Cheraw Town Hall, constructed in 1858, sits on the corner of Market and Second streets, exactly where it stood when Sherman’s soldiers descended upon the town in 1865, driving out local Confederate forces and setting up camp in various locations around town.
The sketch seen on this page from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, published April 8, 1865, shows Town Hall in the background as Sherman’s 17th Army Corps made its mark here during the Civil War. An original copy of the newspaper now belongs to the town, a gift from Cora Godfrey Justice in 1980.
Town Hall was originally built as a theater, and used as a center for cultural events. Construction of the building was aided by local Masonic Lodge 15, and in exchange for their monetary support, the Masons were given a 99-year lease for the upstairs portion of the facility.
Traveling opera troupes and other theatrical performances were held on the first floor of the building in its early years. And in the 1900s, before television and radio, the building housed a telegraph wire by which the play-by-play of the World Series was extracted.
According to local historians, a large board in the shape of a baseball diamond was placed at the front of the room at Town Hall. As a player came to bat, or made a play, someone would move the player’s peg across the board, allowing the gathered group to keep up with the plays as they came in over the wire.
Before the upstairs was converted to house municipal court hearings and Town Council meetings, it also hosted town dances and other events. The first floor currently hosts administrative offices, and is the point of collection for water bills.
The grand wrought iron stairway, an architectural feature of the Greek Revival-style building, was constructed by Christopher Werner of Charleston. A close look at the ironwork at the top of the stairs, currently obscured by the flag, reveals the influence the Masons had on the building’s construction.
Town Hall was updated in recent years to include a ramp for handicapped accessibility, and houses one of the only elevators in town. Just last month, a glass security window was added to the front counter where town employees make business transactions.
Cheraw may look like a sleepy Southern town in this world of globalization, but as a poster outside Town Hall boasts, Cheraw was been part of the global market for quite some time.
The poster says that Queen Victoria helped make Cheraw’s history “sizzle.” As the story goes, the queen of England once said that if her crate of bacon wasn’t marked “Cheraw,” she didn’t want it.
Shipping bacon down the Great Pee Dee River and across the Atlantic Ocean are no longer part of today’s globalization methods, but tourism is. And as Cheraw Town Council members recently voted unanimously to spend thousands of dollars on preserving some of the town’s most significant structures, history is alive and well on the Town Green.
For a timeline of Cheraw’s history, visit a website created by local historian Sarah Spruill at chesterfield.scgen.org.
Short historical accounts for 25 of the town’s tourist attractions can be heard any time of the day or night by calling Cheraw’s cellphone tour line at 843-865-3002.
Reach Staff Writer Karen Kissiah at 843-537-5261.