New Boulevards and old Legends
During my high school years, there were two mysterious legends that seemed to standout. One was the legend of a hybrid creature that escaped from a circus cage when a train derailed near Irmo, SC in the early 1900’s. As it was told, the animal made his home along what people called Monkey Dog Road. The legend died in the 1980’s when the dirt road was destroyed by the development of Harbison Boulevard.
The other legend of a deep green hole of cold water was more tangible. In my high school years of the late 1970’s, we were told of its location off Greystone Boulevard which, like Harbison, was in its early days of development. Unlike Monkey Dog Road, however, the Green Hole had a fence around it and no trespassing signs. We made an attempt to visit the site but, we were good kids and were not excited about breaking the law. So, to us, the legend remained a mystery. By 1990, I had almost forgotten about the old Green Hole. One evening, my friends and I were having a get together at Charbonneau Apartments which I thought had been built on top of the long covered Green Hole. When I asked the apartment tenant if she had heard of the Green Hole, she opened her back door to reveal a stunning view. Her apartment directly overlooked the Green Hole which was only about 40 feet away. I walked out and made my way down to the edge. The scary, and almost vertical drop, set off an instinct that made me back off. Once again I thought about the tales of missing cars and people that may still be at the bottom of this cold watery grave.
Many years later, in 2004, I built a house on the Broad River in this same neighborhood. The discovery of an old bridge abutment in the backyard set me off on what has now been a 10 year wild discovery of forgotten local history. Although the Green Hole had never been a specific part of this research, I couldn’t help but come across facts and more tales I had never heard before. It seems that now is the time to put these together so everyone knows the facts. It’s not all about campouts, swimming, and mischievous outings. Most of the facts involve real crimes and the tragic deaths of a number of innocent young people. Looking at recent Youtube videos of young people making dangerous dives into the hole sadly tells us that, in the future, more stories will be added to the Green Hole Death page.
But besides the fun, the crimes, and the deaths, there are some surprises about the Green Hole. Some include the importance of the Green Hole’s original purpose. It was a quarry that employed many people until an apparent quarry blast opened an underground stream which quickly flooded the hole. Legend has it that much of the quarry equipment, including train cars, still lies at a depth of as much as 200 feet. Newspaper stories show that an attempt was made to turn the new water hole into a source of purified water for the city of Columbia. There’s no evidence that this endeavor was successful. During WWII, a golf course was made where Greystone Blvd is today. The course was watered by the Green Hole and, undoubtedly, many golf balls must litter the bottom of this deep pit. The course was first named Riverside Country Club and then Broad River Golf Course. By 1948, it had 18 holes and over 6300 yards of greenway and, also, had a lighted 18 hole miniature golf course. In 1950, the course (under the same owner) became a "Black only" golf course. In 1951, it switched back to being a "White only" course. No explanation is given for this change in the newspaper articles. Other stories show that, in 1968, the Green Hole owners got a little greedy on the sale price of the site. The opportunity was lost for what could have been a center piece exhibition for the South Carolina tricentennial of 1970. That changed forever the possibilities for Greystone Boulevard.
The actual age of the Green hole is a little hard to nail
down. Although no newspapers stories
pin-point a date of the quarry before 1897, there is court evidence that a
quarry did exist in the area since 1850 for the purpose of providing gravel for
the area roads. The recent discovery of civil war items near the Green Hole
indicate that a road may have run by the site in 1865 and that Sherman’s troops
used this road to travel from the Saluda crossing to the Broad River crossing.
The point where the Green Hole became a legend can probably be credited to the three young Columbia men: Clarence Simon, Knowlton Windham, and Harvey Anderson. In June of 1941, the three men stole an automobile and drove it off the steep slope into the Green Hole. The incident may have gone unnoticed had it not been for a Green Hole swimmer that saw and reported car tracks at the edge of the hole. The initial fear was that a car went over the edge with people inside it. The media coverage would set off a frenzy of local interest. Over 25,000 people would visit the Green Hole over the next few days as the search for the car and any occupants was being completed. The event would be in the headlines for many days to come. The Green Hole instantly became known to everyone in the Columbia area.
So, that’s a little bit about the Green Hole. Check out the
35 newspaper articles and other documents that provide the only real facts we
have on this legend of the Midlands. And, if you are thinking about visiting
the waters of the Green Hole… be careful, or your life may end as an entry on
the Green Hole death page.