As residential and commercial development continues its rapid pace along Maybank Highway, it's hard to imagine that this approximately twenty-mile stretch of cross-island roadway was once a rural byway threading together James, Johns and Wadmalaw islands; and even earlier, was a racetrack for champion-bred racehorses.
The equestrian history of what is now SC route 700 goes back to the mid-eighteenth century and Fenwick Hall, which remains an anchoring presence along the road and its intersection with River Road. It was Edward Fenwick who, in 1747, inherited the estate along the Stono River from his father and set about creating the Johns Island Stud. Over the years, Fenwick imported from England many of the founding Thoroughbred bloodlines of American racing and exercised his horses along a grass track from the Stono River along what is now Maybank Highway. Because of the Fenwicks' British loyalties, the estate was seized after the Revolution by the victorious Americans, went through several subsequent ownership changes, served as a Civil War hospital for both Union and Confederate troops, and was saved from complete ruin by Victor and Marjorie Morawetz, a wealthy New York couple who bought and restored the property in the 1930s (and who once owned most of a pre-development Seabrook Island).
Maybank Highway's westernmost segment across Wadmalaw Island passes the Charleston Tea Garden, America's only working tea plantation, and dead-ends at Bohicket Creek and the village of Rockville, first settled in the late 17th-century and once an important maritime base for the Lowcountry's shrimping and fishing industry. Encompassing only 1.5 square miles, the village's many stately homes along dirt roads have been in the same families for generations, with the entire village population numbering barely 140 at the most recent census. Today, Rockville is famous for the annual Rockville Regatta organized by the Sea Island Yacht Club during the first week of August.
Heading northeast from Wadmalaw Island and crossing Church Creek onto Johns Island, Maybank Highway's stretch between Main Road and River Road, where Edward Fenwick's horses once raced, is now under intensive development, passing what remains of Fenwick Hall and crossing over the Stono River to James Island via the Paul Gelegotis Bridge, named for a James Island businessman who established South Carolina's first EMS ambulance service in 1973, and which replaced an earlier swing drawbridge that had been there since 1928.
Maybank joins with Folly Road at its eastern end, crossing Wappoo Creek over the swing bridge named, as is the entire roadway, for Burnet Maybank (1899 - 1954), whose political career included serving two terms as Charleston's mayor, as South Carolina's governor until 1941, and in the U.S. Senate for more than a decade as a powerful ally of Franklin Roosevelt. Maybank once pondered in an essay "Who Is The South Carolinian?" that "there is a deal of kindness about him. A neighborly spirit prompts him to render service with a scorn for remuneration."