The city of Clemson’s character is largely defined by Clemson University, a large public university that dates to 1889. The university is the cultural center of the city, even though a small multi-block downtown with housing, retail and restaurants is directly to the north of the campus. The community was originally named Calhoun and was renamed Clemson in 1943.
Although the university provides housing for students, many students live off campus in a wide variety of apartment complexes. Save for the downtown, sidewalks are largely absent, but some streets have bike paths. U.S. Route 123 on the northern end of the city exhibits typical suburban-style shopping center developments. The city’s comprehensive plan has a historic preservation component which will likely become more important as 1950s and ’60s buildings acquire historic status. The Clemson (train) Depot, built in 1893, was rehabilitated in 2001 and now houses the local chamber of commerce and visitor center. A road project has closed the station as of 2016, with no known completion date. Clemson University was built on Fort Hill Plantation in 1889. This was home to John C. Calhoun and eventually became the home of Clemson University.
Clemson University was built due to the influence of the women in succession of the Fort Hill Plantation. It all began with Floride, Calhoun’s wife, whose mother had originally purchased the estate. Floride became the owner of Fort Hill when her mother died in 1836. In the meantime, Floride and John C. Calhoun had a daughter named Anna Maria. Anna Maria eventually married Thomas Green Clemson at the age of 21. After their marriage, John C. Calhoun died in 1850 and allowed Floride Calhoun to gain total ownership of the Fort Hill Plantation. Because Anna Maria was the only living child, she inherited a part of Fort Hill when Floride died in 1866. Anna Maria gave Thomas G. Clemson a portion of the property in her will. When she died in 1875, he inherited the plantation. It was Anna Maria who wished to use the land to build an agricultural college, so when Thomas Green died in 1888, he left the land to build what is now known as Clemson University.