Town square’s new look recalls the old days
The Public Square in Laurens, S.C., is the only intact square in the state. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, the square features Laurens County’s original courthouse (built in 1838) surrounded by commercial buildings, many of which date back to 1885.
Four years ago, Laurens began working with Main Street Laurens, a public-private partnership associated with the Washington, D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation, to revitalize its downtown. The team wanted to make the downtown area a more attractive destination for visitors, artists, young professionals and families. Efforts got under way with the restoration of sidewalks and historic lighting in the town’s four-acre Public Square.
At one time, downtown Laurens boasted lighting from the 1920s, as well as brick streets and sidewalks. However, during renovation efforts in the 1960s, the historic lighting fixtures were removed and sold to nearby Furman College, and the brick streets and sidewalks were paved over.
In 1998, city officials decided to restore the lights and sidewalks on the square to accurately recall the square’s original details. The city selected a composite lamppost and luminaires manufactured by Denver-based W.J. Whatley to replicate the historic lighting. It installed the fixtures in March 2001 at a cost of approximately $100,000.
In addition to installing period lighting, the city has installed sand-swept brick sidewalks and benches on the courthouse grounds and around the square. The entire renovation project cost about $500,000. In spring 2003, the city plans to construct an amphitheater in a green space just one block off the courthouse square and to expand a trail that runs along the Little River east of downtown.