Summerville is the seventh largest city in the state and the largest city in Dorchester County.
Wealthy plantation owners flocked to Summerville in the 1700s to summer and to escape the heat in the lower elevations of Charleston. Dubbed the “flower town in the pines,” it celebrates that notoriety every spring with an annual Flowertown Festival. Ranked as one of the top 20 events in the Southeast, residents, visitors, artists, farmers, foodies and restaurant vendors come together in Summerville’s Azalea Park downtown. Dogwoods and azaleas are resplendent in their celebration of Summerville’s spring.
It’s hard to imagine that this bucolic spot in South Carolina once had a population of only 6,000 residents in the late 70s. The population doubled in the 80s -- and kept growing – since 2000 it has grown the fastest of South Carolina’s large and medium-sized communities, an astounding 60 percent growth. Presently, its population is approximately 50,000 people, three percent of South Carolina’s total population of over five million people.
“Summerville is a home for anyone and everyone,” said Brenda Jaicks of Carolina One Real Estate Services. “Homes here are a really good buy. We have easy access to the beaches and downtown and military families like this area because the military bases are nearby. There is soccer parks, dog parks, YMCAs and even a skating park.”
Summerville is a compact cultural mecca into itself with its non-profit theatre, The Flowertown Players, The Summerville Dorchester Museum and the Sculpture in the South organization, which was founded in the late 90s. Since its inception, the organization has placed 25 bronze sculptures throughout Summerville and it hosts events and workshops throughout the year. The Timrod Library, established in 1897, remains on Main Street. The town also has its own orchestra, the Summerville Orchestra, which plays concerts in area churches, outdoor venues and community spots throughout Summerville.
The Neighborhoods – Old and New
Summerville communities are widespread and diverse, from urban to rural; it holds a small-town, charmed way of life. It is home to older, established communities and brand-new luxury neighborhoods. The recently renovated, multi-million dollar renovation of Hutchinson Square in downtown Summerville won an Engineering Excellence Award in 2016. The proposed, five-phase plan combines modern elements with historical charm, incorporating improvements to Main Street and adding landscaping, new sidewalks, a large pavilion and a new fountain. The streets are lined with boutique shopping, fantastic dining, art galleries and other businesses. Summerville’s downtown square is named after the late Summerville Mayor Edward L. Hutchinson. Every year the town will light the newly installed and grand holly tree that is a centerpiece in the square.
Stately southern homes border downtown and one feels a part of another era.
“Downtown historical homes are the heart of Summerville,” said Angie Bell of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Southern Coast Real Estate. “When I talk to clients, I find out what they enjoy in life – sports, history, volunteering, shopping – whatever their interests, there is a place and a neighborhood for them. The community offers so many wonderful neighborhoods with reasonable pricing.”
The historic district which has the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places, has homes that date back to the 1800s and on a walkability scale, it’s off the charts. Prices range from the mid-$200,000 for an 1100 square foot cottage to over a million for large estate-like homes.
The average price for a Summerville home is in the low $300,000, which is why so many choose the area.
The Ashborough neighborhood, developed in the 80s and 90s, is on the outskirts of Summerville and has over 400 homes, with large lots and mature trees. Amenities include a community pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, a lake, ball field, boat landing and 100 acres of riverside nature preserve. Though it’s only four miles from Summerville and 10 miles from North Charleston, it feels secluded—a close-knit community ambiance. Homes range in size from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet with an average price of $383,000.
Other established neighborhoods include Kings Grant, Summerville Place, Live Oak Village and Quail Arbor. Newington Plantation and Tea Farm neighborhoods have one-half to one-acre lots. These homes vary in size, architectural style and price – from $300,000 to $800,000.
“Neighborhoods with larger lots are in high demand in Summerville,” Bell said. “There is a feeling of pride here (in Summerville neighborhoods)…a lifestyle you just can’t find everywhere and Summerville has a quality of life that meets many of my clients’ expectations.”
