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Saluda History

Saluda's Historic Depot District

Saluda's Historic Depot District

It's obvious to anyone that visits Saluda that it is a railroad town. Even though the trains no longer travel up the famously steep Saluda Grade and through the middle of town, there is still an enchanting opportunity for visitors to experience the railroad culture that has been so important to this historic town.

Saluda Depot

When the first passenger train of the Asheville and Spartanburg Railroad chugged up the Saluda Grade on July 4, 1878, Pace's Gap was forever changed. In 1877, Capt. Charles Pearson, former Confederate Army officer, was assigned chief engineer to construct the railroad. Pearson rejected the route of old trading paths and instead selected a route which followed the Pacolet River up the steep gorge, an almost vertical wall.

This route began at the bottom of the Melrose Mountain at 1,081 feet and climbed to the top at present day Saluda, cresting at an elevation of 2,097 feet. Capt. Pearson’s selected route proved to be challenging! In 1878, due to the depletion of financial resources and manual labor, the North Carolina legislature ratified a bill to provide financial support and to allow convicts to work on the construction of the line. The price paid by all workers, free or otherwise, to complete the Saluda Grade was steep due to the high death rate from sickness and accidents. Despite this adversity, the tracks reached the top of the grade three months after the convicts began work on the project, resulting in the completion of the steepest mainline standard gauge railroad in the United States. By February, 1881, the growth and prosperity of Pace's Gap had escalated to the point that it was chartered as the town of Saluda, NC.

  Where once the Saluda train depot received the throngs of seasonal visitors that caused the annual swelling of the population in their search for good health and relaxation, the area has been lovingly restored to house several shops in a unique setting rich with history and character. Known as Saluda Station, the area between the Saluda Public Library and City Hall contains the relocated Saluda depot building which is now open as a museum Thursday – Sunday from 12pm to 4pm. It houses local art exhibits and you can enjoy monthly Saluda Train Tales on the third Friday of the month.

The external colors are taken from gallons of original paint discovered in a Columbia, S.C. warehouse, while the interior surrounds one with the rich luster of beautifully finished woodwork. Take some time to browse and enjoy not just the ambiance of this special restoration, but the delightful small businesses that are here.