After reading the March 29 letter to the editor by distinguished local architect C. Dinos Liollio I began thinking about what really is West Ashley.
I grew up in Sandhurst (Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Orange Grove Road) where we moved in 1963. Back then West Ashley was the country. My grand aunt thought my father and mother were out of their minds moving so far out from the city. We may have well moved to Russia.
Sam Rittenberg was Highway 7 and was two lanes. The area where Citadel Mall now stands was magnificent, with beautiful oak trees. It was not yet densely populated.
West Ashley was for folks who were tired of living in old homes downtown. They could move to a modern house. Back then owning a historic house was no luxury. They were old houses with tremendous maintenance, not worth much. Kudos to those who hung on to them.
Over the years West Ashley became a tremendous tax base for the City of Charleston but really never came into its own like Mount Pleasant. We grew with no plan in sight and are now trying to get our act together.
The door to Mount Pleasant is the beautiful and stunning Ravenel Bridge. One of the main doors to West Ashley is the ugly North Bridge. What goes on the Piggly Wiggly parcel is extremely important to the whole of West Ashley.
So, residents of West Ashley, I ask you — Who are we? Downtown is Historic Charleston. I think West Ashley, which I love and would never leave, should be something like “Birthplace of Colonial Carolina.” We’re the place where the settlers first set up shop. Home of Charles Towne Landing. Home of the first plantations — Ashley Hall Plantation, Drayton Hall, Magnolia.
If West Ashley is never going to be its own city then we, at a minimum, need to be a destination and not a place to buy a car or grab a burger on the way to historic downtown Charleston.
This is the time to make this happen with charismatic new Mayor John Tecklenburg who cares what happens here and is a resident of West Ashley. When was the last time the mayor of Charleston lived West Ashley? I think he’s the first.
We look back on Mayor Riley’s 40 years with great pride at the brilliant planning of downtown Charleston. I hope my grandchildren will look back on Mayor Tecklenburg’s terms as ones that shaped the new West Ashley.