Greenville (; locally ) is a city in and the seat of Greenville County, South Carolina, United States. With a population of 70,720 at the 2020 census, it is the sixth-largest city in the state. Greenville is located approximately halfway between Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, along Interstate 85. Its metropolitan area also includes Interstates 185 and 385. Greenville is the anchor city of the Upstate, a combined statistical area with a population of 1,487,610 at the 2020 census. Greenville was the fourth fastest-growing city in the United States between 2015 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Greenville is the center of the Upstate region of South Carolina, creating one of the largest urban centers in the Deep South. Numerous large companies are located within the city, such as Michelin, Prisma Health, Bon Secours, and Duke Energy. Greenville County Schools is another large employer and is the largest school district in South Carolina. Having seen rapid development over the past two decades, Greenville has also received many accolades and awards. Some of these include "The South’s Most 'Tasteful' Small Towns" from Forbes in 2020, "15 of the Most Underrated Travel Destinations of the Year, So Far" from Insider in 2019, "Best Places to Live" from Money in 2019, and "Best Place to Live in the USA #22" from U.S. News & World Report in 2019. The city continues to expand rapidly into the 2020s as is evident from rapid population, economic, and developmental growth.
The land of present-day Greenville was once the hunting ground of the Cherokee, which was forbidden to colonists. A wealthy settler from Virginia named Richard Pearis arrived in South Carolina around 1754 and established relations with the Cherokee. Pearis had a child with a Cherokee woman and received about 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) from the Cherokee around 1770. Pearis established a plantation on the Reedy River called the Great Plains in present-day downtown Greenville. The American Revolution divided the South Carolina country between the Loyalists and Patriots. Pearis supported the Loyalists and together with their allies, the Cherokee, attacked the Patriots. The Patriots retaliated by burning down Pearis' plantation and jailing him in Charleston. Pearis never returned to his plantation but Paris Mountain is named after him. The Treaty of Dewitt's Corner in 1777 ceded almost all Cherokee land, including present-day Greenville, to South Carolina.
Greenville County was created in 1786. Some sources state it was named for its physical appearance, while others say the county is named after General Nathanael Greene in honor of his service in the American Revolutionary War, or after early settler Isaac Green. Lemuel J. Alston came to Greenville County in 1788 and bought 400 acres (160 ha) and a portion of Pearis' former plantation. In 1797 Alston used his land holdings to establish a village called Pleasantburg where he also built a stately mansion. In 1816, Alston's land was purchased by Vardry McBee, who then leased the Alston mansion for a summer resort, before making the mansion his home from 1835 until his death in 1864. Pleasantburg was renamed as Greenville in 1821 and became a village in 1831. Considered to be the father of Greenville, McBee donated land for many structures such as churches, academies, and a cotton mill. Furman University was funded by McBee who helped bring the university to Greenville from Winnsboro, South Carolina in 1851. In 1853 McBee and other Greenville County leaders funded a new railroad called the Greenville and Columbia Railroad. Greenville boomed to around 1,000 in the 1850s due to the growth of McBee's donations and the attraction of the town as a summer resort for visitors.
In December 1860 Greenville supported a convention to debate the issue of secession for South Carolina. The Greenville District sent James Furman, William K. Easley, Perry E. Duncan, William H. Campbell, and James P. Harrison as delegates for the convention. On December 20, 1860, the South Carolina state convention, along with the Greenville delegation, voted to secede from the Union. Greenville County provided over 2,000 soldiers to the Confederate States Army. The town supplied food, clothing, and firearms to the Confederacy. Greenville saw no action from the war until 1865 when Union troops came through the town looking for President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy who had fled south from Richmond, Virginia. In June 1865 Andrew Johnson appointed Greenville County native Benjamin Franklin Perry as Governor of South Carolina.
In February 1869, Greenville's town charter was amended by the S. C. General Assembly establishing Greenville, the town, as a city. Construction boomed in the 1870s such as the establishment of a bridge over the Reedy River, new mills on the river and new railroads. The Greenville News was established in 1874 as Greenville's first daily newspaper. Southern Bell installed the first telephone lines in the city. The most important infrastructure that came to the city were cotton mills. Prominent cotton mill businesses operated near Greenville making it a cotton mill town. By 1915 Greenville became known as the "Textile Center of the South." From 1915 to 2004, the city hosted an important textile manufacturing trade fair, the Southern Textile Exposition.
