Image by flickr user millicent_bystander New developments are a threat too much of the Lowcountry's cultural areas.
As Mount Pleasant continues to boom, it is having to find a way to balance growth with history. And, in at least one case it seems like growth is winning: The 140-year-old African American community of Scanlonville.
Watch a clip from "Bin Yah," a documentary on development and Scanlonville.It's a quiet area that goes unnoticed, you'll find it mainly mentioned in historical texts or generic real estate listings. I've lived in the area for most of my 27 years and it's only now that I'm hearing of it. You can find brief mention of the region's past on Wikipedia:
Scanlonville, one of the first African-American communities to be formed in Charleston after the Civil War which still exists today in Mount Pleasant. Robert Scanlon, a former slave and freedman carpenter, purchased the 614-acre (248 ha) property known as Remley’s Plantation bordering Charleston Harbor along the Wando River in Mount Pleasant. Robert Scanlon was the president and founder of the Charleston Land Company, formed by 100 poor African-American men of Charleston who paid $10 per share to purchase large tracts of land in the area. The Charleston Land Company then divided it up for possession by freed slaves seeking to own their own land. Remley’s Plantation was divided into farm lots and town lots (which were smaller) to form the community of Scanlonville. The Charleston Land Company and Scanlonville are one of the only four known cooperative ventures among African-American freedmen after the Civil War. West of Scanlonville was Riverside, the largest and oldest of five black beaches in Charleston County. Riverside “officially” opened in 1930 and featured a dance pavilion, athletics field, bathhouse, playground and a boardwalk along the Wando River. Riverside Pavilion was the only venue for black Charlestonians to see musical legends like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, B. B. King, and Ivory Joe Hunter. Music performances at the Pavilion spawned Juke joints, or night clubs, in Scanlonville and eventually a hotel called White’s Paradise – where James Brown was known to have frequented. After the original park owner died in 1975, operations of the Riverside property were taken over by Charleston County.
The county would eventually sell the park land and it would be developed into a private gated community. And it wouldn't be the last time that land would drift away to remove the old and build the new.
The Charleston City Paper has a good write-up on the community and its greatest legal battle to preserve a graveyard that contains the remains of some 600 to 2,000.
The Chicora Foundation has an 80-page 2001 document that documents much of Scanlonville. Eventually the saga would end in 2005 when a judge ruled that the land could not be developed as it was "publicly dedicated." But the community's past is still under pressure from outside development and a 2008 documentary "Bin Yah" sought to document those issues. Though there's not too much to see if you drive past, maybe do because there might be even less of it left in 10 years.