•Lancaster’s Abandoned Park•
One of the most bizarre places that I visited while traveling through Lancaster County was Springs Park. It can be found just beside the Catawba River a few miles outside of town. Springs Park was a recreation park built by Springs Mills for their employees or at least that was its original purpose. Between 1940-1980 it was unlike any other welfare program built by a textile mill at the time and attracted visitors from well beyond the local area.
The park was more than just a big pool, far more. It was closer to a small scale theme park and boasted a merry-go-round, mini train rides, and miniature golf. Even with all that, Springs Park was limited compensation to the hard workers that enjoyed it. The park was no doubt an extremely valuable asset to the mill workers who were frequently overworked and underpaid.
The son of Leroy Springs, Col. Elliot Springs, built the park. It was his father who owned Springs Mills which is frequently quoted as having been the world’s largest textile plant under one roof. This sort of Mill welfare program was not uncommon throughout the Piedmont. I didn’t live in Lancaster, but I can remember seeing examples growing up. In my hometown, the local mill had its own baseball team for example. Hundreds of mill welfare programs existed in the Carolinas back in the 1920s. These were often built in retaliation to the harsh conditions that mill workers endured. They also were useful in bringing factory workers together to engage in “constructive” free time activity.
Between the opening of Carowinds in the 1970s and the descent of textile mills in the south, the park was forced to close permanently by 1989. Much of what once existed is now completely gone. Trees have sprung up where rides and concession stands once stood. The remnants of the stadium slowly continue to deteriorate. The pool is completely covered in graffiti and trash. The triple-decker diving platform has fallen into the deep end and most of the remaining structures are simply indistinguishable.
Walking down the overgrown road and standing on cracked and broken concrete, it is hard to imagine that thousands were once here. Even famous artist such as Patsy Cline once graced this spot with their presence. It always amazes me how fast the world can change, how fast we forget. Today, this location is privately owned and no longer open to the public.
Springs Park is a fine example of the seeming benevolence of southern textile mills. One that is frequently attributed as being the best swimming pool in the entire state. So while it may be merely a memory heading into 2018, it is remembered by many still. What the future holds for this abandoned corner of South Carolina is hard to say.
Location: 34.60819, -80.87863