During World War I, Greenville served as a training camp center for Army recruits. After World War I commercial activity expanded with new movie theaters and department stores. The Mansion House was demolished and replaced with the Poinsett Hotel in 1925. The Great Depression hurt the economy of Greenville forcing mills to lay off workers. Furman University and the Greenville Women's College also struggled in the crippling economy forcing them to merge in 1933. The Textile Workers Strike of 1934 caused such an uproar in the city and surrounding mill towns that the National Guard had to subdue the chaos. The New Deal established Sirrine Stadium and a new Greenville High School. The Greenville Army Air Base was established in 1942 during World War II contributing to the further growth of Greenville.
Following the war, a November 19, 1946, propane explosion left 6 dead and over 150 injured. The explosion involved a tank containing about 3,500 US gallons (13 m) of propane and could be heard from Gaffney, 50 miles (80 km) away.
On February 16, 1947, Willie Earle, a black man accused of stabbing a cab driver, was taken from his jail cell by a mob of mostly taxi drivers and murdered. Thirty-one white men were jointly tried for the crime; most of the accused signed confessions, many of them naming Roosevelt Carlos Hurd as the lynch mob leader and the person who ultimately killed Earle with the shotgun. On May 21, 1947, a jury of 12 white men returned verdicts of not guilty for every defendant.
After World War II, Greenville's economy surged with the establishment of new downtown stores and the expansion of the city limits. Furman University doubled its student population and moved to a new location. Higher education facilities such as Bob Jones University in 1947 and Greenville Technical College in 1962 were established in Greenville. The Greenville–Spartanburg International Airport was established in nearby Greer in 1962. The economy of Greenville finally waned in the 1970s leaving a void in downtown Greenville due to the flight of many retailers. Mayor Max Heller then revitalized downtown Greenville with the Greenville County Museum of Art and the Hughes Main Library. Main Street was then converted into a two-lane road lined with trees and sidewalks. With a 1978 federal grant, a convention center and hotel were built, bringing business back to the area.
Greenville is located at 34°50′40″N 82°23′8″W / 34.84444°N 82.38556°W (34.844313, −82.385428), roughly equidistant between Atlanta (145 miles [233 km] southwest), and Charlotte, North Carolina (100 miles [160 km] northeast). Columbia, the state capital, is 100 miles (160 km) to the southeast.
Greenville is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains range, and includes many small hills. Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina, is in northern Pickens County, less than 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Greenville. Many area television and radio station towers are on Paris Mountain, the second most prominent peak in the area, 8 miles (13 km) north of downtown Greenville. According to the United States Census Bureau, Greenville has a total area of 28.8 square miles (74.6 km), of which 28.7 square miles (74.3 km2) are land and 0.2 square miles (0.4 km), or 0.51%, are water. The Reedy River, a tributary of the Saluda River, runs through the center of the city.
Greenville is located in the Brevard Fault Zone and has had occasional minor earthquakes.
Greenville, like much of the Piedmont region of the southeastern United States, has a mild version of a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with four distinct seasons; the city is part of USDA Hardiness zone 7b/8a. Winters are short and generally cool, with a January daily average of 42.2 °F (5.7 °C). On average, there are 59 nights per year that drop to or below freezing, and only 1.3 days that fail to rise above freezing. April is the driest month, with an average of 3.36 inches (85 mm) of precipitation.
Summers are hot and humid, with a daily temperature average in July of 79.9 °F (26.6 °C). There are an average 43 days per year with highs at or above 90 °F (32 °C). Official record temperatures range from 107 °F (42 °C) on July 1, 2012, down to −6 °F (−21 °C) on January 30, 1966; the record cold daily maximum is 19 °F (−7 °C) on December 31, 1917, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 80 °F (27 °C) on July 12, 1937, the last of three occasions. The average window for freezing temperatures is November 4 thru April 1, allowing a growing season of 217 days.
