PENDLETON — The first phase of renovations to historic Hunter’s Store in Pendleton is done, and $400,000 of grant money has restored the 1850-era building’s foundation.
The question is, did all that work scare the ghost away?
Those who’ve seen him don’t refer to him as a Casper the Friendly Ghost type. This one’s got a history. And it’s not a happy one.
The two-story Hunter’s Store, built in 1850, is to be used as a home for a historical archive, exhibits of merchandise and equipment from the era when the store operated, and a research library, said Vicki Fletcher, Pendleton District Historical, Recreational and Tourism Commission executive director.
The store sits on East Queen Street, catty-corner to the square of Pendleton’s historic downtown. It was once the Walmart of its time, offering everything from groceries to ladies’ hats. It remained in business from the 1850s to 1929, when the owners moved to a building next door, closing the original structure, Fletcher said.
The historical group received a $400,000 grant in December 2006 and about three weeks ago completed a major reworking of the foundation, added a new roof and needed ductwork. Fletcher had hoped to save some of the grant money for other work to the building, but the foundation restoration was so extensive, there wasn’t any left over.
“Most of what was part of that $400,000 no one’s going to get to see, but the building’s not going to fall down,” Fletcher said.
Now, Fletcher and others are trying to raise $700,000 to complete restoration of the building and also make it usable for the public for visits and historical research. The restoration also would include establishment of a climate-controlled area for historical documents. Her timetable for work, she says, begins when the $700,000 is raised.
But that diverts from the big question about the ghost.
The story is that in the late 1800s the Hunter brothers aided a man who fell off his horse into 18 Mile Creek on his way home. Rather than take him home to his wife, who would have been, how to say it, unkind, to her drinking hubby, the brothers took him to the caretaker’s apartment on the second floor of the store and left him on a cot, soaking wet, Fletcher said. It had been warm during the day, so they thought nothing of letting him sober up and dry off there.
Unfortunately, the temperatures dropped below freezing that night, and when they went to check on him the next day, he had died of hypothermia.
Two notations on a wall in the historic Hunter’s Store are, “May 21, 1898, cold,” and “May 1884, very cold.” Fletcher, who has an experience with the ghost, said they may be notations related to the death.
Jo McConnell, Pendleton Historic District tour/events coordinator, was working in the store one day when she says she had a close encounter. She had heard the story and reports of workers hearing something fall, then scurrying footsteps.
On this day — the date she doesn’t recall — “I got up from my desk and was walking around the corner to the water fountain. There was a corner alcove that I passed,” McConnell said. “When I looked, I had an impression of a black silhouette, a man with his shoulders hunched over. He had very curly, bushy hair, boots and a black, wrinkled suit.
“I had the feeling like he was trying to hide.”
A co-worker heard McConnell gasp and said she looked ill.
“It was not a warm and fuzzy feeling,” McConnell said.
When McConnell turned back, the image was gone.
McConnell said others have seen images, and that a 5-year-old at the store visiting with his grandfather once asked who “that man” was. When his grandfather and others went to investigate, there was nothing there, she said.
Another person reported seeing a man with lots of curly hair and a black suit standing in the store, she said.
Whether the ghost will return, only time will tell.
But Fletcher’s plans are to turn the structure into a working museum. The Pendleton historic group conducted an event March 13 to recognize the work done in Phase I and to begin planning for Phase II. Already, the group has received a $20,000 grant from the S.C. Heritage Corridor and $11,000 in accommodations tax funds from Anderson County.
Terence Hassan, fundraising committee chairman, said the three goals are to complete exterior restoration, return the first floor to an authentic, mid-19th century general store atmosphere and create archival space on the second floor.
“When these three goals are achieved, the region will have a first-class visitor center and historic research facility, and our collection and staff will be able to return ‘home’ to Hunter’s Store,” Hassan said in a statement.
For information about tours of the store, call McConnell at (864) 646-3782.