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Escaping to the now-forgotten beach haven of Moultrieville

Escaping to the now-forgotten beach haven of Moultrieville
December 2022

Before Sullivan’s Island, the tiny town of Moultieville, incorporated in December in 1817, offered a respite from heat and disease

Here, a photo taken in 1898 shows the row of homes built for military officers on I‘On Street.

Say “city by the sea” in the Lowcountry, and most folks immediately think of Charleston. Gone from memory is Moultrieville, a municipality on what’s now known as Sullivan’s Island, incorporated by the SC Legislature 205 years ago on December 13.

The extremes of the summer called Moutrieville into being. In 1817, yellow fever had raged so fiercely downtown that many, according to the enabling legislation, had “resorted to [the island] as an asylum.” Foreshadowing the development over the next centuries, those on the island expected more Charlestonians would arrive when temperatures rose like a fever. That inrush of residents “necessarily requires a police to preserve order” and “likewise requires some provision to be made for… schools.”

(Left) Fort Moultrie in 1865, showing damage from Union bombardment, with the former town of Moultrieville in the distance; (Right) A circa-1860 stereograph shows palmetto trees near a military outpost in what was then called “Moultrieville.”

The area incorporated was not clearly articulated, but was located near its namesake Fort Moultrie, west of what is now Station 22, stretching to the tip of the island nearest Mount Pleasant and Charleston. The old pest house or lazaretto, used as an Episcopal church, became the town center, with elections for intendant (mayor) and wardens (council members) scheduled each July. A surviving street takes its name from early office holder, Jacob Bond I’On. Some 200 houses were soon joined by taverns, hotels, and places to board. The summer population grew to about 1,000 and shrank in the off-season.

Although Moultrieville flourished as a haven from heat and disease, it was vulnerable to hurricanes, such as the devastating storm of 1822, and Civil-War hostilities, when houses around the fort were demolished by shelling. After the war, Moultrieville grew; a post office opened in 1872 as the area to the east, once called “the Myrtles,” saw development under the name of “Atlanticville.”

The 20th century and trolleys (with station stops marking blocks and streets) bringing tourists and day-trippers from Mount Pleasant to Isle of Palms spelled the end of Moultrieville. To prevent annexation by larger entities, and to preserve the locale’s identity, residents petitioned the state to become a town. In 1975, the entire island was incorporated as Sullivan’s Island, making Moultrieville but a memory.