The town of Hollywood had its origins in the New South era. Planted in the middle of a farming district, the village grew up along the tracks of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and, later, along two-lane S.C. Highway 162.
(Charleston County; 2020 pop. 5,268). The automobile bumper sticker declares, “We’re the Real Hollywood.” In fact, no tourist would confuse this crossroads village on the western edge of Charleston County with California’s Tinseltown. However, the declaration does suggest the balance of suburban hustle and pastoral survivals that animated Hollywood, South Carolina, just past its fiftieth birthday.
The town of Hollywood had its origins in the New South era. In the 1880s Charles W. Geraty, scion of an established family of Yonges Island, began a new farming venture on newly purchased land five miles west of the Stono River. Within a short time his business enterprises included a store and a bank within a natural grove of holly trees. Planted in the middle of a farming district, the village grew up along the tracks of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and, later, along two-lane S.C. Highway 162. Truck farming was the economic base down to the 1960s, when formidable competition from places such as Florida caused a sharp decline. In that interval, the principal town businesses included a railroad depot, two warehouses, and a facility to provide ice for the storage of potatoes, tomatoes, and cabbage in transit to markets as far away as New York City.
At its incorporation in 1949, Hollywood counted five hundred residents scattered along a one-mile strip of road where S.C. Highway 162 crossed S.C. Highway 165. As truck farming faded and the population dipped to four hundred a decade or two later, town leaders actively sought industrial development, almost landing a helicopter plant of Sikorsky Aircraft in 1969. When that effort failed, Hollywood evolved into a bedroom community, with its small town center providing services to a growing local population.
A gradual accretion of new residents from Charleston and the surrounding county, combined with an aggressive annexation policy, spurred growth after 1980. By 2000 town limits extended sixteen miles along Highway 162, encompassing thirty-three square miles of old plantations, new housing, and a population in the thousands. While some residents still farmed or worked in town, more people commuted by automobile to jobs in Charleston or North Charleston, fifteen or twenty miles away. And some, newcomers and natives alike, enjoyed the leisure pursuits of rural retirement, including hunting and fishing in adjoining wetlands.
In 2000 the population showed a black majority of nearly seventy percent. Racial harmony was apparent after an unsettled period in the 1960s. However, there were signs of cultural cleavage. The mayor, Herbert Gadson, first elected in 1979, was black, as were other members of the city council. Their pro-growth agenda, popular among black residents concerned with job creation, was not always popular with a predominantly white minority that viewed such efforts as a threat to the district’s rural character. Income levels, though increasing, lagged behind the surrounding area. Ninety-five percent of the students in public schools were black, while white children usually attended private academies.
The completion of a modern sewerage system was the source of local pride. However, some houses still used wood for heating, public garbage collection was not available, and police protection came from Charleston County.
Fick, Sarah. Charleston County Historical and Architectural Survey. Charleston, S.C.: Preservation Consultants, 1992.
Lesesne, Thomas P. History of Charleston County. Charleston, S.C.: A. H. Cawston, 1931.