Home to Golden Bell’s Cumberland Village and Cumberland Hills senior living communities, Aiken has a fascinating history in South Carolina and continues to be the ideal place to enjoy an active and engaging lifestyle during retirement.
We explore the history of Aiken dating back to the 1830s through present-day in this blog curated by Golden Bell Senior Living.
Follow the timeline below, from its beginnings as a railroad community to its rich history in horse training, polo, and racing.
Explore the History of Aiken, South Carolina
Discover how Aiken became known for its equestrian excellence, an array of golf courses, and historic mansions and estates.
1830s – 1850s
- Sept. 24, 1834 – Boston Engineer Alfred A. Dexter was authorized to plan and make a plat for Aiken. Boulevards that were 150 feet wide were laid out in a checkerboard pattern, with streets running north and south. Avenues named for South Carolina counties ran east and west. The town exists like this today, with its wide streets and parkways lined with flowering trees and shrubs.
- Dec. 19, 1835 – This marked the date of Aiken’s town charter. The town was named after William Aiken, Sr., President of the South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company. William was instrumental in building the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, which was 136 miles long, the longest railroad in the world at that time. The rail line ended in downtown Aiken and carried the first steam-powered passenger train in the country.
- 1845 – Aiken had little commercial progress until William Gregg built a nearby village and the first cotton mill in the South. The first cloth came off the looms in 1848 from the mill in Graniteville and has operated continuously since then.
- 1856 – Kaolin mining began in the Southern Porcelain Manufacturing Company in nearby Bath.
1860s – early 1900s
- Feb. 11, 1865 – The Battle of Aiken occurred when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman sent a detachment of the Fifth U.S. Cavalry under the command of Brigadier General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick to attack the cotton mill in Graniteville. Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler was ordered to oppose the raid and won the battle, preventing the likely destruction of Aiken.
- 1871 – The boundaries of Aiken County were created by taking parts of Barnwell, Edgefield, Lexington, and Orangeburg counties.
- 1882 – Polo was played in Aiken, six years after it was introduced in the U.S.
- 1889 – The Aiken Polo Club joined the U.S. Polo Association, and polo is still played today at Whitney Field. Nearly every major race in the country has at least one trained horse from Aiken.
- 1890s – The town’s beauty and warm climate drew wealthy families from the Northeast and Midwest to Aiken, establishing the Winter Colony. Many brought their horses and built large homes and estates. The first horses were often used in polo, fox hunting, and races. Many era relics are displayed at the Aiken County Historical Museum and the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing and Hall of Fame and Museum.
- 1892 – The Palmetto Golf Course was founded and is nearly as old as the sport of golf in the U.S.
- 1912 – The Aiken Golf Club opened by The Highland Park Hotel after an older hotel was destroyed by a fire in 1898.
- Aiken was a relatively small, quiet community in a rural area until the start of the Cold War in the 1950s.
1950s – present day
- 1950 – Prompted by the Cold War, the Atomic Energy Commission announced that the Savannah River Plant would be built on approximately 250,000 acres to make a new weapon out of thermonuclear materials. Thousands of people moved to Aiken to help construct the facility and serve as scientists for various missions. The plant is now known as the Savannah River Site and is Aiken County’s largest employer.
- Approximately 65 to 70 manufacturing facilities have developed in Aiken since the 1950s. The industrial sector includes retail, commercial, and service companies. The growth spurred additional schools, churches, utilities, and businesses in the area.
- Aiken is home to Aiken Technical College and the regional campus of the University of South Carolina, a fully accredited four-year university. Aiken Regional Medical Centers, a multi-million-dollar hospital, was completed in 1976.
- Aiken’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism maintains over 200 acres of public parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, courts, and indoor facilities. Additional golf courses in Aiken include Midland Valley Golf Club, Houndslake Country Club, Woodside Country Club, and Cedar Creek Golf Club.
- Ralph Marrinson, founder of family-owned and operated Marrinson Senior Care Residences, was Florida’s first licensed nursing home administrator in 1972. After opening communities there, he developed Cumberland Village and Cumberland Hills in 1996. Both communities are now owned and operated by Golden Bell Senior Living.
Aiken continues to grow with more development as new industries, working professionals, families, and retirees move to the area to make the community their home.
Retire in Aiken, South Carolina
Aiken offers the perfect setting for retirement. The city has numerous outdoor activities, including parks, golf courses, and community centers hosting classes, special events, and festivals. The community is committed to ensuring everyone is welcome and feels at home.
Senior living communities like Golden Bells’ Cumberland Village and Cumberland Hills are a special part of the city’s history and provide the ideal home base for older adults to continue living independently, with supportive services available as needed.
Residents may venture into Aiken and nearby Augusta, Georgia, to enjoy sights, sounds, and adventures at their leisure. When ready, residents can return to their private apartment suite or patio home to enjoy chef-prepared meals, fun activities, and housekeeping and linen services.
Life at Golden Bell Senior Living
Senior living communities like Golden Bell provide the comforts of home with the added benefits of supportive care, engaging activities, and a maintenance-free lifestyle. With your daily needs met, your loved one will live more independently and have opportunities to meet friends, discover new interests, and live each day to the fullest.
Golden Bell Senior Living offers a full continuum of care, including independent living, assisted living, and respite care. Residents have personalized care plans, are treated like family, and are greeted by name in a warm, welcoming environment.
Amenities and activities include:
- Beautiful accommodations
- Landscaped grounds and gardens
- Community outings
- Recreation and social activities
- Chef-prepared meals
- Scheduled transportation
- Beauty and barber shop
- Housekeeping and maintenance services
Please contact us to learn more about our communities or set up a tour. We’d love to hear from you and are happy to help answer any questions you have about senior living. For more information about choosing senior living, download our complimentary Family Decision Toolkit.