Looking for a home that’s affordable in North Charleston? We’ll dive into this city’s great history & have a look at what’s available now.
North Charleston is a fast growing, increasingly desirable, and affordable city just a few miles from downtown Charleston. Nestled near the Cooper River and alongside popular Park Circle are a series of new, hip, neotraditional communities including Mixson and Hunley Waters that offer character and convenience as well intriguing history. The area began as plantations before becoming part of the Charleston Navy Base and home to World War Two era worker housing. Following stagnation after the base’s closure in 1996, the area today is being rejuvenated through the adaptive use of the historic, character filled core of the former base and the surrounding area redeveloped with beautiful new housing. The Base and new residential enclaves are bounded by the Cooper River on the east, Park Circle and Noisette Creek to the north, south by Charleston Heights, and by Whipper Barony and Spruill Avenue to the West. To the Northwest at the end of Noisette Creek is the Mixson community.
Mixson and neighboring Park Circle were part of Oak Grove plantation as early as 1680, which belonged to the Drye family and later passed to the Chisolm and Mitchie families. Woosaw or Noisette’s Creek marked the boundary with the neighboring plantation to the south.
The Navy Base was part of Retreat Plantation, which belonged to the Hart, Stanyarne, and Gibbon families in the early colonial era. Sir James Wright, who owned Retreat in the 1750s, was son of an important eighteenth-century politician, chief Justice Robert Wright. By 1765 Sire Edgerton Leigh owned Retreat and it was allegedly during this time that the “Dead House” powder magazine was built on the site. When Andrew Turnbull owned Retreat in the 1850s, he built a mansion on the site (he is the namesake of Turnbull Street). The Chisolm family bought the land to develop as Chicora Park development, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm in 1899 when most of today’s North Charleston was still vegetable farms. In 1901, the US government bought Retreat neighboring Marshlands Plantation from the City of Charleston to create the Navy Yard.
The 1,575 acre base provided thousands of jobs, and expanded during WWI and WWII. The naval yard had the largest dry dock on the east coast, where workers did repair work and built/launched new ships at the facility. Christina Butler notes, “The Navy Yard’s work force swelled from 6,000 in 1941 to nearly 26,000 in 1943, where employees built small and medium vessels and operated a repair yard. Thousands more were employed by defense related textile and munitions companies. During the course of the war, the Navy Yard produced more than 300 new vessels, built with materials from South Carolina-based steelworks in Sumter and Columbia. WestVaco paper and timber company, Pittsburgh Metalurgical, and Charleston Shipbuilding and Drydock all increased their civilian employment at their Lowcountry facilities to meet war production demands.”
Developers and the local and federal governments built housing around the base, including John C. Calhoun Homes, which were later cleared and where Mixson is located today. According to North Charleston’s historian, the base “Charleston played a vital role in naval readiness, remaining active as an overhaul facility. Many mothballed vessels were reactivated and sent to Far Eastern waters. In 1951, the number of workers increased. Civilian employment peaked at 9,220 in 1952, decreasing again after the cessation of Korean hostilities.” The base retooled to the new nuclear technology of the era, repairing submarines for the long Cold War.
The base’s closure in 1996 was a heavy blow to the local economy. “The former base is many things to many people, from public spaces and historic homes that once housed Navy officers, to centers for commerce and industry”, and as such its rebirth needed to balance many uses and preserve the area’s history. Developers had created a detailed master plan of environmentally friendly housing, retail, and amenities called Noisette for the former base, but the project halted with the Great Recession. Revitalization commenced again, and today the former base retains its heritage and has an active shipyard, Detyens Yard, and Marine Rigging Company on the riverfront, with various tech sector business and small factories occupying the former base workshops. Urban Electric, a very successful local company specializing in light fixtures, and Celadon Homes are housed in historic navy base shop buildings.
Historic highlights of the base include the stately mansions that were once the officer’s houses, and the Naval Hospital District, which was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Navy Yard itself, including 57 historic buildings and structures, is also on the National Register. The base is also home to the state-of-the-art Warren Lasch conservation laboratory, which is open to the public and where the confederate submarine Hunley is currently being stabilized.
