West Ashley is mostly within the City of Charleston, though it is physically separated from the Charleston peninsula by the Ashley River and separated from James Island, Johns Island and Wadmalaw Islands by rivers and the intercoastal waterway. West Ashley has an estimated 2010 population of slightly more than 57,000 people.
Flanked by the scenic waterfront vistas and marshes of the Ashley and Stono Rivers and ancient moss draped oak trees, West Ashley's initial neighborhoods were developed in the 1950's with its largest growth occurring throughout the 1970's and 80's. As Interstate 526 was built in the early 1980s and the Glenn McConnell Parkway was built in the 1990s to help alleviate traffic on the historic Ashley River Road (SC Hwy. 61) corridor, the area saw explosive residential and commercial growth, which is continuing. Major retailers located in the community as land needed for "big box" stores was not available on the historic downtown Charleston peninsula. West Ashley's original neighborhoods line Savannah Highway (US Hwy. 17) in an area closest to the historic Charleston peninsula. Its first retail district, built in the 1950's, and commonly referred to as The Triangle, is seeing a revitalization with many art and design oriented businesses and restaurants and bars having located there in recent years.
Neighborhoods closest to the Charleston peninsula were built in the 1920's through the 1950's. Among the older subdivisions are Old Windermere, Byrnes Down, Moreland, Avondale and The Crescent. Development continued through the 1970's and 1980's in neighborhoods farther out from the city, such as Northbridge, Northbridge Terrace and Wespanee Plantation. New residential development has continued in recent years, especially past the Western boundary of Interstate 526, in neighborhoods like Shadowmoss and Carolina Bay.
West Ashley also has several historic plantations and gardens that have been preserved and are open for tours. Magnolia Plantation, Middleton Place and Drayton Hall Plantation allow visitors to learn about the architecture and life of South Carolinians in the 1700's and the centuries following.
Another historic destination in West Ashley is Charles Towne Landing, the site of the English settlement that would become the Carolina colony. The 664-acre plantation is a state park.
When getting around by car, main highway corridors in West Ashley are US 17, called Savannah Highway, and S.C. 61, also known as Ashley River Road. These two highways are connected by S.C>7, also called Sam Rittenberg Boulevard. Interstates 526 and 26 connect West Ashley to North Charleston to the north and Mount Pleasant to the East and Downtown Charleston to the South.
For those interested in seeing West Ashley by foot or bike, the West Ashley Greenway is a good option. This 10.5 mile walking and biking path weaves among residential areas and shopping centers and through small marshy areas and trees. The trail starts near the South Windermere Shopping Center and stretches to Johns Island.
Darius Rucker, lead singer of the band Hootie and the Blowfish grew up in the West Ashley area. He attended Middleton High School, and still spends time in the Charleston area. West Ashley is also home to the area's newest hospital, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital.
West Ashley is not a self-governed city or town. The majority of the West Ashley area is located within the city limits of Charleston with a few remaining pockets in unincorporated Charleston County that are served by the Saint Andrews Public Service District who provides municipal services for those outside the city limits.
West Ashley is also home to several historic plantation properties, the most significant of these are The Ashley Hall Plantation and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.