The Old Town Hall is located at 201 W. Carolina Avenue in Summerville and is the oldest public building, still standing, in Summerville. It was built at the beginning of the Civil War in 1860.
In 1860 a vote was taken to elect anaother intendant. The people elected Robert I. Limehouse. Robert Limehouse purchased the land for a Town Hall from Hester A. Nettles and Mary S. Nettles in May of 1860 for $600. The lot may have been a little larger than it is today. The town quickly got busy and built their new Town Hall at 201 W. Carolina Avenue where it sits today. It almost looked like a church, with the sides in the back not yet added and a cupola setting on top of the roof.
It was also in 1860, that intendant Robert Limehouse and the town wardens
(councilmen) petitioned the General Assembly, “asking for a special magistrate with jurisdiction within the city limits, which was split between St. George’s and St. James Goose Creek Parishes.”
The people in Summerville knew and loved Robert I. Limehouse and his wife Emma. Rev. Robert Ilderton Limehouse was born in Charleston in the year 1815.
Robert was the grandson of Thomas Limehouse, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Ilderton Limehouse. Thomas was at the fall of Charleston to the British in 1780 and apparently died in 1791. Their son, Robert, took over his dad’s business, because in 1794 he is listed as a shopkeeper at 34 1/2 Broad Street in Charleston. When Robert turned 39 in 1800, he married Lady Margaret “Peggy” Price Limehouse (1783-1849), she was only 17. Robert and Peggy lived at 64 Tradd Street in Charleston, in the early 1800s. They had eight children, three sons and five daughters. Their third child was named Robert Ilderton Limehouse. When Robert Sr. died in 1851, at age 90, he owned 44 city lots in Charleston.
In 1833, Robert Jr. married Emma Almeria Mendenhall. Beginning in 1834, the couple had seven children. In early 1834 Robert petitioned the court to practice law. Around 1840 Robert became a Methodist minister and preached at Rehoboth Methodist Church in 1845 and 1846. In the 1850 census Robert is listed as a Methodist clergyman. Robert and Emma are also listed among the early members of Bethany Methodist Church in Summerville. Three sons of Robert and Emma Limehouse, married three daughters of Isaac T. Brown, who owned and operated Brown’s Hotel on Sumter Avenue in Summerville.
The only news event that happened in Summerville during the War Between the States was reported by town clerk Hugh Hamilton in 1942. In an article for the News and Courier he stated, “During the closing months of the War Between the States bands of deserters from both armies passed through the town and stole everything they could lay their hands on – pigs, chickens, and where there were horses or mules left, they took them. On one occasion, the town Council was in session. The wardens as usual having their shotguns with them received a report that the band was raiding the town and would pass by the Hall. These gentlemen engaged the band and killed one of their number. They buried him on land adjacent to the meeting place. No more robbers visited the town.”
John Gadsden served as intendant in 1863 to 1864. Robert Limehouse is known to have served as intendant again in 1867 and 1868. The jail was built behind the Town Hall and a small marketplace was built in front of the Town Hall. At least 16 different intendants served in the Old Town Hall between 1860 and 1892. In 1893, a new Town Hall was opened down on the square, where it sits today.
The Old Town Hall property was sold to Robert’s son, Edward Just Limehouse for $600. In 1911, the property was conveyed to Edwards daughter, Ella Carolina Limehouse (1861-1936), who married Oscar S. Heape Sr. By agreement
between Ella Carolina’s five children, daughter Illa Elizabeth Heape inherited the Old Town Hall in 1938. It was after this time the wings were added to the back of the building. In 1948, Ella Elizabeth Heape sOld the property to Virginia Withers for $4,200 dollars.
In 1958, Virginia Withers sold the Old Town Hall and property to Dorothy Moore for $10,250 dollars. Mrs. Moore had moved to Summerville in 1945 with her husband, Girard Wellington Moore and their two children, Girard Jr and their daughter, named for her mother, Dorothy. Girard Jr graduated from the US Naval Academy in the class of 1948 and married Beverly Peters the daughter of former Summerville Mayor Albert Peters. Dorothy Moore, his sister, married Thomas Barnett. Thomas died in an accident in Puerto Rico. After his death, his wife, Dorothy Barnett, and their children moved back to Summerville living in the Old Town Hall. Dorothy and her children then moved to Florida, but returned to Summerville in 1983 calling it home.
Over the years, the jail in the back of the Old Town Hall was reportedly destroyed by a fire caused by one of the inmates, and the marketplace was
destroyed by a falling tree. In 1989 Summerville was hit by a terrible hurricane, Hurricane Hugo resulting in thousands of dollars of damage done in Summerville alone, including a huge tree falling on the Old Town Hall. In 1989, the Summerville Preservation Society purchased the property from Girard Moore and his sister, Dorothy Barnett, who had inherited the property upon their mother’s death in 1986. In September of 1989 the Old Town Hall had sustained about $50,000 in damage. Girard Moore accepted the insurance check for the damage, and the Society paid $40,000 in cash and signed a mortgage for approximately $30,000. The building was repaired almost immediately and the mortgage was satisfied in 1997.
The Old Town Hall has served as a place for community activities such as plays, a school, a tea room, a polling place and a private residence. Today the Old Town Hall is the home and archives of the Summerville Preservation Society, and the historic heart of the Old Village of Summerville. Be sure and go by and see the building at 201 W. Carolina Avenue. While you’re there, be sure and read the historical marker beside the road. The Old Town Hall is another fascinating place to visit in Summerville.
Heyward Hutson of Summerville provided the majority of the facts included in this article. It was originally published in the Summerville Journal Scene on September 17, 1997.