From Sumterville to Sumter: A history on the city - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

From Sumterville to Sumter: A history on the city

(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)
SUMTER, SC (WIS) -

Established in the early 1800's, Sumter was once called Sumterville. After the city began thriving and developing, settlers dropped the "ville" and the city of Sumter was born.

The streets of downtown Sumter are filled with booming businesses. But that wasn't always the case.

"Many of the buildings were made out of wood and were constructed of wood," local historian Sammy Way said. "Sumter had a history of several fires until 1875 when the ordinance came down no more wood buildings." 

Way, a life-long Sumter resident, has spent more than 50 years studying the history of Sumter. Way says settlers spent years building up the downtown area.

"Sumter was growing," Way said. "The idea was that somewhere in the Sumter district there has got to be a geographical center point. At that point, they wanted to build a courthouse where it stands now on Main Street."

Over the next century downtown Sumter continued to grow. From clothing stores to gas stations and even movie theaters the city was on the rise until the 1980's.

"In 1980, Sumter opened its first mall," Way said. "People who normally shopped here were now going to the mall because it was an inside mall. You can go in regardless of the weather." 

In the early 2000's city leaders set out to rebuild and restore the area.

"We started a little festival downtown to get people here," Mayor Joe McElveen said. "We did the streetscape, made it look nice." 

McElveen says over the next year there will be more than $25 million invested in the downtown area alone.

"In a few months we'll break ground on a hotel right across the street from our Opera House," McElveen said. "Apartments are online to be built. We just had an architectural office open on Liberty Street. The Item newspaper is going to be locating on Liberty Street. Just lots and lots of things like that going on ."

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