Precipitation is generally less frequent in autumn than spring and, on average, Greenville receives 47.2 inches (1,200 mm) of precipitation annually, which is somewhat evenly distributed throughout the year, although summer is slightly wetter; annual precipitation has historically ranged from 31.08 in (789 mm) in 2007 to 72.53 in (1,842 mm) in 1908. In addition, there is an average of 4.7 inches (11.9 cm) of snow, occurring mainly from January thru March, with rare snow occurring in November or April. More frequent ice storms and sleet mixed in with rain occur in the Greenville area; seasonal snowfall has historically ranged from trace amounts as recently as 2011–12 to 21.4 in (54 cm) in 1935–36. These storms can have a major impact on the area, as they often pull tree limbs down on power lines and make driving hazardous.
The city of Greenville adopted the Council-Manager form of municipal government in 1976. The Greenville City Council consists of the mayor and six council members. The mayor and two council members are elected at-large while the remaining council members are chosen from single-member districts. Greenville Municipal Court handles criminal misdemeanor violations, traffic violations, and city ordinance violations. As of 2021, the city's mayor is Knox H. White, who has been in that position since December 1995.
Greenville's City Hall has had multiple locations since the first in 1879, including the Old Greenville City Hall, which served in that capacity from 1938 to 1973. In March 2023, the city announced plans to sell its current building and move City Hall to the Bowater Building along the Reedy River in Falls Park.
The Greenville Police Department was established in 1845 as the Greenville Police Force. By 1876 the Greenville Police Force became the Greenville Police Department. In 1976 the Greenville Police Department moved into the Greenville County Law Enforcement Center with the Greenville County Sheriff's Department. The Greenville Police Department serves Greenville with around 241 employees with 199 sworn officers.
Districts 22–25 of the South Carolina House of Representatives cover portions of Greenville, as do state senate districts 6–8. The city is within South Carolina's 4th congressional district, represented by William Timmons since 2019.
As the largest city in the Upstate, Greenville offers many activities and attractions. Greenville's theaters and event venues regularly host major concerts and touring theater companies. Four independent theaters present several plays a year.
The Greenville County School District is the largest school district in the state of South Carolina and ranked the 44th largest district in the United States, with 19 high schools, 24 middle schools, and 52 elementary schools in the district. The district's 2018–2023 strategic plan noted it had 10,000 employees, including 6,000 teachers with an average of 12.8 years of experience. In addition to traditional public schools, Greenville's downtown area is home to the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts & Humanities, a boarding school for young artists.
In addition to public schools, Greenville County has a number of private and religious schools, including St Mary's Catholic School (founded in 1900), Camperdown Academy (for students with learning disabilities), Hidden Treasure Christian School (a school for students with physical and/or mental disabilities), Christ Church Episcopal School (a college-preparatory Episcopalian school with an American school outside of Germany certified by the Bavarian Ministry of Education), Shannon Forest Christian School (an evangelical Christian school), Saint Joseph's Catholic School, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic School, St. Anthony's Catholic School, Southside Christian School (established in 1967 by Southside Baptist Church), Hampton Park Christian School, Bob Jones Academy and Elementary School, Carolina Film Institute (a film school founded in 2008), Green Charter (originally one of the Gülen movement schools), and Greenville Classical Academy (a classical Christian school established in 2004).
Greenville has numerous public charter schools that are free to state residents.
Greenville has several colleges and universities located within the city limits, Bob Jones University, and Greenville Technical College. Additionally Furman University and North Greenville University are located in the greater Greenville area. Furman began as Furman Academy and Theological Institution in 1825 named after Richard Furman. The theological school of Furman broke away in 1858 and became Southern Baptist Theological Seminary now in Louisville, Kentucky. North Greenville University was established in 1893 and is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Bob Jones University was established in 1927 by Bob Jones Sr. as a private non-denominational Protestant university. Greenville Technical College was established in 1962 as a technical college. The Evangelical Institute was founded in 1967 just north of the city at Paris Mountain.
Clemson University's Main campus is located 30 miles away, however, the university has several programs physically located in Downtown Greenville, as well as a specialty campus in Greenville called Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research that focuses on automotive research.
The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville is a four-year medical school operating on a Prisma Health campus.
The Greenville Saturday School (GSS; グリーンビル日本語補習授業校 Gurīnbiru Nihongo Hoshū Jugyō Kō) is a weekend program for Japanese national students, with classes held at the French Bilingual School of South Carolina (EFB) in Wade Hampton. The Greenville school was scheduled to open in 1989, with Greenville Technical College the proposed classroom location. The school received $2,500 from the city council of Greenville.
