Summerville is located approximately 24 miles northeast of Charleston, South Carolina. It sits primarily in Dorchester County, while also having small areas in Berkeley County and Charleston County. The population of Summerville was estimated at slightly more than 44,000 in 2013. Summerville is bordered on the east by Lincolnville and on the southeast by the city of North Charleston. On the south side, the town limits reach as far as the Ashley River next to the Old Fort Dorchester State Historical Park.
From a demographic perspective, 27.0% of the population is under the age of 18, and 10.5% over 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.7 years. The median household income is $54,677. The median value of an owner-occupied home is approximately $182,000. On a comparable basis, Summerville has many more affordable houses coupled with lower taxes, versus cities such as Charleston and North Charleston. Because of these factors, and good access to I-26 and I-95, the town has experienced rapid population growth.
Dorchester School District Two is based in Summerville and is the school district for Summerville and the surrounding wider area.
Summerville has a unique history with the first settlement being established following the American Revolutionary War. The first settlement in 1785 was known as Pineland Village. Initial settlement of Summerville was driven by citizens of Charleston who were seeking to escape seasonal insects and swamp fever. Summerville became an official town in 1847. Summerville was the first town to institute a law banning the cutting down of trees of a particular size. Today, the town's official motto reads "Sacra Pinus Esto (The Pine is Sacred).
Interestingly enough, the prevalence of pine trees in the area led the International Congress of Physicians (or "Tuberculosis Congress" as it was known then) in 1899 to designate Sumerville as one of the two best areas in the world for the treatment and recovery of lung and throat disorders. The theory behind this was that the dry and sandy conditions found in the area, coupled with the high density of pine trees that release turpentine derivatives into the air, helped provide a higher air quality than could be found elsewhere, thus benefitting those with lung and breathing conditions. This designation was considered important in driving the commercial and residential development of Summerville.
Today Summerville is recognized as growing child friendly community, just a short 20 minute drive away from Charleston. With superior schools and world-class sports venues, Summerville continues to be an attractive community in which to work, live and play.
Summerville is a community that still gathers at Town Square to celebrate the 4th of July and a place where Friday night high school football draws a spirited crowd. In early December, the holiday season is ushered in with an annual Christmas tree lighting downtown. In this modern Southern city, progress and preservation are inextricably intertwined, making it a dynamic and diverse place to live and work.
Downtown Restoration Enhancement and Management (D.R.E.A.M.), a non-profit group spearheaded by local residents, has done much since its inception in 1992 to bring focus and support to Summerville and its historic downtown district. The commercial are is bustling again with unique shops, a local bookstore, art galleries and eateries. Guerin's Pharmacy - the oldest still operating in South Carolina - contains antiques, a full-service pharmacy and an old style soda fountain that serves drug store classics such as cherry and vanilla Cokes, milkshakes and chili dogs.
The Summerville Dorchester Museum documents cultural and natural history with a film and exhibits of the colonial settlers, early churches and architecture. More than 700 buildings have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Summerville traces its roots to the 1780's, when it was known as Pineland Village to plantation owners wanting to escape the swamp fever and insects of the Lowcountry summer. After being deemed by medical experts in 1899 as one of the best areas in the world for lung and throat disorders, the area experienced a golden era, with special lodgings and resorts springing up to accommodate pulmonary patients. The most famous was the Pine Forest Inn, which sometimes served as the Winter White House for Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.
Today Summerville is Dorchester County's largest city with an estimated population of more than 43,000. Named one of the 50 best small towns in America by Kiplinger's Personal Financial magazine, Summerville offers residents the best of both worlds in terms of quality of life and housing. Known for its stately Victorian homes, the city also offers the full spectrum of new construction options attracting families, business and military personnel to the area.
Dubbed "Flower Town in The Pines," Summerville still gets high marks for natural attributes. The Flowertown Festival draws more than 200,000 people every spring for a weekend dedicated to artisans and crafts amid the profusion of blooms in Azalea Park. This event is consistently ranked one of the Top 20 events in the Southest by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Azalea Park, a 12-acre oasis of ponds, paths, fountains and tennis courts, has also been the site for one of South Carolina's premiere outdoor arts events, Sculpture in the South. This exhibit and sale of original sculpture typically features more than 30 artists from across the country representing a range of sculpture from Western to whimsical. During the event, patrons also can explore 22 permanent sculptures displayed in public places in Summerville.
Summerville residents can take to the trails at nearby Givhans Ferry State Park, on the former site of an 18th century ferry that once crossed the Edisto River. The park features camping, cabins, fishing, picnic areas and river access.
At Francis Beidler Forest in Four Holes Swamp, shaded boardwalks wind through ancient groves of towering cypress and Pleistocene swamps. The forest - a National Natural Landmark - is protected and manged by the National Audubon Society and is the largest remaining virgin stand of bald-cypress in the world.
A popular destination for visitors, Summerville has nine hotels and it also has seven bed and breakfasts, including the Linwood Bed & Breakfast, built in 1883 by Julia Drayton Hastie, heiress to Magnolia Plantation. The Victorian mansion is surrounded by nearly two acres of award-winning landscaped gardens. The mansion itself is appointed with heart of pine floors, high ceilings, chandeliers, Victorian bays and triple-sash windows, many with original glass.
Summerville has plenty of fine and fun dining options. Across the board, restaurants use style and originality to create menus that appeal to an array of tastes. Summerville's easteries include both chain and independently owned restaurants. Downtown, you'll find an area called Short Central, a cobblestoned, pedestrian-only streetscape with shops and cafes just a block from Town Hall.
A newcomer to downtown is Coastal Coffee Roasters, a coffeehouse that roasts and grinds coffee fresh onsite. On East Third North Street, Coastal Coffee Roasters uses organic, fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, bird friendly and Swiss water process certifications to create its coffee blends.
For those interested in stocking up on ingredients to create a feast at home, Summerville's farmers market is a popular event. It runs weekly on Saturdays from April to November and is located near town hall. The market features artisanal foods and local produce.
Adding to the towns many things to do and places to go, Summerville officals have created a Sweet Tea Trail, that promises an adventure in Southern hospitality through its history, food and shopping.
The trail tells the story of sweet tea's birth in Summerville. It's said that tea plants landed in Summerville in the late 1700's by way of the Ashley River. Andre Michaux, a French explorer and botanist, imported them along with varieties of camellias, gardenias and azaleas near Charleston at what is now known as Middleton Place Plantation.
In 1888, a wealthy scientific philanthropist acquired 600 acres in Summerville and established the Pinehurst Tea Plantation. The plants were eventually moved to a spot on Wadmalaw Island, which is now known as the Charleston Tea Plantation and is owned by Bigelow. It's currently a functioning tea farm and the only place to produce black tea in the United States.
Local bakeries are getting in on the Sweet Tea Trail, offering patrons sweet tea cupcakes and sweet tea relish and jelly. Several antique and vintage stores are joining in, offering patrons a special opportunity to shop - and enjoy sweet tea - from 1-4 p.m. the second Sunday of each month. Officials are in the process of planning a Sweet Tea Festival to celebrate Southern traditions and, of course sweet tea.
From its Friday night football games to its annual festivals, Summerville is a place where rich history and progress mix seamlessly. Leaders focus on stimulating economic development in and around Summerville while making sure the Flowertown in the Pines does not lose its small town charm.