|Plat of Chicora Park, the design of Frederick Law Olmstead|
neighborhood where the Officer’s Quarters are located is beautiful rolling high
land unusual for the Lowcountry. In
1895, the City of Charleston Board of Park Commissioners purchased nearly 600
acres of Retreat Plantation bordering the Cooper River some four miles north of
the city and by 1896 designated the new development as Chicora Park. Established
just east of the Inland Trail, the Trail itself was a vital route of commerce,
carrying goods between the sea coast and the Midlands of South Carolina.
The famed Olmstead brothers, Frederick Law and James, were hired to design it,
and the street plan for the Officer’s Housing was part of the initial design.
Frederick Law Olmstead was famous for designing fine parks and residential
districts in garden settings. Among his accomplishments are Central Park in New
York and the Riverside Avondale District in Jacksonville Florida. As the vision
for Chicora expanded, the existing Turnbull Plantation was incorporated into
the plan. In 1897 a rail line and a passenger station extended tracks from
downtown Charleston to Chicora Park. It
was an ambitious project with salt water lagoons and landscaped gardens. A
pavilion had been built and many Charlestonians took the trolley to the park to
picnic and dance on summer evenings There was a bandstand and a small
zoo. With the zoo in place, a caretakers cottage was built, and that
structure is today known as Quarters F.
In 1899, more land was acquired for a golf course. Chicora Park was Charleston’s
first urban planning effort as well as its first substantial experience with
professional landscape architects.
1900, when the Federal Government was scouting the southeast for a site to
expand a navy Yard, Port Royal near Beaufort was a top contender. The City of
Charleston successfully lobbied for the new Base and On 12 August 1901, the
Navy took possession of the property. Captain Edwin Longnecker, representing
the Navy, had arrived in Charleston from Washington the day before, accompanied
by the government paymaster. On the afternoon of the twelfth, they took the
trolley to the site and made a final inspection of the property. Once
this was done, a check in the amount of $34,307 was given to the city for 171
acres of Chicora Park and one for $50,000 to Mrs. Celia Lawton’s representative
for 258 acres of the old Marshlands Plantation. The City conveyed the 760
acres of marshland to the south to the Navy for one dollar. The destiny of Chicora Park was forever
changed. On April 8, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Charleston and stated
that Charleston would be an ideal place for a naval base. Construction began
shortly thereafter. Over the next decade, the United States Navy took
possession of 1,575 acres along the west bank of the Cooper River, consuming
the Park through its expansion. For the next 95 years the naval presence in the
area defined the development of what we now know as North Charleston.