New master-planned communities are plentiful. The Ponds neighborhood has over 1,000 acres of preserved land and all the Charleston charm one can stand, with mossy oaks, trails, ponds and lakes. Streets have large sidewalks and the community spaces are expansive. There are also tennis courts and an on-site YMCA. Their Cresswinds older active adult community is gated and has a residents-only clubhouse. The community, with its resort-style amenities such as an amphitheater, pool, beautifully designed clubhouses and social centers are thoughtfully designed to give homeowners a sense of community with a focus on personalized luxury. There is literally an activity for every age – from toddlers to seniors.
Summers Corner has over thirty homes for residents desiring new construction with small-town charm and modern conveniences. The idea for the neighborhood was to provide its residents the feeling of “living within a garden,” and it seems to have done so. The neighborhood is part of the East Edisto region and between the Edisto and Ashley Rivers; the landscape of 53,000 acres surrounding it will be permanently undeveloped and preserved. It has its own elementary and middle school of the arts, with a middle and high school within a 5-10 minute drive. The community boasts a village center that will contain shopping and dining options, several parks, lakes, community pool and walking trails.
“We wanted homebuyers to feel a sense of small town charm while still being conveniently located close to all Summerville has to offer,” said Mark Lipsmeyer, Charleston division president of Stanley Martin Homes. “Launched in 2015, the Summers Corner neighborhood is just off highway 61 and in a top-rated school district, minutes from Historic Summerville Main Street District and just a short distance from national historic sites like Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall. Right now, more than 30 single-family home sites are available for house hunters who are looking for open, flexible floorplans with amenities like a dog park, resort-style pool and garden center.”
Prices at Summers Corner begin at $290,900.
Nexton’s large (and still growing) community will eventually have 8,000 homes and 2,000 multi-family units, spread out over 5,000 acres and amenities – pool, clubhouse, shops, town center, activity trails and spaces – galore, all designed to give the maximum in convenience. Prices range from the mid-$200,000 to the mid-$500,000.
Cane Bay Plantation is a massive community with three schools, miles of walking trails, medical and healthcare facilities, a shopping center, restaurants, worship centers and a 54,000 square foot YMCA complex and a library. There are 10 neighborhoods within, including two 55 and older communities, one of which has a 20,000 square foot amenity center. There are over 25 miles of walking trails.
Charleston landmarks, golf and natural beauty
Summerville is close to several iconic Lowcountry landmarks such as Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Middleton Place and Drayton Hall. There are so many ways in which nature lovers can get out of the “city” and into the wild – Oakbrook Nature Trail has over 3,000 feet of gravel trails that lead to boardwalks and the Ashley River Blue Trail opened in 2015 for Dorchester County residents as part of Dorchester County Parks and Recreation. There are four golf courses in Summerville -- Legend Oaks; Pine Forest Country Club; Summerville Country Club; and The Golf Club at Wescott Plantation -- for those who want to perfect their swing, just in time for spring.
“The people here, the town, everyone puts a priority on the preservation of nature,” Jaincks said. “If you take a drive down Highway 61, you’ll see that. There are still so many historical places, our beautiful oaks, plants, trees – it is beautiful bedroom community with something for everyone.”
Fun Facts about Summerville
• Summerville became a permanent settlement in the early 1800s and an official town in the mid-1800s.
• In the late 1800s, The International Congress of Physicians in Paris dubbed Summerville as one of the two best places in the world to treat and recover from lung disorders because of the area’s tree turpentine scent.
• Dr. Charles Shephard established the Pinehurst Tea Farm in Summerville in 1888; he then won first prize at the St. Louis World’s Fair for best tea in 1904, which popularized iced tea around the country. In 2016, Summerville was named the home of the largest sweet tea in the world with over 2,500 gallons.
• Every year, the Flowertown Festival brings in over 200,000 visitors and it’s the largest fundraiser for the Summerville YMCA. Over 200 jury-selected artists display their wares. This year marks 46 years of the celebration.
Reach Brigitte Surette at firstname.lastname@example.org.