Here's why Mauldin, Simpsonville and Fountain Inn are called 'The Golden Strip'

Gabe Cavallaro
Greenville News

South Carolina's "Golden Strip" doesn't reference a history of gold-mining. Or refer to local strip clubs. Or even come from the strip of highway that extends south from Greenville to Mauldin, Simpsonville, Fountain Inn and beyond. 

As the story goes, the nickname often used for the triad of cities south of Greenville actually traces to a major resource that was brought to the area in the 1950s: Unlimited water.

As Greenville News reporter F.C. (Mac) McConnell III described it in 1951, Mauldin, Simpsonville and Fountain Inn were primed to prosper after they were connected to the Greenville city water line. McConnell covered the installation of the water main that would serve the three cities, furnishing them with plenty of fresh water from Greenville's mountain water reservoir, according to a 1962 story in The News on the "Golden Strip" name's origin.

"(McConnell) predicted that the provision of an unlimited water supply would make the area a 'golden strip.' It did, and the name, stuck," The News reported in that archive story.

Not all agree that it was McConnell who came up with "The Golden Strip" nickname though.

Andrew Staton, an historian with Simpsonville Genealogical Research Room and author of "Images of America: Simpsonville," said the term originated from Charlie Daniel, the founder of Daniel Construction

This illustration from April 24, 1977 edition of The Greenville News depicts the area along U.S. 276 known as "The Golden Strip."

"Mr. Daniel said that the arrival of the water lines was like gold coming to the city — basically, the water lines were a major infrastructure improvement that contributed to added industry and economic growth for the area," Staton said.

Staton said through his research he's found that several people think it was Daniel who came up with the name. 

What is clear though is that the name comes from the water line, Staton said.

And history has shown that the prediction from McConnell and Daniel was right. Between the new water supply and the addition of Interstate 385 in later years, growth took off in Mauldin, Simpsonville and Fountain Inn and it hasn't stopped.

“It just seemed liked a golden opportunity from an economic standpoint and of course over the years that’s proved true," said Ben Davis, who was mayor of Fountain Inn from 1975 through 1979 and then again from 1987 to 1995.

This illustration from July 1990 in The Greenville News archive depicts population growth trends in the Golden Strip at the time.

“It was a time period in which all three communities, Mauldin, Simpsonville and Fountain Inn were separate entities,” Davis said. “It was a time period that sort of brought those three towns together in a united movement that allowed them to tap onto the Greenville water line."

The area that was once a hunting ground for the Cherokees, described in the 1976 Bicentennial Souvenir Book from The Golden Strip Civitan Club, was transformed.

After the connection to the Greenville water line, Davis said Fountain Inn started to grow from the small town it was at that point. While in Simpsonville, what was a mill town at the time, began to grow beyond its couple thousand residents, Staton said.

The News archives from April 1977 chronicle that population boom, citing statistics that showed a slight decline in population in the city of Greenville, as some residents moved to the suburbs in search of space and lower living costs.

This April 1977 Greenville News archive photo shows an aerial view of the Interstate 85 and U.S. 276 interchange, leading to the Golden Strip .

Another major factor in the area's growth was the arrival of increased industry, which flocked to the Golden Strip for its "low average wages and fringe benefits, favorable land prices, low taxes, well-developed water and power, good rail and highway networks, no unions, and an eagerly cooperative business atmosphere," according to The News archive.

The News went on to report that the Golden Strip eventually came to rival Greenville's Eastside in population growth, which once was the area's hub of subdivision construction.

This past year didn't see anything change in terms of growth in the Golden Strip. 

Four Greenville County cities ranked among the top-25 fastest growing cities and towns in South Carolina, according to the latest estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2019.

Fountain Inn ranked second in the state while Simpsonville was 14th in population growth for the latest period tracked by the Census, between 2017 and 2018. Mauldin still saw positive growth for the period, but didn't crack the top 100 towns and cities in growth rate. 

You can connect with reporter Gabe Cavallaro on Twitter @gabe_cavallaro or facebook.com/cavallarogabe or email him at gcavallaro@greenvillenews.com.