Greenville's economy was formerly based largely on textile manufacturing, and the city was long known as "The Textile Capital of the World". In the last few decades, favorable wages and tax benefits have lured foreign companies to invest heavily in the area. The city is the North American headquarters for Michelin, Synnex, United Community Bank, AVX Corporation, NCEES, Ameco, Southern Tide, Confluence Outdoor, Concentrix, JTEKT, Cleva North America, Current Lighting Solutions, Greenville News, Prisma Health, and Scansource. In 2003, the International Center for Automotive Research was created, establishing CUICAR as the new model for automotive research. The Center for Emerging Technologies in mobility and energy was opened in 2011, hosting a number of companies in leading edge R&D and the headquarters for Sage Automotive.
When the former Donaldson Air Force Base closed, the land became the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center, and became home to a Lockheed Martin aircraft and logistics center, as well as facilities operated by 3M and Honeywell. Donaldson Center Airport now occupies the former air base as a public airport. General Electric has a gas turbine, aviation and wind energy manufacturing operations located in Greenville.
Greenville has two main health systems, the Bon Secours Health and Prisma Health.
Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, which includes St. Francis Downtown; St. Francis Eastside; and St. Francis Outpatient Center and Upstate Surgery Center, is ranked among the best hospitals in the nation by HealthGrades for heart surgery and overall orthopedic services.
Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health organization that includes seven campuses in the Upstate area: Greenville Memorial Medical Center, North Greenville Long Term Acute Care Hospital and ER, Hillcrest Hospital, Patewood Memorial Hospital, Greer Memorial Hospital, Laurens County Memorial Hospital, and Oconee Memorial Hospital. It is one of the largest employers in the region. It was recognized for 2010–2011 as a top provider of cardiac and gastroenterology care by U.S. News & World Report. Prisma has the only children's hospital in the Upstate region of South Carolina. It hosts the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, a full four-year branch of the medical school in Columbia, South Carolina.
The Greenville Memorial Hospital was formerly operated by the municipal government, with Greenville Health System being the operating authority. In 2016, Prisma Health began leasing the hospital and directly operating it. The GHA is the portion of the Greenville Health System that still existed after the hospital transitioned into being operated by Prisma. The Greenville Health Authority (GHA) is the owner of the hospital facilities operated by Prisma. Members of the South Carolina Legislature select a majority of the seats of the board of directors of the GHA.
Greenville's Shriners Hospital for Children treats pediatric orthopedic patients exclusively, free of charge.
Greenville is located on the Interstate 85 (I-85) corridor, approximately halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte. I-85 runs along the city's southeast edge and is connected to downtown Greenville by two spur routes: I-185, which also forms a southern beltway; and I-385, which continues southeast to a junction with I-26. Other major highways include U.S. Highway 123 (US 123), US 25, US 29 and US 276.
There are several airports servicing the Greenville area. The largest in the region, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP), is the second busiest in the state and is served by most major airlines. SCTAC (formerly Donaldson Air Base) has undergone significant modernization and is the site of the new South Carolina Army National Guard Aviation Support Facility (AASF) and proposed Super General Aviation Center. Greenville serves as a freight hub for FedEx Express. The Greenville Downtown Airport, is the busiest general aviation airport in South Carolina with nearly 80,000 take-offs and landings annually and more than 198 based aircraft in 2022.
Public transit in Greenville is handled by the Greenville Transit Authority (GTA), which contracted out operations to the City Of Greenville in 2008 under a tri-party agreement with Greenville County. The city rebranded the service with the name Greenlink. Greenlink runs a bus system that serves the Greenville area, much of Greenville County including Mauldin and Simpsonville, and a portion of Pickens County via a connector to Clemson. In the 2010s, the city conducted studies for a personal rapid transit service that would serve downtown, University Ridge, and Clemson ICAR via an abandoned railroad right of way.
