Way back Wednesday: Downtown Summerville

Local News

Downtown Summerville in the early 1900’s

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCBD) – It’s Wednesday and that means it is time to explore history that surrounds the Lowcountry. This week we are in Summerville.

The town looks a lot different than it did when it was first inhabited in the late 1700’s. Many plantation and coastal families settled in Summerville from May to September to catch a break from the heat, mosquitoes, and disease.

Fast forward to the early 1800’s and that is when modernization began to occur with the arrival of the railroad.

According to Summerville town officials, “trees were being cut in large numbers for laying rails and the clearing of lots to relocate the commercial center near the tracks.”

Summerville officially became a town in 1847 with the passing of a first law prohibiting the cutting of certain-sized trees without permission, or people would be fined $25 dollars.

That ordinance is one of the oldest of its kind in the United States, according to VisitSummerville.

In August 1886, a deadly earthquake hit Charleston. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed.

That earthquake and a downtown fire wiped out most of the buildings surrounding Summerville’s town square.

USGS picture shows destruction of an area in Downtown Charleston from the deadly earthquake in 1886.

FUN FACT: The International Congress of Physicians declared Summerville as one of the two best places in the world for treatment and recovery of lung disorders, according to town officials.

By the early 1900s, people from all over moved to Summerville to live and visitors flocked to the booming town, especially during early spring to enjoy the azaleas blossom.

Library of Congress, 1906, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-det-4a27312

VisitSummerville says forty years ago Summerville had a population of about 3,000. Today that number is estimated over 51,000.

2019 was a special year for the town as officials brought back a sign that used to greet visitors in the early 1900’s. Town square is now known as Hutchinson Square.

Picture: VisitSummerville
New sign welcomes visitors into historic downtown Summerville
Picture: VisitSummerville

The new arch sign sits at the entrance of downtown area and includes historic bricks uncovered and repurposed for the vertical structures.

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