The history of the South Charleston area dates from the year 1782, when the land known as Price’s Bottom was described in deed books of Montgomery County, Virginia . In 1829 the Kanawha and James River Turnpike was under construction along the foot of the hills south of the river. The C. & O. Railway was built through the area in 1873. The Kanawha River was made navigable for year-round steamboat travel by a series of locks and dams whose construction was begun in 1880. Lock Six at South Charleston was completed in 1886, which provided a seven-foot channel from the Ohio to Charleston .
The area was still farm land when, in 1907, the Kanawha Land Company was organized and secured title to 1,800 acres. In the year 1907 the street car-line from Charleston was extended to south Charleston and in September of that year a spectacular auction sale was conducted by Plus Levi, selling many of the lots in the newly laid out town. In 1908 the Banner Glass Company was invited to build a plant on the riverbank.
World War I brought several plants to the area. English businessmen promoted the Rollins Chemical Company in 1914. Adjoining the Rollins plant on the west was the Warner-Klipstein plant, starting in 1915 as a producer of chlorine and chlorine products. This plant, reorganized in 1928 as the Westvaco Chlorine Products Corporation, became an important manufacturer of caustic, chlorine, and chlorinated compounds. This plant was purchased by FMC Corporation in 1948 and was the largest plant in the Inorganic Chemicals Division of the FMC Corporation.
During World War I the government started construction of a large naval Ordnance Plant in South Charleston. Completed in 1921, this plant was held in a “stand-by” condition until 1939. During World War II it produced armor plate, naval gun barrels, and other arms. In 1962 the site of the former Ordnance Plant was acquired by FMC Corporation. Their Ordnance Division was a producer of tracked vehicles for military use. The plant area, now privately owned, is the South Charleston Ordanance Center, a 2 million square foot Industrial Park. Building areas are unequaled in size and volume, crane, capacity, and availability of transportation.
The Carbide and Carbon Chemicals Company moved to South Charleston from Clendenin in 1925 and began operations in buildings acquired from the Rollins Chemical Company. In the years that followed the Carbide Plant expanded along the river-bank and spread out to include the mile-long Blaine Island. Now known as division of the Union Carbide Corporation, the company was a producer of more than 400 chemicals, plastics, and fibers from derivatives of natural gas and petroleum. In an area overlooking the city the Union Carbide Technical Center was established. Here was conducted research, development, and engineering for Union Carbide units throughout the world.
Thomas Memorial Hospital was established in 1946 as a memorial to Herbert J. Thomas, a victim of enemy action in World War II. It is located in the Spring Hill section.
The town of South Charleston was incorporated in 1917. From a 1920 census of 3,650 the population has expanded rapidly; in 1945 the city limits were extended to include the Spring Hill area, and annexations have taken in residential developments in the hill areas.
Interstate 64 was opened through South Charleston in 1975 and provides super-highway travel to the west, north, and south.