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The Mystery at Slickum Falls

The photo showing downtown Greenville on the left and the mystery building on the far right.
The photo showing downtown Greenville on the left and the mystery building on the far right.
Ken Swain

The Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve is a really interesting place. Along the short trail you’ll find ruins of an old homestead, 150 foot tall Slickum Falls, Slickum Creek, rare plants, and a fully unobstructed view of downtown Greenville some 20 miles away, as the crow flies.

During a visit in February of 2014, my waterfall hiking buddies and I were presented with a perfectly clear day so the individual buildings in Greenville were easily seen. The clear weather also presented us with a mystery. Way away from the downtown buildings was another tall, rectangular building. What could that building be? Just standing on the rock face and guessing, it looked like it might be somewhere around Easley.

I went home and did some Google satellite research, but could find nothing around Easley that would match the profile seen from the mountain. I expanded by search but to no avail, figuring the search to be a lost cause.

Ken Swain, another of the Grandfather Mountaineers, has some good camera equipment including a telephoto lens. A couple of days later, he sent me a photo he had taken from Slickum Falls. A good shot of downtown Greenville and, off to the right, there was our mystery building again.

The first thing I did was to take Ken’s photo and enlarge the mystery building by 800%. It clearly was a rectangular building with the middle section taller than the two sides (as you can see in the slide show). It also would have to be several stories tall and almost facing directly toward the mountains and Slickum Falls.

I then fell back on some old Army map reading skills learned more than 40 years ago – I shot an azimuth. After printing out Ken’s photo, I drew a line on the photo from the approximate point where Ken would have been standing out to the tallest building in Greenville, the old Daniel Building, in the distance. I drew a similar line out to the mystery building. The angle between the two lines was 68 degrees.

I then needed to transfer this information to a map so I printed one of the upstate and drew a line from the Slickum Falls location to where the Daniel Building sits in Greenville. With a compass, I calculated 68 degrees and drew another line. While we originally thought the mystery building was somewhere near Easley, the line went north of Easley, in fact, it went north of Pickens. It did pass through Clemson.

With that line to follow, I turned to Google’s satellite view and began to follow the line. For any possible building, I would drop to Street View to check the building but there was no fit.

I immediately thought of Death Valley, Clemson’s football stadium. It was almost right on the line, but it sits low down along an old river course. Also, it did not have the elevated center section seen on the mystery building and it was facing the wrong way.

Backing up the line a bit, a little bit off the line was the Oconee Nuclear Station. It faced the mountains but there are three separated reactor towers so we should have been able to see between them. The mystery building appeared solid. And the elevated center didn’t make sense since all three towers are the same height.

I went back to the photo. What did we know about the mystery building? It is tall, probably more than 5 stories; the center is raised; it faces the mountains; it is probably sitting on a hill, which would explain its prominence. I kept going back to Clemson and finally realized there was, in fact, a building on the campus which met all those criteria plus it sat right on the azimuth I had drawn: It was The Clemson House. Once a hotel, it is now student housing for Clemson University.

Sitting on a hilltop, The Clemson House is a 6-story, rectangular building with an elevated center section. And the back of the building directly faces Slickum Falls some 32 miles away.

Just never know when you might need some of that old Army training.