The City has many landmarks that are significant to its rich Black history. From schools, churches, homes, businesses and cultural centers, these locations have played a vital role in shaping the City's past and present. They serve as a testament to Greenville's Black community's resilience, determination and spirit, and they hold historical, educational and cultural value. As the City continues to grow and evolve, it is important to recognize and preserve these sites and honor the Black community's contributions to the City's history.
WORKING MAN'S BENEVOLENT TEMPLE
Built in 1920, the Working Benevolent State Grand Lodge of South Carolina made their headquarters at 131 Falls Street in downtown Greenville. From there, the organization focused on Black health, welfare and burial benefits.
"It was dedicated in 1922, the year after Tulsa burnt down. It was built by [the community's] hands, their own design and mortgage-free," says Efia Nwangaza known as Mama Efia, a social activist and instrumental figure in getting the Temple added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Known locally as the Working Man's Benevolent Temple, the building was a significant hub for Black businesses in Greenville and home to several Black medical professionals, including doctors and dentists. The Temple also served as a means to attract Black professionals to Greenville at a time when Black people were forced to rely on resources within their own community due to segregation.
The building housed businesses that catered to the needs of the Black community, from insurance firms, lawyers and a newspaper to Greenville's first black mortuary. Despite its success through several decades, businesses slowly abandoned the Temple, beginning in the mid-1960s.
According to Ms. Nwangaza, desegregation played a vital role in the Temple's decline. "Black people felt better about going outside of the community. It became a measure of our social status to be able to go into white businesses," she said.
The building continued to be used for various purposes until it was sold in the early 1980s and renovated into office space in 1985; today, the space is home to Nelson & Galbreath in downtown Greenville.
Other Notable Historic Locations
Mark V Studios
Mark V Studios recorded the Sounds of the South for nearly 30 years. The studio’s first location was in a rented building at 78 Mayberry Street near what is now Unity Park. From 1961 to 1990 the studio was a nationally respected producer of music.
Grammy award winner Moses Dillard began his career there. In 1970, Dillard formed the band "Tex-Town Display," with a lineup that included Peabo Bryson. Their recording of "I've got to Find a Way" sold 250,000 copies nationwide.
Working Man's Benevolent Temple
The Working Benevolent State Grand Lodge of South Carolina built their headquarters at 131 Falls Street in downtown Greenville in 1922, and the Temple became a hub for Black businesses in Greenville, offering medical services and attracting Black professionals at a time when segregation was still prevalent. The building housed businesses ranging from insurance firms and lawyers to Greenville's first black mortuary.
However, the Temple's success declined starting in the mid-1960s as Black people in Greenville started relying on resources outside their community due to desegregation. The building was eventually sold in the 1980s and is now home to Nelson & Galbreath in downtown Greenville. Efia Nwangaza, an instrumental figure in getting the Temple added to the National Register of Historic Places, stated, "It was built by [the community's] hands, their own design and mortgage-free."
Matoon Presbyterian Church
Built by former slaves in 1887, was once the only parochial school for African-American children in Greenville County. It is the oldest African-American Presbyterian church in Greenville County. The two-story red brick church on Hampton Avenue still operates today.
Sterling High School
Greenville’s oldest, and for more than 50 years its only black high school, was destroyed by fire in 1967. Students were dancing at a senior class party when the disc jockey told them to leave the building as quickly and calmly as possible. Only the gym and a small music building were left standing. The gym was turned into a community center in 1970.
Allen Temple AME Church
Allen Temple AME Church was organized during Reconstruction as a mission church and was formally organized as a separate congregation in 1881. Juan Benito Molina, a Cuban-born and -educated architect and the only black architect practicing in Greenville in the early 20th century, designed the current building, which was built in 1929-30.
JOHN WESLEY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
The Rev. James R. Rosemond was a “slave preacher” before the Civil War. After the war, he organized several black churches in Greenville, Anderson, and Pickens counties, including John Wesley United Methodist Church, which was one of the earliest separate black congregations in the state. The foundation of the current church at East Court and Falls streets, the congregation’s third building, was laid in 1899.
Richland Memorial Cemetery
A historic African American cemetery in Greenville, SC, serving as the final resting place for generations of African Americans. Despite challenges over the years, restoration efforts have preserved its rich cultural heritage and history. It serves as a reminder of the Black community's contributions to the city's growth and development.