Lake Hartwell is filled with recreational fun and plenty of water activities, but it’s also filled with history. In fact, some of the nation’s most interesting historical sites lie within miles of the lake.
Here are 10 of the best historical sites around Lake Hartwell.
The Best Historical Sites Around Lake Hartwell
1. Take in the Georgia Guidestones (UPDATE: Guidestones were destroyed in 2022)
1031 Guide Stones Road, Elberton, GA, 30635
Ponder the meaning behind the Georgia Guidestones. source
If you have always longed to see Stonehenge, here’s your chance–no plane trip required! A short drive from Lake Hartwell lies this fascinating site.
The mysterious (and controversial) text inscribed upon the stones has ten guidelines written in eight different languages. There is a capsule located underneath the Guidestones, but no one knows what it contains—or who put it there.
Read more about the Georgia Guidestones here.
2. Stop by the Center of the World
3 miles south of Hartwell on US 29 at Marsh Lane.
The monument to the Cherokee Center of the World sits next to hwy 29 in front of the Fabritex plant.
Did you know that the center of the world is located just minutes from Lake Hartwell in Hartwell, Georgia? Okay, well maybe not according to our modern world. However, a historical monument and marker are placed where the Cherokee declared the center of their world to be. Trails used to go in every direction from this central hub, and it was also a popular spot to mingle and meet.
3. Be Wow-ed by Hartwell Dam
5625 Anderson Highway, Hartwell, GA 30643
Hartwell Dam taken January 2016
One mile away from the visitor center is the Hartwell Dam and Powerplant, constructed in 1962. It was built to harvest hydropower and navigate the stream down for flood control originally, but now also offers recreation and fish/wildlife management. The dam is currently closed to the public, but you can view the outside. You can also request a group tour, but availability is limited.
4. Step Back in Time at Hagood Mill
138 Hagood Mill Road, Pickens, SC 29671
There are several music and holiday festivals throughout the year at Hagood Mill.
Hagood Mill serves as an excellent family outing, where everyone will enjoy learning about how life was different years ago. A working gristmill allows people to watch grain being produced, and there are also demonstrations for blacksmithing, cotton ginning, milling and more. If that wasn’t enough educational fun, visitors can even learn about moonshining, weaving, bee-keeping, chair caning, open-hearth cooking and much more. Monthly music festivals on the 3rd Saturday of each month will showcase talented bluegrass and blues musicians.
5. Walk Through Cromer’s Mill Covered Bridge
Franklin Springs, Georgia
You have to see the inside of this covered bridge built in 1907. source
This 110-foot bridge is constructed with a lattice design and was built in 1907, by James M. Hunt. The Cromer family operated a woolen mill at the site, as well as a cotton gin, flour mill, and a sawmill. While operations ceased in 1943, the area is still a popular spot for tourists and locals alike to take in a bit of history.
6. Tour the Ashtabula and Woodburn historic homes
2725 Old Greenville Hwy, Central, SC and 130 History Lane, Pendleton, SC
Tour the history in Pendleton, SC. source
Both of these historic houses have been restored and are now owned by the Pendleton Historic Foundation. Visitors of all ages will enjoy strolling through the properties.
The two homes were owned by several different people and passed down from generation to generation. Each served as a plantation with households that were extremely influential in the area during their time.
While there are tours seasonally on Sunday afternoons, private tours may be arranged with reservations at any time.
7. Visit the Old Stone Church
101 Stone Circle, Clemson, SC, 29631
Tour a centuries old church in Clemson, SC. source
There’s lots to do in Clemson, and if you love old churches you have to stop by this one. This beautiful church was built in 1802, with a neat stacked-stone exterior. This building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and still serves an important role in the community. Weddings, church services, funerals, and other gatherings are held here to this day. Besides the building, the cemetery grounds are worth exploring. Notable figures such as Andrew Pickens and Robert Anderson are buried here along with patriots, pioneers of industry, soldiers and more.
8. Interpret Symbols at Hagood Creek Petroglyph Site
138 Hagood Mill Road, Pickens, South Carolina
By John Foxe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Admission is free to this incredible historic site. The site features a rock covered with 32 carvings, 18 of which are human figures. This fascinating site can be viewed in the building, where a climate-controlled viewing room was built over the petroglyph site. Outside the building lies another amazing artifact: a soapstone boulder has two carved bowls shaped into it by Native Americans over 5,000 years ago. Don’t miss it!
9. Visit the Benjamin E Mays Historic site
229 N. Hospital Street, Greenwood, South Carolina 29649
Tour the house and grounds at Benjamin Mays historical preservation site. source
Benjamin Mays was a Baptist minister and educator who mentored several influential civil rights activists including Martin Luther King, Jr. He was born into poverty but worked his way through college and advanced degrees to become president at Morehouse College in 1940. His birth home was moved to this location on the GLEAMNS campus in 2004 and restored to allow visitors and tourists. The site itself has historic significance as it was the location of the Brewer School and Hospital which date back to 1872.
10. View the Tree That Owns Itself
Dearing and Finley Street, Athens, Georgia, 30605
The most independent tree in Georgia.
This beautiful white oak was a prized possession of its owner. In fact, William H. Jackson granted the tree autonomy when he died, along with the land within eight feet of the tree. Sadly, the original tree fell over in a windstorm in 1942. To preserve his wishes, residents took a seedling from the tree and planted it in the original spot. Happily, the offshoot is alive and thriving on the land.
Plan a trip to tour historical sites near Lake Hartwell
Which one of these incredible sites will you explore first? Make a few day trips out of the task and see them all!