All of my walking tours in the beautiful Historic District of Charleston, SC, all seem to converge into the city’s oldest park and one of its most unforgettable landmarks. Once known as “Oyster Point” in the early 1670s, the southern tip of the Charleston peninsula was better known as “White Point” by 1700. All you have to do is look down. Scattered shards of oyster shells abound! This name may have been suggested by the oyster shells which were noticeable at low tide or by the stretch of white sand at the site.
I’m often asked about the ghostly legends by curious guests and, yes, back in 1718 the pirate Stede Bonnet and his crew were tried and hanged in Charles Town, and their bodies were reportedly buried at the low water mark at White Point. The exact location of this mass burial was never recorded, but their remains may rest within the present confines of White Point Garden. (Some instances have been reported of ghostly activity late at night. Honestly, I’m too scared to find out!)
Broughton’s Battery, a large brick fort mounting up to 45 cannons, was built at the southern end of Church Street in 1737. It was then rebuilt after the hurricane of 1752, but then dismantled in 1784 and the property subdivided and sold. Several private residences were erected on this site in subsequent years.
In 1836 Mayor Robert Hayne announced a bold plan for transforming the Battery and White Point into a large public mall, but economic difficulties forced the plan to be scaled back. Between 1837 and 1839 the city created a public park here by building a “wharf” around White Point to Meeting Street. The name “White Point Garden” first appeared in City Council records in September 1838. A wooden bathing house operated seasonally off White Point from 1843 through 1881. Summer band concerts began in the park in 1845 and continued for nearly a century! Between 1847 and 1852 the city expanded the park to its current seven-acre size and extended the stone seawall (often called the “Low Battery”) around its eastern and southern perimeter.
In 1876 the city allowed placement of a historical monument in the park, dedicated to the Defenders of Fort Moultrie. Several Civil War-era cannon were placed along the eastern edge of White Point Garden in 1899, and in 1907 a new bandstand was erected in the center of the park in memory of Mrs. George W. Williams by her daughter, Martha, who lived in the Queen Anne Victorian house at 2 Meeting Street.
There are many weddings held at the bandstand…I have happened on quite a few over the years. They say Charleston is the #2 Wedding Destination in the United States just second to #1 Las Vegas.