Were it not for this retired stenographer, there would be no Park Circle. Born in London, Ebenezer Howard was the son of a baker. He finished his education at fifteen having acquired the skills of a recorder. Howard applied his trade until wanderlust overcame him and, at twenty one, he immigrated to America. Here, he read Whitman and Emerson and tried his hand as a Nebraska farmer, cultivating a love and understanding of rural life.
Home beckoned, though, and by 1876 he was back in England where he spent the rest of his working life writing down the actions of Parliament. It was this exposure to theories of social reform and governance that informed his vision of the ideal community. The Industrial Revolution had led to uncontrolled urban growth, overcrowding, unhealthy living conditions and nonexistent exposure to the natural environment. Ebenezer had a better idea.
His city would be a round planned, self-contained community surrounded by greenbelts and contain proportionate areas of residences, industry and agriculture. At the center would lay a garden ringed with the civic and cultural complex. Six broad avenues would radiate from the inner circle. A ring of residential area would be followed by another of industry with an expanse of open land for agricultural use enclosing the whole.
The idealized garden city would house 32,000 people on a site of 6,000 acres. The garden city would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, another garden city would be developed nearby. Howard envisaged a cluster of several garden cities as satellites of a central city of 58,000 people, linked by road and rail. In 1898, Howard published Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Social Reform in which he laid out his vision.
Only fourteen years later, The North Charleston Corporation was formed to develop 5,000 acres between Filbin and Noisette creeks and the Cooper River into an “environment that will draw together both agricultural and urban industrial activities.” At the time, the new city was cutting edge. Today, Park Circle stands as a reminder of Howard’s original vision of residential, commercial, and greenspace all coexisting within a walkable community.