I am not a journalist or a writer who would usually do an exposé on a specific person. But, I am an entrepreneur who is an enthusiast for small towns and who loves to bring you the best content about those towns. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Lake City, South Carolina.
Upon arrival in Lake City, it quickly occurred to me after only visiting a few locations, that there may not be a Lake City as it is presently, without the efforts of a woman named Darla Moore. Now, for those of you who have not visited Lake City, that may seem like a pretty bold statement. And although I have never met Darla Moore, from what I understand, she probably would not like that statement either. As it’s my understanding she is a very modest and private person.
But the truth is, wherever I went, I heard testimonials of how this woman has devoted much of her life’s work to this small town. To elaborate further, what I’m conveying is that although I did not have the pleasure of meeting her, in almost every aspect of my visit I felt a presence of a person who loved the town so much, that she helped bring it back to life in a way that was beautiful beyond compare.
My First Encounter
At the beginning of my visit, one of the first stops I made was to meet with Roberta Burns at the Visitor Center for ArtFields. This was the first time I heard about Darla Moore. The story I heard went like this. She is a native to Lake City who grew up on her family’s tobacco farm. She went on to study at The University of South Carolina and also went on to get her Master’s Degree; eventually moving to New York to become one of the most influential female financiers of all time. There is much information in between, but Darla went on to become president and a partner of the private investment firm Rainwater Inc., one of the largest in the country. She was also married to Richard Rainwater until his passing in 2015.
Giving Back To Lake City in a Big Way
As time went on Darla missed her small town roots, and when she saw the town had dwindled as a result of the tobacco industry leaving, so she decided to help do something about it. But not for recognition, but to help transform the town into a thriving small town destination.
To get a sense of Darla’s personality, here is a statement where she was quoted in an interview by WMBF news. She was asked about being the first woman to land the cover of Fortune Magazine and being named one of the 50 most powerful women in American business. Darla replied, “I just looked at that and glanced at it and put it in the drawer, and I don’t think I ever looked at it again” ( wmbfnews.com). You can check out the story and more background on Darla Moore here. Darla went on to invest over 100 million in the small town of Lake City and started a community foundation to help with sustainability (Click here to read the article from New York Times).
Why Was It Important To Explain This Experience?
This conversation I was having with Roberta Burns, was followed by a rundown of the activities during ArtFields and getting the lay of the land.
Next, I walked up and down the streets of Lake City exploring the downtown shops and ArFields works being hosted in the businesses. As I discovered beautiful works of art brought in for this event, I talked with several business owners and heard incredible stories that each had threads of Darla Moore as they described their experiences. Whether it was because of her investments in downtown that gave them the confidence to open their business, help from the foundation she created, or just being inspired by the energy; over and over these experiences and positive stories of Darla Moore kept creating a picture of this person in my mind. Who again I had never met, but kept adding to my experience of Lake City.
Moore Farms Botanical Gardens
My experience surrounding what was now the legend of Darla Moore culminated when I had the pleasure of being invited to the Moore Farms Botanical Gardens. Here, Darla has opened her private property (previously her family’s tobacco farm) and beautiful gardens for guests to explore.
The interesting thing about these grounds is that this is her home. Additionally, while exploring beautiful botanical gardens, you’re not going to see place cards or identifying markers on many of the beautiful flowers, walking paths, etc. The reason (which makes a lot of sense) is because this is Darla’s home. She still will go out and work in her flower beds and make improvements to the grounds. Moore Farms does have employees to manage the grounds and come to do tours, but visiting Moore Farms is Free. If you want a guided tour there is a small cost, but again, everything that Darla does she’s putting back into the town of Lake City and the foundation she created for its revitalization.
All of this information about Darla Moore I found incredible, that this one person was truly the spark that helped change the culture and tourism for an entire town.
Inns and Institutions
It seems like every small town has unique old buildings that capture your attention and your imagination. It is wonderful when you’re able to visit a town that has invested resources in these institutions and brings them back to life, or they have been lovingly maintained.
In Lake City, you will find these investments at The Inn at The Crossroads & Lynches Lake Historical Society
This Inn has it all for lovers of small towns! Here you will find history, brand new upgrades and amenities, southern charm, and a downtown location where you can walk to just about everything Lake City has to offer. This is what you can expect to find at The Inn At The Crossroads. Also, you can experience great food and atmosphere at their on-site restaurant, the Crossroads Bar and Grille.
