This year—2009—marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of a “new commercial era” in Charleston’s history. Or at least that’s how Mayor R. Goodwyn Rhett described it in his annual report for 1909. Among the major achievements of that year, Rhett spoke proudly of the commencement of “the Boulevard.” “For more than half a century,” he noted, ” it has been the dream of our people to extend the Battery westward. The dream, in fuller measure than ever pictured, is now becoming a reality.” Between 1909 and 1922, the city spent tens of thousands of taxpayer’s dollars on a massive project that included three main features: a seawall along more that 5,000 feet of Charleston’s Ashley River waterfront, 191 newly-filled residential lots, and a scenic waterfront avenue now known as Murray Boulevard. Residents of this city and tourists alike now take for granted the beautiful views afforded by Rhett’s “Boulevard Project,” but few remember the years of struggle required to bring it to fruition.
As early as 1735 the South Carolina General Assembly reserved the Ashley River marshland between modern Council Street and Lockwood Boulevard “in trust for the Inhabitants of “Charles Town.” In 1857 Charleston’s City Council began purchasing land west of White Point Garden to facilitate the westward expansion of the park and South Bay Street, but the economic reversals caused by the Civil War forced the city to sell the vacant property. Starting again in 1889 the city’s leading businessmen began raising public interest and private capital to create a magnificent “Ashley River Boulevard” from White Point to Hampton Park. The first phase of this grand plan commenced one hundred years ago, in 1909, but economic setbacks and the Great War in Europe drained the city’s capacity to complete the full scope of the project. The present Murray Boulevard and associated neighborhood took thirteen years to complete, and extends nearly a mile in length from East Battery to the west end of Tradd Street. It is indeed an impressive accomplishment, even though it represents just the first phase of a more ambitious but long-forgotten project.
Want to learn more about the Murray Boulevard project? You’re invited to join me at the Charleston County Public Library for a free centennial commemoration on Wednesday, January 28th, at 6:30 p.m. I hope to see you there!
For further information, please contact Dr. Nic Butler at (843) 805-6968 or email@example.com.