The town of Summerville was established as a pineland retreat for planters along the Ashley River who sought escape from the heat and mosquitoes common to rice plantations during the summer months. By 1832 the Charleston to Hamburg line of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company had laid railroad tracks in the village, and the town was incorporated in 1847. By the end of the nineteenth century Summerville had a reputation as a resort town, and many Charlestonians were establishing full-time homes here. Dr. William H. Prioleau, a pharmacist from Charleston, built this Victorian home on Sumter Avenue in 1896.
The asymmetrical house with the red roof and prominent turret sits on an historic street with other homes built in the same era, but none defines Victorian architecture as dramatically as the Prioleau House. In 1925 the home was purchased by the Bolens, and it remains in the Bolen family today.
The Prioleau House is listed in the National Register as part of the Summerville Historic District:
Summerville originated as a pineland summer refuge for low country planters. Originally the streets were laid out without any plan and winding roads still characterize the oldest section of town. This “old town” lies in the southwestern portion of the historic district and contains about two thirds of the land and half the structures of the district. The South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company laid out the more regular “new town” in 1832. Streets run parallel and at right angles to the track laid in 1830-1831. The “old town” and that portion of the “new town” were incorporated into the village of Summerville in 1847.
Following the Civil War, wealthy northerners began wintering there. The town’s designation in 1887 as a health spot gave it an impetus as a resort, which was not lost until the Depression of the 1930s. There are approximately seven hundred structures within the nominated area; about 70% predate World War I. Uniting the different building styles of the town is a common sensitivity to the natural setting and to the local landscaping traditions reflected in streetscapes, parks and gardens. Raised cottages, Greek Revival influenced, and Victorian/Queen Anne and other turn of the century structures are found throughout. Antebellum buildings are principally located in the southern and western areas. Churches are located in the center of the district, and the commercial buildings—most dating from around 1900—are located on either side of the town square in front of the present town hall, which faces the railroad. Additionally, Summerville has been the center for azalea culture and there is a variety of azaleas popularly named “The Pride of Summerville.”