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Greenville, SC 29611
Greenville of the mid-1800s saw a thriving commercial district known as the West End springing up just across the Reedy River, the wealthy building their fashionable homes there. Beyond was mostly vacant land waiting for enterprising entrepreneurs to use in building their fortunes. When the new century dawned, the Westside became the center of Greenville's textile industry. In the next dozen years a whole series of cotton mills were built there – Brandon, Woodside, Monaghan, Judson, and Dunean - which employed thousands of workers, many of whom were Appalachian farmers who came in hopes of finding a more economically secure livelihood. The mill companies built and maintained mill villages which included houses, schools, churches, and community centers. The mill sports teams were a major focus of community spirit. Famed baseball hero Shoeless Joe Jackson got his start at Brandon Mills.
Eventually, the textile era came to an end. The mills sold off their villages after World War II, and foreign competition forced many of them to close by the 1980s. The Westside neighborhoods declined. However, in the 1990s redevelopment programs began reversing the trend. Some of the old mill buildings have been converted into upscale apartments, and a fair number of artists have set up shop in the area.
In the heyday of the mills, the Greenville County Library Bookmobile regularly visited the schools and mills of the Westside. With the decline of the mills there arose a clear need for a Library branch. The West Branch was opened on July 5, 1975, in a storefront at the corner of Easley Bridge Road and West Washington Avenue. The branch opened with little fanfare, and the circulation figures stayed low – no doubt because of the economic hardships and the low average education levels of the area. A new era dawned, however, with the opening of the new branch on Anderson Road on October 26, 2003. The community supported its furnishing with many individual gifts, investing in a fine building and collection that are a great help and a source of pride to its citizens.