Creekside Living on the Crescent

Creekside Living on the Crescent

By Christina R. Butler/Butler Preservation for
Charleston Empire Properties
 – 7 June 2020

With its mature trees, large lots, and adjacent marshes, it is hard to believe that the Crescent neighborhood is just a five minute drive to downtown Charleston.  It is one of the earliest suburban communities West of the Ashley River, laid out by the famous Olmstead Brothers landscape architectural firm replete with winding roads and a six acre lake.   A haven for boaters, the Crescent is located on Wappoo Cut and Creek, which feeds into the Ashley River, and is directly across from the Charleston Country Club. It is tucked between Folly Rod, the Wappoo (which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway,) Savannah Highway, and the marches of the Ashley River to the west.

The original plat creating the Crescent, 1926

The Crescent’s name is derived from an earlier plantation owned by Robert G. Simons, who was cultivating his Crescent Plantation (so called because of the shape of land along nestled along the marshes) by 1812.  The large live oak trees framing New Town Lane are believed to be part of the oak allee leading to the now lost plantation house near Wappoo Creek.  The lands west of the Ashley River remained mostly rural, with small truck farms growing cabbage, tomatoes, and other produce, until 1926, when a modern bridge was constructed to replace an earlier narrow wooden one.  The World War One Memorial Bridge (still in use today) opened both West Ashley and James Island for development by making the areas more accessible to downtown Charleston by auto.  

Mills Atlas from 1825 showing the Crescent area.

Charles Steven Dwight Jr. (1884-1963) created Wappoo Realty Company and purchased the land to create the Crescent subdivision in 1926.  He anticipated the planned parks along Wappoo Cut would be a draw for both new residents and for northern visitors to the area.  Early articles gushed that, “the Crescent has much natural beauty that will be of unusual attraction, the promoters feel. Wide winding streets and avenues will lead through the suburb, and will be bordered by growths of oaks, pin, dogwood, and magnolia trees. Vistas of the harbor to the sea, and the country Club across Wappoo Cut are available. From the south, summer breezes will have free access across the open stretches of water.” In an homage to the founding settlers of South Carolina, Dwight named New Town Lane after an early settlement near the site dating to 1672. Broughton Lane is named for colonial governor Thomas Broughton, Craven is named for a Lord Proprietor, and Yeamans, Johnson, and Archdale commemorate other first English settlers to the Lowcountry.

An aerial view of the recently laid out Crescent in 1939 (USC Aerial Collection.)

Lord George Anson, and McCrady plat 603 showing a block of Ansonbough near Society Street in 1787.

Sadly for Dwight, development interest ground to a halt with the Great Depression in 1929, but by the early 1930s, a few residents who had purchased spacious half acre lots began to build large, stately residences in Colonial Revival, Georgian Revival, and other traditional styles.  At 2 New Town Lane, Siskaya (a Cherokee word roughly translating to ‘place of birds’) is one of the earliest houses.  Noted ornithologist Alexander Sprunt Jr. bought the lot in 1931and constructed a commodious house clad in shingles and with segmental dormers and a large garage fitted with wooden carriage doors.  

A 1926 view of the Crescent site, in Dwight’s papers (courtesy of Olmsted Historic Site, NPS.)

A 1929 plat for a residential lot sold to Margie Dwight showing the proposed lake and lagoon, created out of the marshes.

The neighborhood gradually filled with large brick clad homes, mostly two story and some with servant quarters, from the 1940s to the 1960s.   There are a few minimalist ranch type houses reflecting Mid Century Modern style popularity. The Crescent was an exclusive neighborhood that had restrictive covenants. An active homeowner’s group called the Crescent Civic Association (founded in 1964) enhances the sense of small town community, and maintains the sidewalks and parks within the Crescent.  

3 Cochran, built in 2009, currently on the market.

Currently listed 15 Johnson Lane, built in 1964.

The Crescent also boasts several custom new -build houses from the 2000s, and many residences have meticulous professionally designed landscaping and in-ground pools.  Today, the neighborhood attracts young professionals with families as well as retirees who are attracted to the well-executed architecture, large lots, and convenient location.  Charleston is just one bridge away, and residents have nearby shopping options along Folly Road and at Windermere Shopping Center, where there is also easy access to the popular West Ashley Greenway.  Prestigious Porter Gaud private school lies within the Crescent, at Albemarle Point.  Broughton and Albermarle Road feature the  large houses with marsh front views and their own private docks, while other Crescent residents have Wappoo Cut Boat Land at their fingertips, and Ripley Marina and Yacht Club just a few blocks away.   With easy travel to the city matched with waterfront amenities, is easy to see why the Crescent remains in high demand.

Stately houses with private docks on Broughton Lane.

Sources:

Post and Courier. The Crescent is a montage of million dollar homes spanning eight decades.” 1 June 2007.

News and Courier. “Crescent, new suburb across Ashley, Opens.” 10 April 1927

News and Courier. “Crescent begins activities again.” 2 December 1927.

News and Courier, “The Crescent.” January 10, 1926.

Robert and Company. Old Windermere Area Character Appraisal. City of Charleston: 2009. https://www.charleston-sc.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1640/Old-Windermere-Area-Character-Appraisal?bidId

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, National Park Service

University of South Carolina Aerial Photo Collection. Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation. 

Donna Jacobs. West Ashley. Charleston: Arcadia Press, 2012

Lowcountry Digital Library. Interview with Arthur Ravenel, South Carolina Historical Society, 2013.

Lowcountry Digital Library. Interview with Larry Freudenberg. College of Charleston, 1996.

Post and Courier. “The Crescent.” 21 October 1993

Charleston District, South Carolina. Surveyed By Charles Vignoles & Henry Ravenel. 1820. Improved for Mills’ Atlas, 1825. Engd. by H.S. Tanner & Assistants.

Charleston Register of Deeds plats

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