• Roger W. Downes

Discover "The Pretty Place", the story of the Fred W. Symmes Chapel

A place of worship and beauty in the mountains of South Carolina.

As a photographer I had dreamed for years about photographing The Pretty Place (Fred W. Symmes Chapel) at sunrise, which balances on the edge of Standing Stone Mountain above Greenville, South Carolina. However each time I was able to fit a shoot into my schedule the weather went south or someone had the audacity to schedule their wedding on the same exact day.

So I had to literally wait years to be able to finally capture the image you see above. But you can hear that story and the history about the Chapel in the podcast directly below.

But if you don't have time to listen then allow me to share some of the highlights that YMCA Director of Camp Operations Nicholas Patton talk to us about during his interview for the podcast.

...even after the Symmes' large charitable donation, visitors continued to call the location by its previous name, the Pretty Place.

First, The Pretty Place started off with a blessing, when the Cleveland family gifted 27 acres to the YMCA Camp in the early 1920's to build the chapel on. The original chapel located on YMCA's 1,400 acre camp was built shortly thereafter in 1925 with a few stumps of wood for pews laid out around a wooden altar overlooking the valley below.

Sure there were minor improvements throughout the years to the amphitheater chapel but it wasn't until the early 1940's when a large financial blessing from Fred W. Symmes helped to build the main structure you see today, ultimately giving Symmes honor by remaining the chapel after him. But even after the Symmes' large charitable donation, visitors continued to call the location by its previous name, the Pretty Place.

Second, the Chapel which seats a maximum of 350 people becomes standing room only during Easter service as over 800 people each year stand elbow to elbow pouring out into the parking lot to be apart of the celebration. However, this year they opted to live stream the service on facebook due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

You can see that facebook live below.

Speaking about events, the Fred W. Symmes Chapel has a lot of them. By November of 2020 the amphitheater had already hosted 351 events for the year with 90 of them in October alone and an additional 44 in November. So if you are planning on visiting the Chapel to enjoy a sunrise, sunset or to photograph it you'll want to check the venue's event page to make sure it is open to the public. If you don't check before you go, you could be turned away at the gate.

Donate to the Chapel and the YMCA of Greenville

If you are interested in hosting your wedding or other event at the venue you will want to book it now as available dates fill up fast with October being one of the busiest months because of the autumn foliage.

But without a doubt, The Pretty Place is certainly worth the visit. I personally felt closer to God as I stood in the Fred W. Symmes Chapel watching the sun rise over the valley that stretched down into Greenville. It is hard not to hear His voice there.


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Thank you for taking the time to read about the adventures I take, the people I meet and the places I see.  

Please get out into the natural world and enjoy all the beauty and spender that is God's artistry...

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