Breathing new life into historic materials from Spartanburg’s textile mill heritage, the new Rainey Amphitheater at Converse College was dedicated over the summer of 2016. Spartanburg community member Nancy Rainey Crowley led the effort to save building materials from Clifton Manufacturing Company No. 2 Mill, which was built in 1888 by Converse founder Dexter Edgar Converse.
Crowley sought to honor the mill’s history by incorporating them into Spartanburg’s future and found the perfect opportunity in the Converse amphitheater project. The amphitheater incorporates the mill’s bricks and woodwork along with the covering over its front door, which enjoys a new home as the amphitheater’s centerpiece.
The project was funded by the Callie (Caroline Stringer ’37) and John Rainey Foundation of Anderson, SC, of which Crowley is a trustee along with her sister, former chairman of the Converse Board of Trustees, Mary Rainey Belser ’69. It expanded the College’s original amphitheater to create a performance and event space equipped to meet the needs of both Converse and community groups.
“The generous gift of the Rainey Amphitheater will provide generations of Converse performing artists with a beautiful setting to showcase their talents.”
“We have an opportunity to reconnect Upstate South Carolina’s rich textile history to the education of new generations of students by reclaiming rather than disposing of our past,” said foundation chairman Robert Rainey during the dedication. “It is our privilege to present this amphitheater to Converse College.”
The Rainey Foundation funded the project in memory of Stanley Witherell Converse Jr. (1930-1985); and in honor of his son, Stanley Witherell Converse III, and his grandchildren, Clare Rainey, Chloe McCall, Caitlin Reid and Andrew Stringer Converse. Stanley Witherell Converse, Jr. was the great-grandnephew of Dexter Edgar Converse and was vice president of Clifton Manufacturing Company.
“One of the greatest gifts we can give artists is space to create,” said Dr. Boone Hopkins, dean of the Converse College School of the Arts. “The generous gift of the Rainey Amphitheater will provide generations of Converse performing artists with a beautiful setting to showcase their talents.”
Originally published in The Converse Magazine