West Ashley is one of the six distinct areas of the city proper of Charleston, South Carolina, with an estimated 2010 population of 57,403. Its name is derived from the fact that the land is west of the Ashley River.
Flanked by the scenic waterfront vistas and marshes of the Ashley and Stono Rivers and ancient moss draped oak trees, West Ashley's initial neighborhoods were developed in the 1950s with its largest growth occurring throughout the 1970s and 80s. As Interstate 526 was built in the early 1980s and the Glenn McConnell Parkway was built in the 1990s to help alleviate traffic on the historic Ashley River Road (SC Hwy. 61) corridor, the area saw explosive residential and commercial growth. Major retailers located in the community as land needed for "big box" stores was not available on the historic downtown Charleston peninsula. West Ashley's original neighborhoods line Savannah Highway (US Hwy. 17) in an area closest to the historic Charleston peninsula. Its first retail district, built in the 1950s, is seeing a revitalization with many art and design oriented businesses having located there in recent years.
The community is served by one public high school, West Ashley High School with 2017 students and 135 full-time teachers. There are also five public elementary schools, three public middle schools and numerous private schools in the West Ashley area including Porter-Gaud School, a K-12 grade college preparatory school founded in 1867.
The community's major arteries include Sam Rittenberg Boulevard (SC Hwy. 7), Ashley River Road (SC Hwy. 61), Savannah Highway (US Hwy. 17) and Interstate 526. It is also served by the West Ashley Greenway, a popular rail trail that parallels Savannah Highway. West Ashley is home to the region's largest indoor shopping mall, Citadel Mall and the area's newest hospital, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital which along with the mall is also one its largest employers. WCSC-TV Channel 5, the area's CBS affiliate and first television station to sign on the air in Charleston in 1953 moved to a newly constructed broadcast facility in West Ashley in 1997. West Ashley also has an independent community newspaper called West Of, which publishes news pertaining to the area on a weekly basis.
West Ashley is not a self-governed city or town. The majority of the West Ashley area is located within the city limits of Charleston with a few remaining pockets in unincorporated Charleston County that are served by the Saint Andrews Public Service District who provides municipal services for those outside the city limits.
West Ashley is noted as the birthplace of Charleston as English colonists established the first permanent settlement in the Carolinas there in 1670. Local Native Americans, particularly the Kiawah Indians, led the colonists from the Carolina ship to a suitable settling ground. It is thought they were especially welcomed by the Indians because the local Natives feared constant raids by the slaving Westo Indians from Georgia (originally known as the Erie Indians), and sought protection. The 663-acre (2.68 km2) area where the settlers first stepped ashore along the banks of the Ashley River has been preserved as a state historic site known as Charles Towne Landing which features Charleston's only zoo, beautiful gardens and a reproduction seventeenth century sailing vessel among other historical and educational amenities. A few skirmishes took place there in the American Revolution, specifically at Rantowles Creek, where William Washington defeated cavalry forces under Banastre Tarleton, and at Old St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church during the 1780 Siege of Charleston. Some military activity took place here during the Civil War, and the area had several batteries, including those at Fort Bull (near present day Bees Ferry Road), but no major battles occurred. Sherman's forces did burn down Middleton Place Plantation in the 1865 march to the sea. The Charleston and Savannah Railroad ran from downtown to West Ashley during the nineteenth century, and the Union had attempted to cut it off in 1864, but were beaten back at the Battle of Burden's Causeway on nearby John's Island.
West Ashley neighborhoods
Major shopping centers
- Ashley Crossing
- Ashley Landing (formerly Ashley Plaza Mall)
- Citadel Mall
- Crossroads Centre
- Harrell Square
- Outback Plaza (formerly Citadel Plaza)
- South Windermere Center
- St. Andrews Center
- Village Square
- West Ashley Shoppes
- Westwood Plaza (formerly Grant City West)
- http://www.dot.state.sc.us/community/ashley_river.shtml | Historic Ashley River Road
- http://www.charlestownelanding.travel/ | Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
- http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/13794/links.html | Ashley River Road Links
- http://www.draytonhall.org/ | Historic Drayton Hall
- http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/ | Historic Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
- http://www.ci.charleston.sc.us/home/default.aspx | The Official Website of the City of Charleston
- http://lowcountrydigital.library.cofc.edu/u?/SPA,177 | Byrnes Downs Garden Club Scrapbook
- http://www.westashley.patch.com | West Ashley Patch — local news and events