Seneca, South Carolina

Seneca, South Carolina
City Hall of Seneca
City of Smiles, City with Style
Location in Oconee County and the state of South Carolina.
Location in Oconee County and the state of South Carolina.
Coordinates:34°41′3″N 82°57′21″W / 34.68417°N 82.95583°W / 34.68417; -82.95583Coordinates:34°41′3″N 82°57′21″W / 34.68417°N 82.95583°W / 34.68417; -82.95583
CountryUnited States
StateSouth Carolina
 • MayorDaniel W. Alexander
 • Total8.25 sq mi (21.37 km2)
 • Land8.20 sq mi (21.23 km2)
 • Water0.05 sq mi (0.14 km2)
965 ft (294 m)
 • Total8,102
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,041.24/sq mi (402.03/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
29672, 29678, 29679
Area code(s)864
FIPS code45-65095[4]
GNIS feature ID1250833[5]

Seneca is a city in Oconee County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 8,102 at the 2010 census. It is the principal city of the Seneca Micropolitan Statistical Area (population 74,273 at the 2010 census), an (MSA) that includes all of Oconee County, and that is included within the greater Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, South Carolina Combined Statistical Area (population 1,266,995 at the 2010 census). Seneca was named for the nearby Cherokee town of Isunigu, which English colonists knew as "Seneca Town".


Welcome sign

In the antebellum period, this area was part of the Pickens District, South Carolina. The state had used jurisdictions such as parish, county, district, and county again in its history. Oconee County was not organized until 1868, after the American Civil War.

Seneca was founded in 1874, during the Reconstruction era, as the railroad town "Seneca City", named for the Seneca River and a historic Cherokee town known as Isunigu. It was called Seneca in a kind of transliteration by British colonists.

Seneca City was developed at the intersection of the Blue Ridge Railroad and the newly built Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railroad. Both lines are now part of the Norfolk Southern Railway. A. W. Thompson and J. J. Norton, who were locating engineers for the Air Line Railroad, purchased the land from Col. Brown of Anderson, South Carolina, also in the large Pickens District. A stake marking the center of town was driven into the ground at the intersection of the railroad tracks and the current Townville Street. The land was divided into lots for one-half mile from the stake. An auction was held on August 14, 1873. The town was given a charter by the state legislature on March 14, 1874. In 1908, the name was changed to the shorter Seneca.

Old Cotton Warehouse. The right hand section of the warehouse burned in April 2008 and has been torn down.

Seneca developed as a marketing and shipping point for cotton, the major commodity crop in this uplands area. During the harvest, wagons bringing cotton would line up for blocks from the railroad station. A passenger terminal, several hotels, and a park were built near the railroad tracks. Recently, this park was named the Norton-Thompson Park in honor of the city's founders.

The first school was built in 1874. The community also was home of the Seneca Institute - Seneca Junior College, established here in 1899 as an historically black college. It was reserved for African-American students until 1939.

Westpoint Stevens Plant, January 2008. Demolition of the mill began in the spring of 2008.

Textile mills were built in the area; a plant-and-mill village was built in 1893 by the Courtenay Manufacturing Company in Newry on the Little River, which supplied hydropower for the mill. W.L. Jordon built another textile plant and mill village east of Seneca. This village has been called Jordania, Londsdale, and Utica; these changes accompanied changes in ownership of the plant. The J. P. Stevens Plant, which was later called the Westpoint Stevens Plant, was a large textile mill built on Lake Hartwell. Its workforce was integrated, unlike most other plants that hired only whites. Many other textile mills were developed in this area. These plants were the main industry for Seneca for the first half of the twentieth century. With the shift of these jobs overseas, these textile mills are now closed.

In the late 20th century, major dam projects were constructed n the Keowee and other local rivers, to support recreation and public utilities. These projects created three major lakes: Lake Hartwell in 1963, Lake Keowee in 1971, and Lake Jocassee in 1974, stimulating development in Seneca and the region. Duke Power's Oconee Nuclear Station was built on Lake Keowee, drawing cooling water for its operations from the lake.