“Since its initial foundation in 1734, Lake City has served as one of South Carolina’s most hospitable communities. Once home to McCrea’s Inn, the colonial inn that housed settlers and merchants, the town of Lake City has long welcomed guests from across South Carolina, drawn to the town’s rich history of agriculture, cultivation, and railroads. Located midway between Columbia and Myrtle Beach, and only seventy miles from Charleston, Lake City truly is at the crossroads of the state, lying directly on 378 and fifteen miles from I-95” (Innathecrossroads.com).
“Located in the historic Whitehead Infirmary building, Lynches Lake Historical Society keeps the love of local history alive in Lake City! “Lynches Lake” was a geographical designation on plats & maps during the Colonial era, before there were many named towns. Lynches Lake was frequently cited as home to many patriots in Francis Marion’s brigade, with modern-day Lake City located at the western tip of the northern branch of Lynches Lake”(peedeehistory.org).
If you want to know more about the early history of Lake City you have to make a stop here. Additionally, I always like to make historical stops first, because then you can have a better understating of the area you’re exploring. It enhances your experience! Make sure to look at the pictures of how many tobacco processing plants used to be in small town Lake City and what that did to enhance the town’s culture. It’s fascinating!
The Unique, Interesting, Yours of Lake City
What is it about a town that makes it special? A local attraction or event, a family-owned business that has been there forever? A piece of history you cannot find anywhere else, or a bookstore with just the right vibe? Here are a few of the Unique, Interesting, Yours of Lake City.
You do not want to miss the experience of the largest arts and culture event in the Southeast, put on by the small town of Lake City. Moreover, the very fact that this is one of the most recognized events in the state of South Carolina in less than a decade, is reason enough to come. But, trust me when I say you will be blown away by what this small town of fewer than 7,000 residents can do. You will want to come back over and over and again, not just to see beautiful Southern Art, but for the hospitality you receive. It’s truly a unique experience you will not forget.
How It Works
“ArtFields started in 2013 with a simple goal: honor the artists of the Southeast with 9 days worth of celebration and competition while revitalizing a small Southern town. The competition and exhibition offer over $100,000 in cash prizes. The winners of two People’s Choice Awards are determined by the votes of people visiting ArtFields; a panel of art professionals selects all the other awards, including the $50,000 Grand Prize and $25,000 Second Place award
Up to 400 works of art will be on display in locally-owned venues, from renovated 1920s warehouses and professional art spaces such as Jones-Carter Gallery and TRAX Visual Art Center to the library, the history museum, the Ronald E. McNair Life History Center, restaurants, boutiques, and other shops. During ArtFields, what was once one of South Carolina’s most prosperous agricultural communities becomes a living art gallery as we recognize, celebrate and share the talent of the Southeast” (artfieldssc.org/about/).
Want to view Great Art while visiting Lake City, but can’t come during ArtFields? There are several great galleries for you to explore year round! Plus, at the Crossroads Gallery, you can view the winners of ArtFields that become part of a permeant collection.
The Delicious and Delectable of Lake City
There are wonderful choices in Lake City when it comes to great food. From local favorite downtown staples to food trucks, here are a few My Town Picks:
Now in a fun, historic location on Sauls Street, Piggyback’s is serving up delicious BBQ & Catshish. This location is great if you have kids, as Piggyback’s is an order before you sit down restaurant with a very casual atmosphere. My Town recommends the Catfish bites- this may be some of the best I’ve had to date!
Wonderful authentic Mexican dishes and delicious margaritas are waiting for you right in downtown Lake City. This is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner for travelers needing a siesta!
This super fun location that was converted from a Gas Station, has an evening vibe you don’t want to miss! It’s the perfect place to grab a drink after a day of exploring, and grab some dinner from one of their hosted food trucks. The local favorite Smokology was there the evening My town visited!
Delicious café- style fare with a focus on the open-air bar. The street-facing bar always has people seated outside just beckoning for you to stop in and join the fun!
Beautifully renovated location downtown serving every homemade baked good you can imagine and outstanding coffee. You don’t want to miss stopping in for your favorite treat or pick-me-up.
A true small town staple for over 30 years serving fresh seafood directly from local fishermen. As a visitor this has 2 great options- Have your fresh seafood prepared on-site and enjoy in the dining room or if you have accommodations where you’re staying, take back and prepare on your own!
MTT Antique & Market Finds
Great Antique Shops, Boutiques, & Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This includes also Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and the like! In Lake City ,there are great Antique and Market finds everywhere you look. Below are some of My Town‘s Favorite Finds.
A Note From My Town
We hope you enjoyed this article on Lake City, SC! My Town visits are based on exploring and discovery as a first-time visitor and promoting the unique assets small towns have to offer.
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