The City Hall, erected in 1994 in South Carolina’s golden Corner in the heart of historic downtown Seneca, presents an ideal venue for the Seneca Bell Gallery. The Gallery is featured on the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor Arts Trail. The art collection highlights Seneca’s history from 1873 to the present. Seneca, a railroad town, was named for a 1700’s Indian village Esseneca located on the banks of the nearby Seneca River. The City, chartered in 1874 as “Seneca City”, dropped “City” from its name in 1906.
The metal sculptures gracing the Gallery were gifts from Mrs. Bell and the “Friends of the Gallery.” The thiry framed historical photographs were chosen from the Bruce and Louise Matheson Bell collections showcased in Mrs. Bell’s book, Seneca, Visions of Yesterday, published in 2005.
The stained glass windows depicting the history of Seneca are located in the arch at the rear of the Gallery. These windows were once only a vision in the mind of Louise Matheson Bell, the City’s Historian, but became a reality in 2006. In that year, stained glass artist Robert Crenshaw of Seneca created the design and crafted the windows. The project was funded by the Greys of Oconee chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy with proceeds from sales of Mrs. Bell’s 1984 book, Rebels in Grey.
Nestled in the Foothills of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Seneca is home to residential and commercial properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dubbed “The City of Opportunity” at its founding, Seneca still claims its title. With the cool waters of pristine Lake Keowee, lake Jocassee, and Lake Hartwell nearby, the area offers many recreational opportunities.
Native foliage including mountain laurel, dogwood, rhododendron, wild azalea, and the rare Oconee Bell (Oconee County’s official flower), flourish on the hillsides and in the lush river valleys. Magnificent waterfalls and abundant wildlife make hiking the many mountain trails or casting for trout in wild mountain streams a wonderful experience. Fishing the lake waters, visiting the state and county parks or canoeing and kayaking on the scenic Chattooga River are great recreational adventures year round. Favorably positioned between Atlanta, Georgia, and Greenville, South Carolina, just minutes away from Clemson University, Seneca and Oconee County have gained national acclaim for its natural beauty, quaint towns, antique shopping and as a favorite destination for history buffs and outdoor enthusiast alike.
The Bell Gallery is an ideal place for you to begin your exploration of South Carolina’s Golden corner.
Other sites in Seneca you may wish to visit include the Lunney House Museum, Blue Ridge Arts Council, the Historic Ballenger House and Ram Cat Alley.
By Louise Matheson Bell