The City Magazine Since 1975

A Brief History of Riverland Terrace and the “Muni” Golf Course

Long before the first home in Riverland Terrace was built in 1927, the land was occupied by Native American tribes, five families in the late 1600s, a dairy farm, a plantation, British forces during the Revolutionary War, and Confederate soldiers led by Civil War Brigadier General John C. Pemberton. 

In the 1920s, developer C. Bissell Jenkins of Edisto Realty Co. envisioned the land as a playground for Charleston’s elite. “It was touted as a fully amenitized resort community off of the peninsula,” says Riverland Terrace Neighborhood Association president Troy Miller. 

“An automobile ride of 15 minutes will carry you from the heart of the throbbing city to this attractive suburb,” touted one advertisement for the neighborhood. “ will pass through a picturesque little business section where a few shops, a theater, filling stations, an inn, markets, and other small establishments essential to a model suburb, will eventually be erected. Wappoo Drive, a wide boulevard, continues straight through an avenue of beautiful oaks to the very banks of Stono River,” promised another.

Edisto Realty developed Riverland Terrace in phases, starting with Wappoo Drive and points to the north towards the Wappoo Cut. After the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression, the developer built smaller, more affordable lots, which accounts for the diversity of properties in the neighborhood that remains today. 

Some of the early homes overlooked what at the time was a 112-acre tract of land that used to house the Riverland Terrace Riding and Driving Club, where horse races were once held. In line with his plan to surround the neighborhood with amenities, Jenkins sold the land to the city for $5 with the stipulation that the property—a former airstrip where Charles Lindbergh once landed his plane—be used as a public golf course in perpetuity. 

Ninety years later, when Troy Miller began his renovation of the Charleston Municipal Golf Course (the “Muni”), his first objective was to alleviate the flooding that left the back nine unplayable after storms and high tides by raising its elevation and adding stormwater ponds that drain back into the Stono River. He took the advice of his wife, meteorologist Emily Gracey Miller, and added a few extra feet to his initial design account for future sea level rise. Not only has it helped the problems on the course, but it’s alleviated flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods. “The golf course is really an example of the Dutch Dialogues we’ve been talking about in Charleston—living with the water,” Miller explains.

His second objective was to honor the history of the city and the course. The first shipment of golf clubs in North America arrived in the port of Charleston in 1739 for William Wallace, a descendant of Knight William Wallace, whose fight for Scottish independence was depicted in the film Braveheart. They were shipped from Leith, Scotland, for use at the South Carolina Golf Club at Harleston Green. 

The Muni was initially designed by J.M. Whitsitt, a champion at the Country Club of Charleston. Johnny Adams, a longtime golf professional who lived in the neighborhood, added bunkers and other strategic elements, in the style of Seth Raynor, who designed the Country Club of Charleston and Yeamans Hall Club. 

Miller’s redesign—including naming hole 10 “Terrace” after the neighborhood—is a nod to the architectural style of Raynor and Charles Blair “C.B.” McDonald, considered the father of American golf course architecture. “This provides folks who may never have the opportunity to play those clubs the chance to see these classic template hole designs of the golden age of golf course architecture,” Miller says. It also furthers C. Bissell Jenkins’ vision of Riverland Terrace as a prime resort community.