The recreation provided by the lakes, and other attractions, such as nearby Clemson University attracted many retirees from other parts of the country. Retirement communities have been built in the area.[6] Concerned about over-development, some residents formed the Friends of Lake Keowee Society (FOLKS) to advocate for balance. [7]

Early on April 13th, 2020, a high-end EF3 tornado struck residential areas of south and east of Seneca. Many buildings were damaged or destroyed and one person was killed.[8]

National Register of Historic Places listings

In and around Seneca, there are a number of historic buildings and districts that are on the National Register of Historic Places:[9]

  • Seneca Historic District was listed in 1974. It is located south of the railroad tracks. The district consists of a number of homes and three churches that were built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The houses have architectural styles that were popular in the period. It also includes a log cabin from the mid nineteenth century that was moved from Long Creek, South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has additional pictures and information,[10] copies of the nomination forms,[11][12] and a map of the district.[13]
  • Ram Cat Alley Historic District was listed in 2000. It is a twenty-one building commercial district built in the 1880s to the 1930s. The name of the street came from cats that gathered around a meat market. Many of these buildings have been rejuvenated and now house restaurants, shops, and professional offices. The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has additional pictures and information,[14] a copy of the nomination form,[15] and a map.[16]
  • Newry Historic District was listed in 1982. It is a historic textile mill village near Seneca. The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has additional pictures and information,[17] a copy of the nomination form,[18] and a map.[19]
  • Alexander-Hill House
  • Faith Cabin Library at Seneca Junior College
  • McPhail Angus Farm
  • Old Pickens Presbyterian Church


Seneca is located at34°41′3″N 82°57′21″W / 34.68417°N 82.95583°W / 34.68417; -82.95583 (34.684145, -82.955778).[20]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.1 square miles (18 km2), of which 7.1 square miles (18 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (0.56%) is water.


Historical population
2019 (est.)8,533[3]5.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
2011 estimate

2020 census

Seneca racial composition[21]
White (non-Hispanic)5,55662.78%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic)2,14324.21%
Native American250.28%
Pacific Islander30.03%
Hispanic or Latino5316.0%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 8,850 people, 4,043 households, and 2,138 families residing in the city.

2000 census

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 7,652 people, 3,286 households, and 2,096 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,084.6 people per square mile (418.5/km2). There were 3,677 housing units at an average density of 521.2 per square mile (201.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 63.32% White, 33.77% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.65% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.53% of the population.

There were 3,286 households, out of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.2% were married couples living together, 17.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.2% were non-families. Of all households 32.3% were made up of individuals, and 13.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 24.4% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 24.7% from 45 to 64, and 16.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,643, and the median income for a family was $44,487. Males had a median income of $31,381 versus $21,472 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,498. About 13.0% of families and 15.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.0% of those under age 18 and 16.4% of those age 65 or over.


Seneca City Hall is located on North First Street, in the center of the historic (downtown) area of Seneca. North First Street is also marked as Highway 123 Business. The City Hall Complex holds the Seneca Police Dept, Seneca Light and Water, as well as the offices of the Mayor and City Administrator.

Seneca Fire Department is housed on West South Fourth Street, in a new complex. The Fire House is just across the street from the Shaver Complex, which comprises the Shaver Civic Center, sports fields for the Seneca Recreation Department, a park for smaller children, and a rubberized soft walking track.


Seneca has a lending library, a branch of the Oconee County Public Library.[22]

Until June 2020, it was the headquarters of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), the council that deals with the examination for engineers and surveyors. On that date, the NCEES moved to Greenville, South Carolina.

Notable residents


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ Louise Matheson Bell, Seneca: Visions of Yesterday, 2003,ISBN 0-9763843-0-2.
  7. ^ Edgar, Walter, ed. The South Carolina Encyclopedia, University of South Carolina Press, 2006, p. 859,ISBN 1-57003-598-9.
  8. ^ NWS Damage Survey for EF3 Tornado Event (Report). Iowa Environmental Mesonet. National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina. April 13, 2020. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  9. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  10. ^ Pictures of the Seneca Historic District
  11. ^ Seneca Historic District nomination form I
  12. ^ Seneca Historic District nomination form II
  13. ^ Map of Seneca Historic District
  14. ^ Pictures of the Ram Cat Alley Historic District
  15. ^ Ram Cat Alley Historic District nomination form
  16. ^ Map of the Ram Cat Alley Historic District
  17. ^ Pictures of the Newry Historic District
  18. ^ Newry Historic District nomination form
  19. ^ Map of the Newry Historic District
  20. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  21. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  22. ^ "South Carolina libraries and archives". SCIWAY. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  23. ^ "United States Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina : Biography". Retrieved May 8, 2016.

External links

Media files used on this page

Map of South Carolina highlighting Oconee County.svg
This is a locator map showing Oconee County in South Carolina. For more information, see Commons:United States county locator maps.
Seneca South Carolina city hall.JPG
(c) I, KudzuVine, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Seneca, South Carolina, new city hall on East North 1st Street
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: PD
Seneca Cotton Warehouse.jpg
Seneca Cotton Warehouse
Oconee County South Carolina incorporated and unincorporated areas Seneca highlighted.svg
Author/Creator: Rcsprinter123, Licence: CC BY 3.0
Map showing the location of this town within Oconee County, South Carolina.
Seneca SC welcome sign.JPG
w:Seneca, SC welcome sign on Highway 123.