What’s the precedent for naming neighborhoods in Charleston? In the Morrison Drive area, there’s been an ongoing attempt (with resulting blowback) to name this part of town. Is there something historical that might be more appropriate than UP, NoMo, or the Creative Corridor, which have all been used in recent months?
“You don’t know whether you’ll have enough money to go as far as Cool Blow this fall. No use getting delusions of grandeur.”
—Three O’Clock Dinner, Josephine Pinckney (1945)
For modern readers of Josephine Pinckney’s Three O’Clock Dinner, the location of “Cool Blow” is probably a mystery. But it was a real place, and it is the area just north of the new Ravenel Bridge between Meeting Street and Morrison Drive.
The village began as a farm owned by Josiah Payne that he called “Cool Blow Farm.” He subdivided a portion of his land as “Cool Blow Village” in 1857. The village plan consisted of 225 lots east of Meeting Street along Cool Blow, Center (now Conroy), Rumney (now Romney), Isabella, and William (now Williman) Streets.
Payne’s farmhouse stood between Cedar and Cool Blow Streets in a section of his farm that was later subdivided into 96 building lots in 1884 by Edward Plenge, who had purchased the land from Payne’s widow. The neighborhood became densely developed, particularly along Cedar and Nassau streets, with approximately 100 dwellings, two stores, and a church. One of the residents of Cool Blow Village was thought to have been the man who inspired DuBose Heyward’s “Porgy” character.
While a handful of modest Charleston cottages built in the late 19th century survive in the area, memories of Cool Blow Village have faded. Part of the challenge to its development and survival was its difficult location, with unpaved streets and tidal marshes discouraging permanent settlement on many of the platted lots. The active railroad line along the eastern edge of the village, while good for industry, limited its residential appeal. Only the filling of marshes and extension of Morrison Drive through the area in the mid-20th century made it suitable for limited industry and commerce.
“Times gone by, you needn’t go in Cool Blow after six, especially on a Saturday night.”
—Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir, Mamie Garvin Fields (1985)
The ongoing revival of this section of Charleston is inspiring. The development of One Cool Blow, the adaptive use of commercial and industrial buildings along Morrison Drive, the planned construction of new housing for students and an incubator for technology companies, and the completion of the new Meeting Street Academy all point to a future in which more people will be living, working, and learning in this area than ever before.
When giving names to neighborhoods that are seeking to find a new identity, the best place to start is by looking at the historic names associated with that place. And for the area just north of the Ravenel Bridge between Meeting and Morrison Drive, that name is Cool Blow Village.
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a new column that asks historical questions about Charleston’s buildings, neighborhoods, and developments. Our expert is Evan R. Thompson, the executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston. We’ve gotten the ball rolling by asking the first question, one that is dear to our hearts. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet to @chascitypaper, or Facebook us, and we’ll get them answered.
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