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Old March 3rd, 2012, 02:42 PM   #1
hauntedheadnc
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The rural American South: Rutherford County, North Carolina

Forest City, NC -- Presidents' Day, 2012

Welcome to Forest City, NC... a little slice of Dixiana. Quintessential Southern small town Americana, in other words. It's located a little more than an hour to the southeast of Asheville, en route to Charlotte or, if you're so inclined, the Greenville-Spartanburg metrosprawlitan area of Upstate South Carolina.

Forest City is located in Rutherford County, in the foothills as the mountains of Western North Carolina descend to the flatlands of the NC Piedmont, and it's one of a string of little towns clustered in the heart of the county. In addition to Forest City, you also have the towns of Ruth, Spindale, and the county seat of Rutherfordton right there in a clump. Each has its own -- however small -- downtown, their own residential areas, and because Rutherford County used to be an industrial powerhouse of textile mills, their own collection of hulking factory buildings.

Were all of these little towns part of the same town, they would make up a fairly substantial little place. Apart, each has their own charms, but they seem to fail to live up to their potential. It doesn't help that the textile industry in North Carolina has been annihilated. Rutherford County was marketing itself as a new retirement destination due to its pleasant landscape, unhurried pace, and a climate warmer than the already-established retirement destinations up in the mountains, like Asheville and Hendersonville. The effort was beginning to show some fruit just as the recession hit hard. As a result, Rutherford County has for the most part gone back to sleep.

My boyfriend and I found ourselves in Forest City because we were looking to kill some time while my mother was seeing a doctor down here. Why they won't send her to a doctor less than an hour away from her home I don't know. You would think that there's a shortage of them in Asheville and Hendersonville, or something. But at any rate, we took her down there and had some lunch, and set out to take a walk.

Here's what we saw.



Forest City's Main Street.







Thanks to the collapse of the textile industry, Rutherford County has more than its share of grit. I have family down here, living in an old neighborhood built for the workers of a mill that's no longer in operation. Neighborhoods like that aren't at all uncommon in Rutherford County.



Downtown Forest City is a fairly practical place. People still shop there. All of the little towns of Rutherford County are glued together by suburban sprawl, and people shop there too, but Forest City is a somewhat utilitarian place. It has some nice restaurants, antique shops and art galleries, but also a healthy selection of appliance stores, furniture stores, clothing stores, and the like.

Meanwhile if you were wondering, Spindale and Ruth also have workaday downtowns, while Rutherfordton's is a little fancier -- as would fit its status as the county seat, after all.











Sadly, there's too much of this kind of thing in downtown Forest City.

















There's one of those derelict textile mills. Not sure if anything is being done with it nowadays, but a nice park had been built on the way up to it.





An awful lot of flags. Forest City apparently goes all out for Presidents Day. however, it being Presidents Day, all the banks and government offices (like the library) were closed, and several stores were closed just because it was Monday. That meant that downtown was fairly dead, although several restaurants seemed pretty busy.









A little touch of art deco was nice to find. Unfortunately, the sidewalks were so narrow that it was hard to find a good vantage point to take a picture of it.









Rutherford County is part of something called the Thermal Belt, which is an area that stays considerably warmer than other nearby areas thanks to several unique geographical and meteorological characteristics. Just an hour away in Asheville-Hendersonville, nothing keeps its leaves in the winter. Down here, some of the pin oaks on Main Street are green all year round.















Forest City Town Hall. Not too shabby. I noticed as we drove in that the fire department, which used to be located here, and some town offices had relocated to shiny new digs on the road that leading into downtown.















Running down the center of Main Street are areas of parking and brick sidewalks that occasionally bulge out into little park-like squares. Some feature flower beds and monuments, and the biggest features this fountain.













I really like the name of this street.





Interestingly enough, Forest City was this town's second name. Originally it was called Burnt Chimney.



I highly doubt, however, that this was the actual burnt chimney that so inspired the original settlers. it's just another monument in the middle of Main Street.







Goodbye from Forest City. Try visiting on a Tuesday instead.

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Old March 3rd, 2012, 02:45 PM   #2
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Rutherfordton, NC -- March 2, 2012

Another week, another trip to Rutherford County to take my mother to see her doctor down there. The last time my boyfriend and I took her down there, we passed the time while she was seeing her doctor by heading over to downtown Forest City, which is one of the four small towns comprising the little urban clump at the heart of the county. The other three are Spindale, Ruth, and... Rutherfordton, the county seat.

