A few Sunday's ago we decided to take the scenic ride back home after going out for lunch after church. We drove to a place my husband just loves to go to--Stumphouse Tunnel in Oconee County, South Carolina.
This is one of the most visited Historical Places in South Carolina but yet there are so many people that don't know the fascinating history of the unfinished railroad tunnel. The following tells a little of the history of Stumphouse Tunnel...
The tunnel was first proposed in 1835 by residents of Charleston, South Carolina as a new and shorter route for the Blue Ridge Railroad between Charleston and the Ohio river valley area which until then was only accessible by bypassing the mountains entirely to the South and then traveling up north through Georgia and middle Tennessee. In 1852, 13 miles of tunnel were proposed to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains through South Carolina, North Carolina, and into Tennessee. Construction on the railway was begun in the late 1850s and was successful through most of South Carolina until hitting the mountains around Wallhalla in Oconee County. There Stumphouse tunnel along with three other tunnels was to be built.
Construction on Stumphouse tunnel began in 1856 when the George Collyer Company of London. By 1859, the State of South Carolina had spent over a million dollars on the tunnel and refused to spend any more on the project, therefore the tunnel work was abandoned. The tunnel had been excavated to a length of 4,363 feet of the planned 5,863 total feet. Today, where the tunnel was meant to end on the other side of the mountain, there remains a mound of earth (intended for the railway tracks) submerged during the summer months under Crystal Lake, located just west of Highway 28.
Inside the tunnel the temperature is a constant 50 degrees with humidity of 85%. Beginning in the 1950s Stumphouse tunnel was used by Clemson University to grow blue cheese until the 1970s when the blue cheese operation was relocated to air-conditioned cheese ripening rooms where the tunnel environment was duplicated.
Today, Stumphouse tunnel is operated as a public park along with nearby Isaqueena Falls by the city of Walhalla. The tunnel is easily accessible by foot, a few yards from a gravel parking lot. The structural integrity of the tunnel is solid and almost no cracking is apparent minus an enlarged vent halfway through the tunnel. In 1999 this vent was impacted by a rock slide, however in 2000 the town of Walhalla re-excavated the tunnel and safely returned it to public use.
The Stumphouse Tunnel Complex was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.