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West Ashley Flashback — The Hidden History of Heritage Park

It all started with a piano lesson

A young Joseph Irvine Hoffman, Jr.  (Photograph courtesy of Norma Hoffman Davis.)A young Joseph Irvine Hoffman, Jr. (Photograph courtesy of Norma Hoffman Davis.)

December 6, 2017
By Donna Jacobs | Contributing Writer

What do a medical practice, college roommates, a piano lesson, and Heritage Park, have in common? Joseph Irvine Hoffman, Jr. M.D. is the common denominator in this question.

Hoffman was born the son of a butcher in 1898 on Rutledge Avenue. He was one of fie siblings. His father was initiating him in the art of butchery when a family illness and death focused his attention to the field of medicine.

Hoffman attended undergraduate school at Howard University in Washington D.C., pursued his medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville Tennessee, and spent an internship year at Freedmen Hospital in Washington D.C. During his studies he developed an affection for the New York and D..C areas because of jobs that helped with the financial burden of school.

Upon completion of his academic pursuits, he was offered a medical practice on Long Island. However, once again a family illness, the health of his mother, influenced Hoffman to return to the low country and set up his medical practice at 43 1/2 Cannon St. in 1929. Later Hoffman would move his practice to 45 Cannon St. and add a small office on River Road at Charles Clement’s farm on Johns Island.

Ellen Wiley from Vicksburg, Miss. and Helen Cox from Charleston were roommates while attending Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. Helen introduced her low country friend, Hoffman, to Ellen. And that was that for a while. Everyone graduated and moved on to their respective futures. Ellen was offered a teaching job in Asheville, N.C. Teaching 7th graders was not her dream. Teaching music, ideally piano, was her dream. She expressed her frustration to her roommate, Helen Cox, whose father was the principal of Avery Normal Institute.

Late one summer the music teacher at Avery unexpectedly resigned. Helen offered her former roommate, Ellen Wiley, as a potential candidate. That fall Ellen’s dream was fulfilled, as she became the music teacher at Avery.

In addition, she supplemented her income by offering private music lessons. Dorrie LaRoche was one of her students. Her uncle Joseph Hoffman offered to drive Dorrie to her lessons. He had an ulterior motive, the opportunity to speak to Ellen Wiley. Soon they would wed and start a family.

In January of 1955, Hoffman would move his family to a new home on a large beautiful lot with a magnificent oak tree in what would become the Heritage Park subdivision. Hoffman’s heritage was attached to this land. Hoffman’s maternal grandmother, Dorrie Horsey, owned the land and was the site of her family’s farm. When he was young, on a nice day his family would take a horse and buggy from the family home on the peninsula, across the New Bridge, down the Coastal Highway to Wappoo Road and enjoy picnics on the land.

As the need for housing demands rose, land in St Andrew’s Parish was the site of suburban development. Hoffman sold some of the family farm for Sherwood Forest and he subdivided an 8.6-acre tract into 13 lots with a single semicircular road and named it Heritage Park. H.A DeCosta would build Hoffman’s home, the first, in this new subdivision. Soon DeCosta would buy a lot and build his home in this community.


Stories of growing up in St. Andrew’s Parish? Contact Donna Jacobs at westashleybook@gmail.com


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