If memory serves me correctly, 1912 was the year Leonardo DiCaprio perished in freezing waters after the Titantic sank in the Atlantic. No matter how you felt about this event, if you were living in the Charleston area, you were getting excited about a new city being built on the “neck”. This specific footprint which we refer to as Park Circle and part of the current City of North Charleston was a bold effort to build a new city and presents some important steps in planning history.
The center of this project was Park Circle and as you drive the streets in this area today, you will see the names of the individuals who were critical in this vision and plan to build a new city. Names like Rhett, Montague, Durant, Buist were part of a group using local capital and local citizens to bring the vision to life. This area was previously concentrated with the relative aspects of the timber and phosphate rock trade. It was made up pockets of freed slaves in places such as Liberty Hill. The area began to take shape as an importnat industrial area and steps to draw additonal port and military presence would be key in shaping its future. Rhett was the leader of this project and the plan for North Charleston drew on planning principles of the Progressive Era, including the environmental aesthetics of the City Beautiful and Garden City movements. In and out of itself, the plan does not create a new urban future but what separates Rhett and his group was the belief that industrial and agriculture sectors could be found together in a new environment. This New South Garden City was founded on the belief that anyone working in North Charleston could live on their own farm, grow their own food and truly live a sustainable life. Also, in one grand scope of development, industrial terminals, businesses, village residences for employees, short commutes and higher quality of life would coexist together and grow and plan as one. While no project is perfect, the vision and dedication given to this area in and around 1912 evokes a sense of pride that carries on to this day.