Summerville is located on a pine-covered ridge, 25 miles east of Charleston. Along with plantation owners on summer retreat, other early residents included descendents of the 1696 Puritans. The railroad arrived in the early 1800s and pine trees were being cut down at an alarming rate. Residents incorporated the town to preserve the trees, passing a law that made cutting down pine trees of a certain size illegal. The law is still on the books and is one of the oldest of its kind in the US. Pine trees are so revered in Summerville that the town motto is "Sacra Pinus Esto" meaning, "The Pine is Sacred". A downtown fire nearly destroyed the town in 1886 but the international medical community decided that Summerville was among the best places in the world to recover from lung diseases, and so the town was rebuilt by those who came for their health and liked Summerville so much they stayed.
Summerville has flourishing fine arts, sports, museum, and preservation organizations. Summerville is part of the Main Street, USA program, overseen by the Downtown Restoration Enhancement and Management Corporation (DREAM). There are more than 700 area buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The Summerville Dorchester Museum covers the history of Summerville and Dorchester County with cultural and natural history exhibits from prehistoric fossils to America's first tea plantation. The Henry Timrod Library, housed in a 1915 building in the historic district, provides the community with more than 40,000 print, audio and video materials about the history of Summerville and Dorchester County. Self guided walking tour brochures are free, and include descriptions of homes, buildings and gardens in the town. Old Dorchester State Park is just six miles away and preserves the remnants of the first community called Dorchester. The original residents moved to Georgia in the 1750s and the buildings were destroyed by retreating British soldiers in 1781.
Plantations and gardens are found throughout the area. Cypress Gardens, located in nearby Moncks Corner, offers a look into the cypress swamp ecosystem. Boone Hall Plantation is a working plantation that is reported to be America's most photographed plantation. Drayton Hall is a National Trust historic site that includes a majestic Georgian-Palladian style plantation house on a sweeping 630-acre site. The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and Middleton Place are premier tourist attractions. Charleston County Parks offer opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping, boating, and horseback riding. Charleston's historic forts were at the turning point of some of the nation's most important events. Ft. Moultrie was the site of the first decisive patriot victory of the American Revolution and Ft. Sumter was the site of the first shots of the Civil War.
The Charleston area boasts an array of water sport opportunities, including boating, swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Charter fishing in the Gulf Stream or inshore waters is readily available. The three-year-old, 10,000-seat-plus tennis stadium on Daniel Island is the host of the women's professional Family Circle Tennis Cup each April. Local sports teams include the Charleston Battery, the A League 2003 National Champions (soccer), Lowgators (basketball), Stingrays (hockey) and Riverdogs (baseball). Local colleges participate in a number of NCAA sports, including The Citadel's and Charleston Southern's Division IA football teams, the College of Charleston's top ranked basketball and soccer teams, and The Citadel's top ranked baseball and wrestling squads.