Go-Round: Convivial decades-old neighborhood beacon of North Charlestons economic fortunes
When Allison and Daniel Nadeau travel the several blocks to dine out, they’re taken aback — in a good way — to see many neighborhood friends.
It’s not just someone across the way, but maybe the couple at the next table, a group nearby, even the owner.
The Nadeaus are among dozens of younger families moving into North Charleston’s established Park Circle area. The community is comfortably east of Interstate 26 and enticingly close to the Olde North Charleston business district of quaint shops, trendy eateries and funky arts locales.
“I like that small town feel; I know everybody,” Allison Nadeau says.
Both from Nashville, the pair attended Savannah School of Art and Design and were looking for work after graduation when Daniel Nadeau landed a job in Charleston.
That fit their criteria. “Charleston is still on the coast,” she says.
The couple bought their first home in 2007 on Hartford Circle, and they’ve lived there, with their cat, since. The house is in the northwest quadrant of Park Circle.
In 2008, they started their own company, Ink Meets Paper. Couples in marriage and business, the Nadeaus design letter-press greeting cards. They take advantage of computerized technology to speed up and perfect the process while showcasing ages-old styles by employing an old printing press from the 1920s.
To get the shop off the ground, they redesigned their 2,000-square-foot house, one of the larger dwellings in their immediate area. “We’ve made some improvements,” she says. They built a concrete floor for the press. The couple also landscaped the yard. And they installed wooden slats on the side of the brick house to give it a distinctive look.
They didn’t have to leave the Park Circle area to find a carpentry specialist. The couple chose Ash Woodworking; The owner lives in the neighborhood. Allison Nadeau says that’s another plus about Park Circle: From restaurants to contractors, the answer could be a few blocks away.
The Nadeaus believe they made a good real estate deal in purchasing a house in Park Circle.
“We liked the central location, to be able to get anywhere quickly,” she says. They also favored the affordable prices and the style of homes.
“We wanted a home from the ’50s,” she says. Their house is a brick ranch built in 1959.
“The other reason we really liked the area was the arts (scene). That really struck us,” she says, noting that they are members of the North Charleston Artists’ Guild.
Looking back, Allison Nadeau says their decision was prescient. “Oh, my gosh. Absolutely. We love it here.”
The community has a variety of residents, she says, from move-ins to a neighbor who lived there for 40 years.
The Framptons can top that. Gayle and Joel Frampton bought their cozy home on Sherwood Street half a century ago.
Gayle Bobo Frampton heads the Northeast Park Circle Neighborhood Council and is somewhat of an unofficial historian of the area. For instance, she related how streets around Park Circle such as Rhett, Montague, Buist and Marquis are named for the businessmen who helped lay out the subdivision starting in 1912.
Her family moved from the town of Union to North Charleston when she was five — her father had taken a welding job at Charleston Naval Shipyard. By 1947, they had settled in a house on South Rhett Avenue, at that time a dirt road. Since then, her longest house move was from the south side of Park Circle to the north side.
“I never wanted to live anywhere else,” she says. “We are 15-20 minutes from everywhere.”
Her husband, Joel Frampton, was born downtown but grew up in North Charleston. When they were married, Gayle Frampton told her newlywed husband, “I would move as far as Filbin Creek but couldn’t move any farther.” Filbin Creek is generally considered to be the northern edge of Park Circle and a couple of blocks from where the Framptons live now.
They raised three children; son Todd Frampton’s T-ball teammate was Elliott Summey, a Charleston County Council member and son of North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.
The only time she had doubts about living in Park Circle was when the Charleston Naval Base and Shipyard closed in 1994. Many Park Circle residents relied on the base and shipyard for their livelihood. But the shutdown would spur lawmakers, including Summey, to help give North Charleston an economic shot in the arm, most notably with the Noisette revitalization project named for nearby Noisette Creek.
Partly as a result, younger families rediscovered Park Circle, and adjacent Olde North Charleston’s retail sector was reinvigorated.
Frampton has gone to bat for the neighborhood, most recently in 2005 when she and supporters stopped a plan to shrink the iconic Park Circle traffic loop by more than half. Her biggest worry now is a planned rail line close to the neighborhood.
But Park Circle always will be home. “We are a mix of white collar and blue collar. They work for a living, and know the value of a dollar,” she says.
To get to Park Circle from downtown Charleston, travel west on I-26 to Montague Avenue, which is exit 212. Turn right on East Montague Avenue and go about two miles. The traffic circle is ahead. Turn on any of the offshoots, Rhett, Durant, Buist and Montague avenues, to see the neighborhood.
Location: North Charleston.
Number of homes: 600 +.
Square footage: 800-3,500.
Look and feel: Park Circle was laid out 100 years ago, but most homes today date to the 1940s-70s as the neighborhood grew to support Charleston Naval Shipyard, Garco, Westvaco and other industries. Dwellings hug along semi-wooded streets with landscaped yards marked by azaleas and oaks. One- and two-story brick veneer cottages with vinyl, shingle or brick siding predominate. Avenues shoot out from, or follow the path of, the 800-foot-wide Park Circle traffic loop. Inside the circle neighbors congregate at parks, a baseball field and refurbished long-time community center.
Homes on market: 35.
List prices: $50,000-$250,000.
Schools: North Charleston Elementary, Morningside Middle and North Charleston High.
Fun facts: Rich businessmen who launched Park Circle a century ago were part of the “Broad Street Ring”; North Charleston council members all lived near Park Circle in 1988 when the city debated geographically diverse districts, so a council wag jokingly suggested — to save their seats — adopting bike wheel-style districts emanating from the circle with each home positioned in a separate wedge between outreaching ‘spokes.’