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Aiken, South Carolina
The Aiken County Courthouse in August 2007
The Aiken County Courthouse in August 2007
The Thoroughbred
Location of Aiken, South Carolina
Location of Aiken, South Carolina
Country United States
State  South Carolina
County Seal of Aiken County, South Carolina.png Aiken
Incorporated 1835
 • Type Council-manager
 • Total 20.8 sq mi (54.0 km2)
 • Land 20.7 sq mi (53.6 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.4 km2)
515 ft (157 m)
 • Total 29,494
 • Density 1,427/sq mi (550.8/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
Area code(s) 803
FIPS code 45-00550
GNIS feature ID 1244853

Founded in 1835, the city of Aiken was named after William Aiken, the president of the South Carolina Railroad. The town is the county seat of Aiken County, South Carolina, United States, which was formed in 1871 from parts of Orangeburg, Lexington, Edgefield, and Barnwell counties. With Augusta, Georgia, it is one of the two largest cities of the Central Savannah River Area. It is part of the Augusta-Richmond County Metropolitan Statistical Area. Aiken is home to the University of South Carolina Aiken. The population was 30,296 at the 2013 census. Aiken was recognized with the All-America City Award in 1997 by the National Civic League.

Geography and climate

Aiken is located at 33°32′58″N 81°43′14″W / 33.54944°N 81.72056°W / 33.54944; -81.72056 (33.549397, -81.720689), near the center of Aiken County. It is 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Augusta, Georgia, along U.S. Route 1 and 78. Interstate 20 passes 6 miles (10 km) to the north of the city, with access via South Carolina Highway 19 (Exit 18) and US 1 (Exit 22).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.8 square miles (54.0 km2), of which 20.7 square miles (53.6 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 0.68%, is water.

Aiken has a humid subtropical climate, which is characterized by hot, humid summers and cool, dry winters, but experiences milder temperatures throughout the year than the rest of the state. Precipitation does not vary much between the seasons with mostly rain in the milder months and sometimes snow in the winter months. The coldest recorded temperature was −4 °F or −20 °C on January 21, 1985 and the hottest 109 °F or 42.8 °C on August 21, 1983.

Climate data for Aiken, South Carolina
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 82
Average high °F (°C) 55
Average low °F (°C) 33
Record low °F (°C) −4
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.74
Source: The Weather Channel


  • US 1
  • US 78

  • US 78 Truck
  • SC 19
    • SC 19 Truck

    • SC 19 Conn.
  • SC 118
  • SC 302
  • SC 421


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,817
1890 2,362 30.0%
1900 3,414 44.5%
1910 3,911 14.6%
1920 4,103 4.9%
1930 6,033 47.0%
1940 6,168 2.2%
1950 7,083 14.8%
1960 11,243 58.7%
1970 13,436 19.5%
1980 14,978 11.5%
1990 19,872 32.7%
2000 25,337 27.5%
2010 29,566 16.7%
Est. 2015 30,604 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 29,524 people and 12,773 households with a population density was 1,416.3 people per square mile (604.6/km²). There were 14,162 housing units at an average density of 703.1 per square mile (271.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.63% White, 10.30% Black or African American, 0.25% Native American, 1.28% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.44% from other races, and 1.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.49% of the population.

There were 10,287 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.9% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 29.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the city, the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 25.5% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 17.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 87.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $49,100, and the median income for a family was $63,520. Males had a median income of $51,988 versus $28,009 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,129. About 10.1% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.0% of those under age 18 and 10.5% of those age 65 or over.


The municipality of Aiken was incorporated on December 19, 1835. The community formed around the terminus of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, a rail line from Charleston to the Savannah River, and was named for William Aiken, the railroad's first president.

Originally it was in the Edgefield District. With population increases, in 1871 Aiken County was organized, made up of parts of neighboring counties. Among its founding commissioners were three African-American legislators: Prince Rivers; Samuel J. Lee, speaker of the state House and the first black man admitted to the South Carolina Bar; and Charles D. Hayne, a free man of color from one of Charleston's elite families.

Aiken was a planned town, and many of the streets in the historic district are named for other cities and counties in South Carolina, including Abbeville, Barnwell, Beaufort, Chesterfield, Colleton, Columbia, Dillon, Edgefield, Edisto, Fairfield, Florence, Greenville, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Marion, Marlboro, McCormick, Newberry, Orangeburg, Pendleton, Pickens, Richland, Sumter, Union, Williamsburg and York.

In the late 19th century, Aiken gained fame as a wintering spot for wealthy people from the Northeast. The Aiken Winter Colony was established by Thomas Hitchcock, Sr. and William C. Whitney. Over the years Aiken became a winter home for many famous and notable people including George H. Bostwick, James B. Eustis, Madeleine Astor, William Kissam Vanderbilt, Eugene Grace, president of Bethlehem Steel, Allan Pinkerton, W. Averell Harriman, and many others.

Savannah River Plant

The selection of a site near Aiken by the United States Atomic Energy Commission to build a plant to produce fuel for thermonuclear weapons was announced on November 30, 1950. Residences and businesses at Ellenton, South Carolina were bought for use for the plant site. Residents were moved to New Ellenton, which was constructed about eight miles north, or to the several neighboring towns.

The site was named the Savannah River Plant (subsequently renamed the Savannah River Site in 1989). The facility contains five production reactors, fuel fabrication facilities, a research laboratory, heavy water production facilities, two fuel reprocessing facilities and tritium recovery facilities.

Historic places

Steeplechase racing

The Aiken Steeplechase Association, founded in 1930, hosts the Imperial Cup each March and the Holiday Cup in October, both of which are steeplechase races sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association. This event shows attendances of more than 30,000 spectators.

The Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum was established in 1977 as a tribute to the famous flat racing and steeplechase Thoroughbred horses that trained at the Aiken Training Track.

Other events

Aiken hosts many polo matches at the numerous polo fields located in the city. There are also many other events held in Aiken such as:

  • The Lobster Races
  • Aiken's Makin'
  • Western Carolina State Fair
  • Battle of Aiken Reenactment
  • The Whiskey Road Race
  • Aiken Triple Crown
  • Fall Steeplechase
  • Bluegrass Festival
  • Hops & Hogs


  • Aiken County Historical Museum- A living museum, also known as "Banksia" after the banksia rose, displays special exhibits of items from residents.
  • Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum- Displays the area's rich thoroughbred history with memorabilia, photography, and trophies.
  • Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum- the railroad depot is located on the second floor and had nine dioramas displaying depicted railroad history.
  • Aiken Center for Arts- Hosts educational classes, fine arts gallery, and exhibition opportunities.
  • Aiken County Farmers Market- The oldest food market in South Carolina.
  • Center for African American History, Art and Culture- Host special events of African American history.
  • DuPont Planetarium and RPSEC Observatory- Provides live presentations of stars, constellation, and visible planets.
  • Juilliard in Aiken- Live artistic performances, classes, lectures, and workshops.
  • Rose Hill Estate- Historic housing for overnight stay, weddings, reunions, meetings, and dinner parties.
  • Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site- Explore the events and lifestyle of enslavement.
  • Aiken State Park

The Southside

The Southside is the southern area of the city of Aiken, which strongly increased in development after the construction of the Savannah River Site. It now serves as the premiere shopping district in Aiken County, being the location of the Aiken Mall, multiple retail stores, and several restaurants. Two large residential communities, Houndslake Country Club and Woodside Plantation, have multiple golf courses within the communities. Many newcomers take up residence in either Houndslake or Woodside; however, the most prestigious homes are located in historic downtown Aiken.

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