Greenville has an Amtrak station, which is part of Amtrak's Crescent, connecting Greenville with the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans. Additionally, Greenville is included in the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, which is proposed to run from Washington, D.C. to Jacksonville, Florida. Freight railroad service is provided by CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, and the Carolina Piedmont Railroad. The former Greenville and Northern Railway line to Travelers Rest has been abandoned and converted into a hiking and biking trail called the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
The National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) sports conference is headquartered in Greenville, as are various minor league and university sports teams.
Minor League sports teams:
Bob Jones University
North Greenville University
Greenville has been named one of the "Top 100 Arts Small Towns in the United States." The Bon Secours Wellness Arena brings national tours of many popular bands to downtown, and the Peace Center for the Performing Arts provides a venue for orchestras and plays. A planned multimillion-dollar renovation to the center's main concert hall lobby and riverside amphitheatre began in the spring of 2011.
A number of local artists operate studios and galleries in the city, especially the Village of West Greenville near downtown. The Metropolitan Arts Council provides a number of public events that focus on the visual arts, including the First Fridays Gallery Crawl and Greenville Open Studios. Greenville also provides some notable fine arts museums:
Greenville's music scene is home to local, regional, and national bands performing music in the various genres. The city is home to the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Greenville County Youth Orchestra, Carolina Youth Symphony, the Carolina Pops Orchestra, and the Greenville Concert Band. The Boston Symphony Orchestra regularly performs at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Greenville Light Opera Works (GLOW Lyric Theatre) is a professional lyric theatre in Greenville that produces Musical Theatre, Operetta and Opera.
Local a cappella singing groups include the women's Vocal Matrix Chorus (formerly Greenville in Harmony) and the men's Palmetto Statesmen chorus. Additional choral groups include the Greenville Chorale and the Greenville Gay Men's Chorus.
Many notable active national touring acts have Greenville roots, including:
Historically, Greenville has been the home of various nationally renown musicians, including:
Lynyrd Skynyrd played their last concert with all original members in Greenville, on October 19, 1977; a portion of the band, and band staff, were killed in a plane crash upon leaving Greenville's Downtown Airport.
There are eight comedy venues in Greenville featuring stand-up comedy, sketch comedy, ventriloquists, as well as experimental and non-traditional comedy.
The Carolina Ballet Theatre is a professional dance company that regularly presents programs at the Peace Center and elsewhere. CBT presents four performances annually as the resident professional dance company of the Peace Center with their largest as the holiday classic, "The Nutcracker, Once Upon A Time in Greenville." This production is modelled after the major companies that have set their holiday class in their hometown. Centre Stage, Greenville Theatre, South Carolina Children's Theater and the Warehouse Theatre are the major playhouses in the area. These theaters offer a variety of performances including well-known works, such as Death of a Salesman and Grease, and plays written by local playwrights. During the Spring and Summer, the local Shakespearean company performs Shakespeare in the Park at the Falls Park Amphitheater.
Two literary non-profit groups are located in Greenville: The Emrys Foundation, founded in 1983, and Wits End Poetry, founded in 2002.
Greenville is part of the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson Arbitron Metro which is the nation's 59th largest radio market with a person 12+ population of 813,700. See the box below for the local radio stations:
Greenville is part of the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson-Asheville DMA, which is the nation's 36th largest television market. See the box below for the local television stations:
Greenville is the largest principal city of the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan area that covers Greenville, Laurens, Anderson and Pickens counties and had a combined population of 874,869 as of 2015.
Since South Carolina law makes annexing the suburban areas around cities difficult, Greenville's city proper population is small as a proportion of the total population of the urbanized area.
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 70,720 people, 32,250 households, and 15,431 families residing in the city.
As of the census of 2010, there were 58,409 people, 24,382 households, and 12,581 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,148.0 inhabitants per square mile (829.3/km2). There were 27,295 housing units at an average density of 1,046.9 per square mile (404.2/km). The racial composition of the city was 62.12% White, 31.54% Black or African American, 3.44% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 1.27% Asian, 0.14% Native American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 1.37% of other races, and 1.11% of Two or more races.
There were 29,418 households, out of which 22.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.7% were married couples living together, 15.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.4% were non-families. 40.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 20.0% under the age of 18, 13.8% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $33,144, and the median income for a family was $44,125. Males had a median income of $35,111 versus $25,339 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,242. About 12.2% of families and 16.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.7% of those under age 18 and 17.5% of those age 65 or over.
Greenville is twinned with: