DILLON, SC (WMBF) – This week, WMBF News is "In Your Community" of Dillon and Latta, starting with the Main Street in the heart of Dillon, and the J.W. Dillon House.
For many traveling from the north to the Grand Strand, Dillon County is one of the first areas to pass through, and the town's leaders hope you'll stop to spend some time there.
"We're kinda like the pearl of the Pee Dee, we call ourselves," says Dillon Mayor Todd Davis. "Coming into the Pee Dee, it's the first town you'll see is Dillon, and we're proud of it."
The downtown area of Dillon, specifically Main Street, went through a bit of a makeover three or four years ago, and Davis says it's still in the transition phase as new businesses set up shop in the area.
"We've had a few family-owned businesses come to Main Street in the last year," he says. "I think they see the historic houses and they think it's a nice little quiet area to plant a business. Somebody that's retired coming from the northeast, we've had a number of those come in to start a business. It's been a dream of theirs to find a little quaint quiet southern town."
Several of the businesses along Main Street are on the national register of historic places.
One of those historical landmarks is the JW Dillon House. It was built back in 1890, and then restored and moved to its current location in the 60s. It's a great spot for history buffs, and WMBF News Meteorologist Marla Branson took a look inside.
You can't talk about Dillon without talking about Mr. James W. Dillon, because there wouldn't be a Dillon County without him! Where can you go to learn more about the man that fought tooth and nail for Dillon County? His house, of course!
"When Mr. Dillon started building this home in the other location, it burned before he could move into it, so he rebuilt it by the same plan," said one Dillon House historian. "It stayed there, then of course when the family died out and everything, it was an eyesore. It was a block from the local high school, so it was moved here to this spot."
It may not be in the same spot, but there are several original pieces of furniture in the home. Through donations and volunteers with the Dillon County Historical Society, the house is now fully furnished as it would have been in the early 1900s, and it is sure to impress.
"His sofa - it came over from England and that's original. And his desk - he used a stand-up desk that's original, and the kitchen area has some original things as well," said a member of the historical society.
It's not just antique furniture. The family photos, and stories about the house and Mr. Dillon are passed on by docents to visitors to shed light on the beginnings of the tight-knit community of Dillon.
"It commemorates the courage and the stability and perseverance of great men," a docent said. "Mr. Dillon was a great man. He was very smart, he was a great business man, but he was also very compassionate. He wasn't prejudiced. He treated everybody alike - everyone could eat with him."
Local historians say Mr. Dillon had to fight in Columbia for 12 to 15 years and travel to Columbia to vote several times before the vote finally passed that allowed Dillon to secede from Marion County. If the walls of this house could talk, there would no doubt be some funny stories of celebration in the nights after that final vote.
"They said they had a big celebration a few nights after the signing in his kitchen, and he had a tin ceiling," the docent said. "Mr. Dillon, they said he didn't drink, but he was opening the champagne and he pulled the cork and it went all over the new ceiling and rained down on Mr. Dillon. They all got a good laugh out of that, but he appointed another friend to open the next bottle."
Now, the Dillon house can host a celebration of one's own, they've even had a wedding here on the grounds.
The house is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., or you can call and schedule a group tour, event or meeting at the Dillon House.