the picnic tables make it a perfect lunch spot.

And if you’re looking for a special event to give you an excuse to come to Saluda, consider the annual Arts Festival or the Coon Dog Day Festival, billed as a homecoming and celebration for dogs and their people with food, live music, a parade and street dance.

No matter what you do when you visit Saluda, you’ll find yourself settling into a relaxing small-town rhythm.

Gary Carter

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