Bart Bishop, in collaboration with the Davenport family, is writing a history of the Davenports. This installment of the series traces The Davenport Building with its namesake etched into the top of the building.
Scott Stevens is a Web, eCommerce, Search & Social Media consultant that consults for Ad Agencies, PR Firms, & Web Design companies. His Web business, www.YourMark.com, is based out of a loft office in Greer, however, that has a history that long precedes the Internet. With his wife, Lindsay, they bought The Davenport at 230 Trade Street over 10 years ago, which includes the downstairs hall and the upstairs offices (and the loft apartment where they live). The name, however, wasn’t originally his idea, as it has been etched into the top of the building for decades.
Before renovations, Stevens hosted a New Year's Eve party with friends to ring in 2003 on the first floor. Many of the guests loved it as an event venue, so after some research, he decided to host weddings and parties there regularly. The first event, an art show, was held on Mother’s Day 2004, and it has been “The Davenport, a historic venue” ever since. This year they celebrated their eighth anniversary, and as a historic venue hall they’ve hosted over 150 events a year.
The building, however, was vacant at the time of purchase. The 20th century saw a meandering of owners and businesses operating out of the space, but it all began with the Davenport family. Stevens says he’s only tracked records on the building back to a receipt from 1897, but this leaves much of its previous history in question, as well as a gap in the mid-20th century.
Started by David (D.D.) Davenport circa 1880, the site was once a general merchandise store that included Kim’s Fabrics & More next door. According to James Richardson in his “History of Greenville County, South Carolina,” “this large mercantile business . . . became a great factor in the growth of the town” (120). By the 1890s, the store was hosting Chautauqua meetings and opera singers in the Davenport Hall above the store.
Sometime around the turn of the century, the store shifted focus and started specializing in Ladies’ Clothing. A Greer City Directory from 1915-1916 lists Malcolm Davenport, David’s oldest son, as the owner. Sometime in the next 20 years, however, the store was sold to local businessman W.K. Hill.
It stayed a Ladies’ Clothing Store under Hill, but by 1955 had become Richard & Co. Department Store. According to Greer Fire Chief Chris Harvey, by way of Planning & Zoning Coordinator Glenn Pace, it was a Greer Furniture during the 1960s and 1970's, owned by a "Tex" Edwards. According to Joada Hiatt of the Greer Heritage Museum, there appears to be a gap in the records at that point. Stevens speculates that the building has been a bank at some point, and has had several local residents corroborate that, because of an old vault door in the back alley, but Hiatt has her doubts. She says vaults were common of any business in the early 20th century.
What is known is by the 1990s the building had become a staffing company. By 1997, according to a survey done for the National Historic Registry at the time, the building was vacant and owned by local realtors Langston & Black. In that same year, according to Ray Belcher and Hiatt’s “Then & Now: Greer”, “The National Park Service designated the 7.8-acre downtown area of Greer as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.” This, compounded by the opening of the only BMW production facility in North America in 1994, played into Greer’s reinvigoration.
Stevens bought the building, after having searched in downtown Greenville for the appropriate space, intending there to be loft apartments upstairs. People approached him, however, telling him how great it would be to have their wedding at The Davenport. Today, the office upstairs also doubles as his web company.