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March Issue 2003
Inaugural Arts on the Alley in Historic Downtown Seneca, SC
The Rain Cat Alley Merchants are proud to announce the inaugural Arts on the Alley, April 3-5, 2003. This three day art festival, co-sponsored by the Blue Ridge Arts Council, will take place on Ram Cat Alley in historic downtown Seneca, SC. The hours will be Thursday, April 3 from 10am-6pm; Friday, April 4 from 10am-8pm; and Saturday, April 5 from 10am-6pm.
Mary Tannery, co-owner of Ram Cat Alley restaurant Circa 1930 and organizer of Arts on the Alley) is excited about enriching the local arts scene. "There are so many wonderful artists in our midst, yet there is only one museum for them to exhibit their work. Arts on the Alley will provide them the opportunity to showcase their talents to the community."
Unlike most art festivals which take place either outside on streets and sidewalks or inside museums, the artists participating in Arts on the Alley will be displaying their art in the storefronts of businesses on Ram Cat Alley. Another unique thing about Arts on the Alley is that some artists will also be creating works while they display and sell their art.
According to Sharon Adams, President of Ram Cat Alley Merchants and owner of Sidney and Elizabeth's Clothing, "Part of the beauty of art is watching the artists work on their craft. We have so many different types of artist participating, and I really feel that the community will not only enjoy viewing their work, but will especially enjoy watching them create their work. In addition to oil, watercolor, and acrylic painters, there will also be metal folk art, woodcarving, and theorem art."
Local talent Lena Massara, a mixed-media artist, is encouraged by the momentum Arts on the Alley can bring to Seneca. "There is so much growth in this area, especially people from different parts of the country with different cultural backgrounds. I feel there is great potential for arts enrichment in Seneca, and Arts on the Alley will be the stepping stone for that enrichment," says Massara, who will exhibit her work at Sidney and Elizabeth's Clothing.
Paul Dohr, a local artist who will be showcasing his watercolor paintings at Antiques and Company, is excited about the partnership between the Blue Ridge Arts Council and Ram Cat Alley. "What we have at the Blue Ridge Arts Council is really a treasure, something cities twice the size of Seneca are very envious of," he explained. "And the business owners of Ram Cat Alley have really done a wonderful job in spearheading a revival of downtown Seneca. The pairing of the Blue Ridge Arts Council and Ram Cat Alley is a wonderful match."
Food and refreshments will be available at Ram Cat Alley restaurants Circa 1930, Café Rendezvous, The Spot on the Alley, and The Rib King.
The participating artists will donate 10% of all proceeds generated from the three day art festival to the Blue Ridge Arts Council.
For questions, please call Antiques and Company at 864/886-8645.
A brief history of Seneca and Ram Cat Alley...
The earliest settlers of this part of Oconee County were migratory Native Americans from New York. Nicknamed "Seneca" by the early Dutch traders, this branch of the Iroquois tribe migrated here to find a warmer climate and better hunting. That earliest history is immortalized by the city name, Seneca.
Seneca was founded in 1873 as a railroad town with Ram Cat Alley (then known simply as Main Street) as its first commercial district. By 1880, downtown Seneca bustled around business conducted at eight general stores, four dry good stores, two grocers, and one druggist.
Seneca's Oconee Inn and Palmetto Hotel made this area a favorite vacation spot for Lowcountry tourists who cooled themselves at local rivers and were entertained at a downtown skating rink, an opera house and the movie theater, which was located on Townville Street, upstairs from the present Thee and Me Health Food Store.
By the turn of century, Seneca had larger city commercial amenities like a millinery and photo studios. Early photographs show a public park near the railroad depot with the Oconee Inn at the far end of the square. Fires in late 1800's on Main Street destroyed many wood-framed buildings, which were promptly replaced by the brick structures winch house our modern downtown businesses.
Ram Cat Alley was so named because of the throngs of cats lured to the flatbed carts that carried fish and meats on melting mounds of ice from the railroad depot, two blocks to the grocers on Main Street (now called Ram Cat Alley). The current Alley Antiques at 117 Ram Cat Alley still contains display cases and walk-in coolers from the turn of the last century. The original front door has a space cut away at the threshold where cats could enter freely to claim fish heads and meat scraps from the butcher.
In an attempt to update their turn-of the century stores, many downtown merchants built modern-looking, aluminum and glass store fronts during the 1950's and 1960's to counteract the commercial effect of newer, trendy shopping centers. Progress, however, demanded the migration of the typical consumer to shiny new shopping centers and away from downtown. By the late 1960's, Main Street business had deteriorated significantly. Barber shops, grocers and restaurants became pool halls and bars. By 1980 several of these establishments had been permanently closed by local law enforcement, because of the high crime they seemed to inspire. By 1990 Ram Cat Alley was a virtual ghost town. Many buildings were in disrepair and others were used only for storage.
Seneca's progressive city government of the mid -'90's had a different vision, Mayor Johnny Fields and the city council established and enforced codes for the appearance and condition of downtown buildings. The original block of Main Street was officially renamed "Ram Cat Alley". Pressure washing revealed the beautiful, original brick work of the antique faces. The sheet was repaved, new sidewalks were poured and antique reproduction streetlights were installed. By 1995, new business-owners had begun renovation and restoration on the street. In 2000, many of the buildings on Ram Cat Alley were declared historical places by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
Seneca's Ram Cat Alley now anchors the northernmost
end of South Carolina's historical corridor which stretches through
the state to Charleston. History has been made beautiful to behold
and fun to experience in the "painted (brick) ladies' that
line Ram Cat Alley, thriving once more with unique shops, galleries,
fine-dining restaurants and even one last pool hall with an aluminum
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