January's issue of Charleston Magazine included a write-up on Charleston's East Side. If you've been following our postings you may already know that The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian resides here on the East Side of Peninsula Charleston. We are crunched between Columbus Street and the lower Wraggborough area. We are just blocks from the Visitor's Center. It's a friendly, urban environment full of energy. This is a diverse neighborhood that may appear an abstract, yet, should a very unique set of ideas continue to mix, may complete its march toward humble historic residential district meets modern passive-green gateway to the lower regions of Charleston in just a few short years.
We moved to the East Side just because we wanted to live downtown. And it was affordable for us. It was about as simple as that. It's possible we were drawn to the East Side because of our own personal advocacy for new urbanism. East Side Story articulates the draw and exemplifies our belief in this diamond-in-the-rough section of Downtown Charleston. With its strategic location, amount of available land and convenient access to public transit, there is a unique synergy in this area's footprint that will likely feed urbanism as development switches gears from a world of cheap oil to a world limited by the expense of oil.
Here mixed use is not civic design slang or a New Urbanaism buzzword, but an authentic, centuries-in-the-making reality. Homes, parks, schools, churches, storefronts, mills and mansions all remain part of the East Side's dense, diverse, and somewhat tattered urban fabric.We expect one day soon to have a corner drug store, a deli, a few more restaurants and shops, and possibly a transit line exchange hub. Job creation is certainly a good thing as these dominoes slowly fall into place as the East Side reaches for its revival.
For now, we sit on our Charleston Single front porch, smelling the harbor's salty, pluff mudd-scented breeze watching the many passers-by sashaying up and down the street in their Southern Sunday best. The East Side has the sun shining bright upon it on this day, and we can appreciate where this neighborhood has been in the past. We can also laugh about the things that Charleston magazine could never tell you about the East Side. For creativity and entrepreneurship blossom in the fertile soils of transition.
Historically, the East Side was a suburb of Charleston proper. It was a niche location where the wealthy, working class and freed slaves enjoyed escape from “the city.” Many laws taken seriously inside the walled city proper were less stringently enforced on the East Side back then. On occasion residents fail to recognize that it’s 2008 and the East Side is no longer a refuge of sorts. One recent night as we walked home from dinner we caught a glimpse of entrepreneurial spirt mixed with old world East Side lawlessness.
It happened that a resident up the street near Nassau decided their Momma's cooking was good enough to sell right out of the kitchen. As we passed the house, surely zoned Residential, we noticed an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper tacked to the siding next to the screened door that said:
1 chicken breast plate $5
2 chicken breast plate $10
green beans $3
Chicken Legs $3
The new business owners cleverly left the main door wide open, and the exterior screen door left slightly ajar, so people could walk right in. Wafting out from behind that screened door was the best damn fried chicken smell the two of us have ever sniffed - and we consider ourselves foodies! A few days later the sign was gone. We figured Momma hadn't thought about a business license or a kitchen rating. On top of that her restaurant probably wasn't paying taxes, so there was no way to continue to overlook her racket. Upon further reflection, it was probably The Piggly Wiggly that reported Momma. Her little scheme was probably affecting fried chicken deli sales.
The East Side is a great spot, though. We must be quite cautious to respect diversity, lest this jewel not come to shine as it was meant to. And let's not leave any of our creativity behind in the dust as we move toward inevitable change.