The U.S. Postal Service designates it zip code 25314, and in 1990 the U.S. Census determined that its residents were the wealthiest and best educated in West Virginia. Not surprisingly, the neighborhood is distinguished by some of the state's finest twentieth-century period houses, those grand Georgian and Tudor Revival mansions favored by bankers, doctors, lawyers, and, in West Virginia, coal barons. Such neighborhoods are usually far removed from the commercial centers that made them possible, but South Hills is almost literally on top of downtown Charleston. Houses standing atop its steep wooded bluffs enjoy unrivaled views across the Kanawha River.
Until 1891 the area's scattered residents had to ferry across the Kanawha to downtown. Development flourished after the first South Side Bridge was constructed, as described in a promotional booklet titled Charleston 1894:
Back from the river on the heights overlooking the city, is the residence portion of South Charleston where the streets, roadways and grounds laid out in curiously odd, but very pretty designs and overhung with beautiful and stately shade trees, are in harmony with the grandly beautiful rustic scenery in close proximity. Many elegant and costly residences are being built in this suburb.
Street patterns might have seemed “curiously odd” to Charlestonians familiar with straighter streets in the earlier, more level parts of town, but the steep ravines of South Hills defied any grid arrangement. Winding roads, still overhung with beautiful trees, define the area almost as much today as they did in 1894. The two main arteries, Bridge and Loudon Heights roads, veer up the bluff from the South Side Bridge, go separate ways, then reunite near the Gilliland farmhouses (see CH54). Many of the area's distinguished houses are tucked away on smaller streets leading from Bridge and Loudon Heights roads.
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