Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The IDLE HOUR at an idle hour.


This is East Montague Avenue, the heart of old North Charleston's business district. North Charleston grew from a mill town beginning around 1920. The Raybestos-Manhattan Company largely built the town. To the north of East Montague Avenue were built the cottages which were to house the workers and to the south of the Avenue were the houses for management.

When hard times hit North Charleston, many of the businesses along the Avenue either failed or moved. The loss of the Charleston Naval Shipyard and the Navy Base brought about the final slump. It was pretty grim around here.

Today a great restoration of this old business district is well on its way. The plan is to save as many existing structures as possible, renovate those buildings and encourage new businesses to move into them. In the photo, on the left, a refurbished building is made ready for a new tenant. The building in the center, literally sandwiched between the other two, is the Idle Hour Restaurant.

The Idle Hour at 1065 East Montague has been in business for a little over 60 years. It is one of very few to have survived many years of economic downturn and decaying real estate values. It's a nice little restaurant which is without pretense or inflated pricing. It is more accurately described as a "short order" restaurant rather than a fast food place. It is also quite in keeping with the traditions of the street.

The Idle Hour is operated by a team of very nice ladies who greet customers like old friends since many are. They seem to know a great deal about the goings on of the Avenue and if you listen carefully you can, too. There is a warmth and ease about the place which is seldom felt in most modern restaurants. You do not get that sense of manufactured hospitality which the younger transient employees display these days. If the East Montague Avenue business district makes the comeback which we hope, there will not only be a place, but a need for the Idle Hour in the emerging prosperity.


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