Naturally, as befits its status as the county seat of government, Rutherfordton is considerably grander than the other communities in the clump. The county courthouse is here, for example, and it's also where the majority of the mill-owners, as well as the county's professionals such as doctors and lawyers, settled as the area grew. As a result, here are the government buildings, the biggest churches, and all the nicest houses because Rutherfordton was where the county's money settled.

However, there is another aspect to Rutherfordton that is even more important, and it is this: Just as Rouen serves as France's secret code-word city, its name unpronounceable except by locals born and bred in the area, so too does Rutherfordton's name defeat all but the locals. And even attempting to spell out the pronunciation phonetically will trip us up.

"RUHTH-fuh-ton" is close, but not quite right, and I've just spent the past five minutes repeating the city's name out loud and I'm still unable to transcribe it just right.

No matter. Here is Rutherfordton.



Now, you may wonder why I chose such music for such an out-of-the-way backwater, and the reason is because it's a nice jazz tune and in the Jazz Age, Rutherfordton was a community on its way up. Rutherford County at that time was a humming hub of the textile industry and its towns were booming. I'd like to think that good things lie in the future for Rutherford County again someday.

































































































































































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Old March 3rd, 2012, 04:17 PM   #3
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interesting and informative new thread for the rural american south...thanks for sharing
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Old March 3rd, 2012, 04:25 PM   #4
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Interesting thread.... the town seems to be somewhat dense compared to others I have seen in the rural US.
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Old March 3rd, 2012, 10:53 PM   #5
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Very nice photos! Thanks for posting them
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Old March 3rd, 2012, 11:26 PM   #6
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Very interesting thread Thank you for the photos and all the info
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Old March 4th, 2012, 11:57 AM   #7
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Interesting and very nice town; thanks for those photos
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Old March 4th, 2012, 12:19 PM   #8
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Very interesting pictures. THX for sharing.
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Old March 4th, 2012, 04:37 PM   #9
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Thanks for looking, everyone! I appreciate it.
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Old March 4th, 2012, 07:23 PM   #10
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Very nice photos, interesting places too
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Old March 4th, 2012, 10:59 PM   #11
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Interesting pictures from North Carolina. Thanks.
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Old March 5th, 2012, 04:40 AM   #12
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Ok, the town itself looks like shit. But the photos taken are quite nice in their composition. Thanks for sharing.
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Old March 5th, 2012, 04:50 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goschio View Post
Ok, the town itself looks like shit. But the photos taken are quite nice in their composition. Thanks for sharing.
?? I think it's nice.



And thanks for sharing I think I've driven through Forest City once.
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Old March 5th, 2012, 05:41 AM   #14
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EconomyIn 2010, Rutherford County was selected as the location for a new $450 million dollar data center for Facebook.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutherf...North_Carolina
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Old March 5th, 2012, 05:17 PM   #15
hauntedheadnc
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Thank you to everyone who posted a reply!

Quote:
Originally Posted by goschio View Post
Ok, the town itself looks like shit. But the photos taken are quite nice in their composition. Thanks for sharing.
Well, I'll agree that they'll never win any beauty contests but saying they look like shit might be a bit harsh. They weren't built with tourists in mind and never attracted the rich and famous, the way Asheville did. The towns of Rutherford County were built with one purpose: to make cloth. The factories produced the cloth, their neighborhoods housed the people who made the cloth, their commercial districts sold the cloth and sold things to the people who made it. That was it. Mill towns usually aren't known for being beautiful.

And now, considering that its main industry has moved to Southeast Asia, Rutherford County is having to reinvent itself. It's having some success...

Quote:
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EconomyIn 2010, Rutherford County was selected as the location for a new $450 million dollar data center for Facebook.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutherf...North_Carolina
That, and a multimillion-dollar mineral processing facility. Meanwhile, the county is also trying to fill its existing industrial facilities. Some of the pretty, older buildings have been chopped up into office space and business incubators, while the government is trying to bring new manufacturers in to fill the newer buildings that lack any semblance of charm. I wish them well. As I mentioned in the thread, I have family down there and I know how hard they had it as the textile mills shut down one by one.
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Old March 6th, 2012, 05:36 PM   #16
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Great photos!
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