All the adornments that taste and money can afford

Posted by | June 2, 2017

The Gassaway Mansion in Greenville, SC is still the largest house in the Upstate at 22,000 square feet.

Here’s a profile of its owners, Walter & Minnie Gassaway, taken from  “History of South Carolina, Volume 4,” from 1920:

“Walter L. Gassaway is one of the very well known bankers and financiers of Upper South Carolina, is president of three banks, including the American Bank of Greenville, and is also extensively engaged in cotton manufacture.

“The original seat of the Gassaway family was the Valley of Virginia. One branch of the family included the late Henry Gassaway Davis of West Virginia. James D. Gassaway, father of the Greenville banker, was a son of the settler who came from the Valley of Virginia in the early part of the nineteenth century and established a pioneer home in Pickens County, South Carolina.

collection South Carolina Department of Archives and History

One of Greenville’s most unusual buildings, the Gassaway Mansion is representative of the exuberance and prosperity of the 1920s. Built as a residence between 1919 and 1924 by Walter and Minnie Quinn Gassaway, the mansion is said to have been designed by Minnie Gassaway after she took a correspondence course in architecture.

“James D. Gassaway for many years, beginning before the war, was concerned with large and extensive business affairs in Pickens County. He built mills, cleared and developed land and in many substantial ways helped build up the community. Walter L. Gassaway was born at Central in Pickens County in 1862, being a son of James D. and Mariah Douthitt Gassaway.

“When he was about eighteen years old, and soon after leaving school, he came to Greenville and went to work in the store of BM McGee on Pendleton Street. Mr. McGee was a noted merchant of former days and was not only successful himself, but his store graduated a number of young men who have since made their mark in the world.

“Mr. Gassaway acquired a sound knowledge of banking while cashier of the Greenville Savings Bank, of which Mr. JW Norwood, one of the state’s most successful bankers, was president. He was cashier there two years, and in 1890 organized the American Bank in the building located at the junction of Augusta and Pendleton Streets, where it has continued to enjoy a most successful career, and is now one of the leading financial institutions in this part of the state.

“For several years Mr. Gassaway has been president of the bank. He is also president of the Bank of Central at Central, South Carolina. His interests as a cotton manufacturer are also at Central, where he built and is president and treasurer of the Isaqueena Mills. These mills under his skillful management have grown and prospered and the capital stock of the company is now $315,000, while the mill itself is equipped with 660 looms and 25,680 spindles. The products of the Isaqueena Mills are print cloths.

“Mr. Gassaway married Miss Minnie Quinn, member of a well known family of eastern North Carolina. Mrs. Gassaway is known to Greenville not only as a woman of great personal charm, but of unusual business talents, and has made a splendid success in business affairs.

“Mr. and Mrs. Gassaway have a beautiful country estate on the Spartanburg Road just outside the city limits. It is not only improved with all the adornments and conveniences that taste and money can afford, but it also has a profitable commercial feature in the shape of a model dairy. Mr. and Mrs. Gassaway have one daughter, Susan Mariah Gassaway.”

Walter Gassaway went on to become Greenville’s most successful stock broker and speculator in the 1920s. The mansion was completed just before the 1929 stock market crash. Walter Gassaway lost everything and shot himself on the front lawn of his mansion. It is said that his ghost haunts the mansion as well as the front lawn. The mansion was divided up into apartments during the Great Depression and then came into county hands for delinquent taxes.

sources:  “History of South Carolina, Volume 4,” edited by Yates Snowden, Harry Gardner Cutler, Lewis Publishing Co., NY & Chicago, 1920

3 Responses

  • Eliabeth "parr" Ferguson says:

    I went to school here and loved it. I have great memories of this place

  • Catherine says:

    I am Mr. Gassoway’s great great granddaughter and I would just like to clear up the fact that he did not shoot himself. My great great grandfather died of a massive heart attack whilst mowing the lawn of his home.

  • Mike Dixon says:

    What is the quote inscribed above the fireplace?

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