HISTORY: Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel

S.C. Encyclopedia  |  The Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel is an unfinished nineteenth-century railroad tunnel located near Walhalla. The variation of the name “Stump House” was drawn from the legend of a Cherokee woman who lived on the mountain with her white husband. Rejected by both their respective communities, the couple lived on the mountain in a log home built atop stumps.

In the 1850s Stumphouse Mountain played a key role in South Carolina’s attempt to participate in antebellum America’s commercial revolution. Planners contemplated cutting a one-and-one-half- mile railroad tunnel through the heart of the mountain in order to link the state’s rail lines with the Blue Ridge Railroad coming from Knoxville, Tennessee. This enterprise, if successful, would have linked Charleston with the commercial heartland of the young nation. Unfortunately, the price of tunneling through Stumphouse Mountain proved prohibitive. The state government spent $1 million, and workers (ten of whom died) dynamited and drilled for three years before funds ran out in 1859. Two years later, with the outbreak of the Civil War, state planners abandoned the project, still one thousand feet short of completion. Briefly revived in 1876 and 1900, and discussed as late as 1940, the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel was never completed.

In 1951 Clemson College purchased the tunnel and for several years experimented with curing blue cheese in its cool, damp environment. Clemson leased the tunnel to the Pendleton Historic District in 1970, and it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places the following year. The tunnel became a popular tourist attraction but was closed to visitors following a rock slide in the mid-1990s. After rigorous safety testing, the tunnel reopened as a public park in 2000.

Excerpted from an entry by W. Scott Poole.   To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


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