From the 1600's until the Civil War, the area north of the City of Charleston was comprised primarily of plantations. The large plantations were continually subdivided into smaller farms as the population began moving northward. After the Civil War, phosphate fertilizer plants began to spring up, with extensive strip mining occurring between the Ashley River and Broad Path (Meeting Street Road).
Since the early 1900's, the North Area has been a planned industrial community with its growth geared directly to the industry, military, and business communities. The first industry in the North Area was E.P. Burton Lumber Company. In 1901, the United States Navy Yard was established. Shortly thereafter, the General Asbestos and Rubber Company built the world's largest asbestos mill under one roof.
In 1912, a group of Charleston businessmen formed a development company, bought the Burton tract, and began to lay out an industrial city. Park Circle was laid out, with areas reserved for industrial, commercial, and residential usage. Park Circle was planned as one of only two garden city models in the US and most of the original planning concept remains today. Some of the streets in North Charleston still bear the names of these pioneer developers: Durant, Buist, Mixon, Hyde, and O'Hear. During World War II, substantial development occurred as the military bases and industries expanded.
From World War II through the 1960's, many people in the community were unhappy about the way parts of the North Area were developing. They wanted the citizens in the area to have direct control over future development. As a means of bringing government closer to the people, an incorporation referendum was held on April 27, 1971. On June 12, 1972, after a series of legal battles, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the referendum results and North Charleston became a city.