The area near the base also had a chance at rebirth. Mixson Community was begun in 2006 and expanded in 2016-2021, atop top the sight of the blighted Calhoun Homes, which held 352 prefabricated units from the war boom era. Mixson was envisioned by the developers of successful planned urban community I’on in Mount Pleasant, with the angle of being more affordable in North Charleston.
Mixson has a mix of neotraditional single family homes, townhouses, and apartments to fit every budget. I’on chief of operations described the ambiance: “Old World street layouts at different angles will blend with parks, urban lofts and street-level businesses below homes to create a unique community. Property owners who live in their houses will be allowed to have shops on the street level or rent out ground-floor units designed with separate entrances as apartments.” Mixson is known for its parks, weekend Mixson Market featuring local artists and craftsmen, access to the Mixson Club (with a yoga studio, gym, pool, and cabanas), and a spacious dog park. The bottom stories of the buildings at the heart of Mixson features businesses, restaurants, and coffee shops.
Adjacent to and on the western portion of the old Navy Base, Hunley Waters is another neotraditional neighborhood with green certified custom homes. It began in 2016 and features traditional style houses beginning at $300,000. Its key selling point is access to Noisette Creek with a dock and pavilion for kayakers, and proximity to “bustling” East Montague Business Corridor. Park Circle Station offers new townhomes starting at $250,000 near the Base and Riverfront Park (with beautiful views, a dog park, and a performance pavilion.). The highlight of the park is the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial. Creekside at Horizon Village just to the north and alongside mature Whipper Barony neighborhood features a community park called Four Holes and townhouses starting in the low $200s. All of these communities are convenient to I-26 and I-526, offer various school options (or Firefly Distillery and trendy pubs for the younger crowd), and are affordable while not sacrificing on character.
For more information on Charleston Real Estate, contact the local realtors at Charleston Empire Properties.
- 1936 Charleston Yearbook. “President Roosevelt’s Visits. Charleston is host to nation’s chief executive.”
- News and Courier. “Population Mounting Here.” 1 March 1942.
- Post and Courier. “Old base could see homes, industry.” 15 October 2013.
- Post and Courier. “Charleston County sells former Naval Hospital for $15 million; hundreds of apartments planned.” 11 November 2020.
- Christina Butler, “JFK and World War Two Era Charleston”, Kiawah Legends, Spring 2021 volume.
- A.M. Smith, “The Baronies of South Carolina”, South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 13, no. 1 (1912), 3-20.
- A.M. Smith, “Charleston and Charleston Neck: the original grantees and the settlements along Ashley and Cooper Rivers”, South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 19, no. 1 (1918), 3-76.
- City of North Charleston, “Navy Base”, https://www.northcharleston.org/residents/community/history-cultural-heritage/ (accessed 1 January 2020).
- Post and Courier. “PC Real Estate”, 5 March 2016.
- City of North Charleston, “Naval Base Memorial”, https://www.northcharleston.org/visitors/attractions/greater-charleston-naval-base-memorial/naval-base- (accessed 1 January 2020).
- Post and Courier. “N. Chas site isn’t another I’on- Mixson Avenue Community to be more affordable.” 19 February 2006.
- Christina Butler. “Park Circle: North Charleston’s Garden City.” https://charlestonempireproperties.com/park-circle-north-charlestons-garden-city/
- National Trust for Historic Preservation, “Eleven Most Endangered List, 2016”, https://savingplaces.org/press-center/media-resources/north-charlestons-world-war-ii-era-naval-hospital-district-named-to-national-trusts-2016-11-most-endangered-list#.X_IZ9i1h1hA
- Fritz P. Hamer.Charleston Reborn: A Southern City, Its Navy Yard, and World War II. Charleston: The History Press, 2005.
- National Register, Naval Base
- National Register, Naval Base Hospital Complex
- Charleston Yearbooks, 1936-1945.
- Library of Congress photographs and maps
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
- Charleston County Register of Deeds, plats and deed documents