Hartsville Attractions

In 1908, the Board of Directors of Welsh Neck High School, a private academy founded in 1894, made the progressive decision to establish a college for women. The Board named the new college in honor of its chairman, Major James Lide Coker, a well-respected industrialist, community leader and Civil War veteran. Now coeducational, Coker College is nationally recognized as one of the top regional liberal arts colleges in the country. The idyllic, tree-lined campus includes historic Georgian-style buildings and the original Welsh Neck High School bell. Visitors are welcome and can check-in at the Administration Building.

In 1903 David Coker opened Coker Experimental Farms to develop a cotton-breeding program that would produce long staple cotton that could be grown throughout the South. Over time, Coker broadened his work to include other field crops as well. By 1963, approximately 65% of the cotton acreage of the Southeast, 80% of the oat acreage, 75% of the flue-cured tobacco acreage, 40% of the hybrid corn acreage, and an increasing percentage of the soybean acreage could be traced to seed developed by Coker scientists. Today the property has been recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark, one of only 14 representing agricultural industry in the country. Plans are underway for an interpretive learning center focusing on cotton to be built on the site.

Located in the old Hartsville Train Depot (c. 1908), the Genealogical Library houses an impressive array of materials which include the South Carolina Genealogical Society Archives, the collections of the Old Darlington District Chapter, Pee Dee area newspapers from the 1820s to the early 1900s, and the genealogical collections of several local families. Each October the library is the site of a genealogical seminar on Pee Dee area research. Call for hours.

Though officially named for its many mountain laurel, the Kalmia latifolia, the 56-acre garden began as Miss May’s Folly. May Roper Coker was gifted the land by her brother-in-law. Many thought she was crazy when she divulged her plans of making the land into a garden. With a few workmen, a mule and an indomitable will, Miss May carved Kalmia Gardens out of the land. She deeded the gardens to Coker College in 1965 in memory of her husband, David Coker. Nowadays, Kalmia Gardens of Coker College is a thriving botanical attraction. New areas include an expanded boardwalk down to and along Black Creek, a sensory garden, an herb garden and a memory garden. The gardens also border the 700-acre Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve. Combined, the gardens and preserve cover an area almost as large as New York’s Central Park, earning Hartsville the nickname, The Park with the City in It.

A 707-acre tract along Black Creek, bordering Kalmia Gardens of Coker College, the Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve is a birdwatcher’s dream. It is home to pine warblers, pine siskins, brown-headed nuthatches, Acadian flycathers, prothonotary warblers, yellow-billed cuckoos, wood ducks, kingfishers, herons, and killdeer. Disclaimer: Little work has been done yet on the Preserve. As a result, the trails are extremely rustic and hiking is difficult.

The City of Hartsville’s Recreation Complex is a modern, professionally managed sports and leisure facility. The site is projected to be one of the largest of its kind in the state and will be fully lighted, supervised and monitored for the pleasure and safety of its patrons. Currently the soccer fields, bathrooms and snack bar are completed. Future plans include baseball/softball warm-up area, playground, Volleyball courts, gymnasium, Tennis courts, picnic area, walking trail, and a baseball/softball complex.

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