Growing rapidly on its edges, Summerville stays put in its mid-section - which is home to century-old houses and the field of high school football's winningest coach.
John W. Altman, for one, seems well aware of the town's ties to the past.
Altman, a Realtor with Century 21 Properties Plus, lists a home for sale on West Richardson Avenue known as White Gables.
Built around 1830, the 5,034-square foot residence sits on a nearly one-and-a-half acre downtown property that also holds three cottages.
The property also represents the boyhood memory of a town icon who, while maybe not as legendary as Summerville High coach John McKissick, remains a respected figure here.
"I eat breakfast with (former mayor) Berlin G. Myers," Altman says. "He was born in 1917. He remembers walking through the grounds (at White Gables) going to school."
Owners at one point turned the West Richardson property into an inn, but it's a house today, Altman says. The listing price? $685,000.
Altman agrees the house requires upgrades in particular to the kitchen. But with $100,000 worth of improvements, he says, a buyer could wind up with a house easily worth $1 million.
The Richardson Avenue property's price - comparatively moderate in historic home circles in the Lowcountry - sums up the Summerville real estate market. Dozens of homes sell into the high $300,000 range, but just a few top half a million dollars and hardly any reach seven figures. That's the case even with sprawling properties in Summerville's historic district dating back 175 years or more.
"I think the Summerville market is extremely strong in many ways," says Terry Hamlin, agent with Carolina One Real Estate who lists a gated home on Beaufort Street with a custom-designed energy-efficient system for $499,000. He says that $300,000 to $350,000 homes in Summerville "sell very well. But when you're up above $400,000, you're in very rarefied air."
Belinda Fox, likewise a Carolina One agent, cites a house on Marion Avenue that's come down in price to $800,000. The newer brick home, designed to look like Thomas Jefferson's famed Monticello, spreads 6,300 square feet on a more than two acre lot.
"You know, it's been tough," says Fox, the listing agent.
The agents agree they're offering one-of-a-kind houses in a market that's risen in value overall. The properties are indicative of the types of quality homes available in downtown Summerville, including the historic district.
Here's a closer look at the homes from the agents' points of view, based on their Multiple Listing Service profiles:
216 Marion Avenue
"Once upon a time, a wealthy gentleman of Summerville promised his wife he would build her 'the prettiest home in Summerville,'" Fox says. "True to his word, he commissioned the renowned architect, Archie Myers, to design a home fashioned after Thomas Jefferson's home but with the dome to the side. The result is this timeless 'Monticello of the South,' built with solid bricks to withstand the toughest storms. Summerville is rich in history so stroll around your estate and discover the edge of the old Lover's Lane from the former Pine Forest Inn built in 1891, where people traveled to Summerville for rest and relaxation."
304 Beaufort St.
"Nestled in Summerville's historic district, this home features private dual gated entry, gleaming rosewood floors and high end ceramic tile, 10-plus foot ceilings throughout, custom molding, an elegant dining room with a dazzling chandelier that stays with the home, a living room with fireplace as well as two master bedrooms and bathrooms," Hamlin says. "With its 'Certified Healthy House Design', this home is mold resistant and great for chemically sensitive owners. The private drive is lined with gorgeous flowers and plants . High quality mold resistant building materials and even steel studs have been used in the construction of this home. Even the brick patios sit on a high density concrete base."
603 W. Richardson Avenue
"Own a piece of history," Altman says. "This large pre-Civil War three story home, a familiar Southern adaptation of classic Greek Revival Architecture, was built by Henry Peake, an officer with the S.C. Canal and Railroad Co. circa 1830 as his personal residence. White Gables is on the National Registry of Historic Places . At present the home boasts 12 rooms, five bedrooms, five baths, two halls,and three porches. The Octagonal (Gazebo) Privy in the yard is one of the finest 19th century privies still in existence. The director of the Charleston Historic Foundation examined it and compared it to two identical ones on Thomas Jefferson's property in Virginia. The property is loaded with azaleas (and) camellias, and the magnolia tree in the front driveway is one of the largest in the area."
To reach Summerville's central residential sector from downtown Charleston, head west on Interstate 26. Follow the interstate for 21 miles to exit 199A for Main Street. Take the Main Street exit and proceed about two miles to West Fifth North Street. Turn right and older homes are nearby. Or, proceed on Main to the town square. Older houses with large lots line Richardson Avenue and blend into the woodlands off adjacent Carolina and Central avenues.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historic Summerville at a Glance:
Location: Summerville (Dorchester County)
Number of homes: More than 500
Square footage: 780-6,310
Look & feel: Not surprisingly, Summerville's downtown residential and business center shares three things: old homes and buildings, tall trees and lots of flowers. The town sports Azalea Park, hundreds of camellias and the annual Flowertown Festival. The Pine Forest Inn graced the area from the late 19th century to the 1950s. Much of downtown lies in the town's historic district with stately homes dating as early as the 1830s. Quiet secluded streets fork off of Main Street and Central and Carolina avenues. Wood frame houses predominate, with some brick homes and a share of newer residences. While homeowners tend to be long-time residents, younger families and executives have moved in, too.
Homes on market: 48
List prices: $47,500-$1,188,000
Schools: Summerville, Flowertown elementary; Alston Middle; Summerville High
Fun facts: A number of Summerville's first homes were built by the railroad, soon after the Charleston to Hamburg line opened through town; According to published accounts, the village of Summerville in 1847 passed a first time law banning unauthorized cutting of larger trees, with offenders fined $25.
A red tin roof accentuates this Victorian style home on Linwood Lane, just off Carolina Avenue in Summerville’s historic district (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Zach, the dog, sticks his head out the door of a shop in Summerville’s central business district, which hugs Main Street and Richardson Avenue (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Simmons Grove is a new moderate-sized community in downtown Summerville being built by Pulte Homes (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Two guitarists play holiday tunes on Town Square last week (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
A white picket fence borders this downtown two-story home (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Spanish moss hangs down from trees in front of this Linwood Lane home with large front yard. The house stands in the midst of historic Summerville (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Camellias are among the blossoming shrubs and plants that give the commuity its “Flowertown” moniker (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
A large front porch and chimney distinguish this two-story house in the Dorchester County town’s central residential area (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Summerville stakes its claim to being the birthplace of sweet tea (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
This three-story home on Linwood Lane appears to be peaking out from behind majestic magnolias (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Covered tables sit outside restaurants on a downtown pedestrian street, the closed off tip of Central Avenue (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Summerville Town Hall and neighboring office buildings occupy a courtyard along Richardson Avenue (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Simmons Grove will have three streets and at least two ponds (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
This substanital brick house can be found along Prresident Circle (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Bike riding is one of the favorite pastimes in downtown Summervile (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Craftsman style arches accentuate this home in the historic district (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Guerin’s Pharmacy has been a fixture in downtown Summerville for more than a century (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
A red door and side porch mark this home in the heart of Summerville (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Three sizes of rocking chairs spotlight this retail shop downtown (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Fronted by camellias, this center Summerville home sports a metal roof and white exterior (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×