The city of Rock Hill (pop. 65,200) is located approximately 15 miles south of Charlotte, North Carolina, in York County. Populated originally by the Catawba Indians, white settlers began to inhabit the area called Indian Land as early as the 1730s. The building of a direct railway route from Charlotte south to Columbia by the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad Company made what engineers termed “rocky hill” on the company’s rail map into today’s community.
A post office was established in 1852. By the time Rock Hill was incorporated in 1870, a thriving rail station made this village one of the fastest growing areas in the upper part of South Carolina. Farmers could expect a better price for their cotton, and merchants selling everything from wire hangars to buggies benefited as a result. Textile investors prospered as the shipping and receiving of cotton from plantations and warehouses up and down the rail line encouraged the building of technologically advanced operations, including the Cotton Factory (1880), the first steam-powered mill in South Carolina.
Textile manufacturing declined dramatically during the mid-20th century and slowly forced the closure of the town’s many mills. In the 1960s, Rock Hill was the site of one of the first sit-ins protesting segregation. More recently, Rock Hill has taken advantage of its proximity to Charlotte and reinvented itself as a home for a number of internationally known enterprises. Instead of lying useless and in decay, a number of historic textile mills have been converted into housing units, office complexes, and upscale retail establishments. These adaptive use efforts have included the Cotton Factory, which closed as a working mill and was converted to warehouse use in 1967, and was redeveloped in 2006-2007. The city features a number of prominent historic properties, and a map and audiotape (currently being updated for MP3) that guides visitors through the historic downtown. The city supports annual heritage events and festivals, including “Christmasville” in December. Surrounding York County includes such prominent museums and parks as Historic Brattonsville, which interprets the 18th century settlement era and where portions of the 2000 movie “The Patriot” were filmed. Also nearby is the important Revolutionary War battlefield (1780) at the Kings Mountain National Military Park.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2008.