Rockville Historic District
The Rockville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The village of Rockville on Wadmalaw Island is located on a bluff overlooking Bohicket Creek. This summer community's serene, slow-moving, life-style is reflected in its architecture and landscape. Although houses vary in size and degree of architectural importance, nearly all have spacious porches, raised foundations and large central hallways designed for summer comfort and relaxation. Live oaks draped with Spanish moss and palmettos dominate the landscape and add to the quaint atmosphere of the community.
Rockville, one of Charleston County's oldest surviving summer resorts is important architecturally, agriculturally, militarily and in areas of transportation and recreation.
Lawrence Fay Brewster in Summer Migrations and Resorts of South Carolina Low-Country Planters, describes Rockville as "a pleasant, coll and healthful village with shady walks, possessing an Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church." However, prior to its development as a summer resort, Rockville consisted of a plantation house built by Benjamin Jenkins who purchased the 496 acre tract (which included the site of the village) in 1776. At his death, the tract was equally divided between his two sons, Samuel and Benjamin, Jr. Benjamin is thought to have built a ferry house on his portion shortly after 1782. This building is now known as the Micah Jenkins House. Some time between 1809 and 1824, Benjamin Jenkins sold his tract to Benjamin Adams. Adams began laying out the town of Rockville. William Seabrook, an Edisto Island planter, acquired the rest of the original 496 ares from the heirs of Samuel Jenkins in 1824. Seabrook set up a landing for the Edisto Island Ferry Company and laid out lots for summer houses for his 10 children and many relatives.
Architecturally, the buildings within Rockville's historic district have obvious visual unity. All are well-ventilated to take full advantage of sea breezes. Many utilize raised foundations and spacious porches, characteristics common to West Indian architecture. Several houses appear to have been year-round residences with architecture adapted for cold weather, but still well-ventilated for summer use.
During the Civil War, Confederate troops used the Presbyterian Church steeple for observing Union ships on Bohicket Creek and the Edisto River.
Rockville is agriculturally important because it was developed as a summer retreat for island planters who migrated there to escape the malarial mosquitoes bred in the rice fields and marshes. During Civil War Reconstruction, the surrounding plantations were confiscated by the federal government. A widespread rumor that the confiscated land would be divided into 40-acre plots to be given to freedmen resulted in an overwhelming migration of freedmen to the coast, thus displacing a large portion of the State's labor force. On September 23, 1865, the sea island planters petitioned President Andrew Johnson for restoration of their lands. Their petition was supported by Brigadier General Ralph Ely, a sub-agent of the Freedmen's Bureau in Columbia, South Carolina, who maintained that only by restoring the land to the original owners could the Negro migration be stopped. President Johnson restored the land to the planters during the winter of 1865-1866.
Rockville was one of the main landings for the Edisto Island Ferry Company due to its directness of the land route to Charleston. From here, sea island cotton went overland to Charleston for shipment abroad. The village was also a way station for planters going to and from Charleston and their sea island plantations.
From the beginning, Rockville's recreational activities developed along the waterfront where sailing was always the predominant sport. This sailing tradition has continued with the annual Sea Island Regatta held the last week in August since 1890. Sponsored by the Sea Island Yacht Club, the regatta is well known throughout the Southeast with contestants from a number of States participating. Several thousand spectators attend the festive event which is the highlight of the summer season for this resort village.
Rockville's notable architectural structures include:
† Nancy R. Ruhf, Historic Preservation Coordinatior, South Carolina Department of Archives & History, Rockville Historic District, Charlston County, South Carolina, nomination document, 1972, National Park Service, National Registr of Historic Places, Washington, DC.