Located just 24 miles from Charleston, Summerville is at the HEART of it all. A place where the flowers bloom by the acre and history lives on every corner. Where world-class cuisine is served with a side of Southern charm, sweet tea is measured by the gallon, and it's a short ride to Rainbow Row, the Edge of America, and gardens galore. Steeped in the natural beauty of lush pines and blooming azaleas, Summerville, a Tree City USA community, has many outdoor parks and gardens to explore. We may be a small town, but we've got charmed. Take a stroll through our historic downtown or simply take a seat and enjoy the small-town charm as you allow your taste buds to tingle with every sip of our homegrown southern sweet tea. You’ll soon find yourself feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and thinking that this is exactly how life should be. So, come on in and hang out in the town where not only the tea is sweet, but the people are too.
The town's name is evocative of its history. Situated on a pine-forested ridge, it was first inhabited in the late 1700s as Charlestonians and other inhabitants of the SC Lowcountry sought respite from the summer heat, mosquitos, and disease. From May to September plantation families along the nearby Ashley River and other coastal areas, headed for higher elevation to live temporarily, or "maroon," in the tiny forest colony soon dubbed Summerville. Other pioneer residents descended from those 1696 puritans who settled the nearby former colonial settlement of Dorchester, endowing Summerville with a heritage spanning three centuries.
Modernization came to town with the arrival of the railroad in the early 1800s and led the village to incorporation. Trees were being cut in large numbers for laying rails and the clearing of lots to relocate the commercial center near the tracks. To protect Summerville's biggest asset, the village became an official town in 1847, passing a first law prohibiting the cutting of certain-sized trees without permission, and fining offenders a then hefty $25. That ordinance, one of the oldest of its kind in the United States, is still on the books.
The last decade of the 19th century saw two of the worst local events, followed by one of the best pieces of luck ever to befall a struggling community. While still recovering from the War Between the States, Summerville suffered extensive destruction during the 1886 earthquake, followed by a downtown fire that wiped out most of the buildings surrounding the town square. The good fortune stemmed from Paris, France when the International Congress of Physicians declared Summerville as one of the two best places in the world for the treatment and recovery of lung disorders. Such belief was founded in the purported healing aspects of that tree's turpentine scent. This led to the building of inns and hotels to handle the mass of visitors, who first came for their health and then discovered the comeliness of the town, built winter homes, and often became permanent residents.
Despite the publicity and the development it spurred, the town's population hovered around 3,000 for nearly a century, not reaching 6,000 until the late 1970s. Then, as a bedroom community for the larger urban centers in the area, the charm of Summerville resulted in a doubling of the population in the 1980s. It continues to attract families, business people, and military personnel, all looking for a quality of life that has long since disappeared in cities. It is hard to believe that 40 years ago the Town of Summerville had a population of 3,000 and today we exceed 46,000.
Location is everything and we welcome you to stay in historic Summerville and experience it all. Enjoy our famous sweet tea and small-town charm, fine dining, and shopping, only minutes away from sun-drenched beaches, cobblestone streets, arts, and architecture. See it all from Summerville —the center of your Lowcountry experience.