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Isle of Palms History

Explore the past and the present

Isle of Palms History

The Jewel of South Carolina's Lowcountry.

Originally named Hunting Island and then Long Island, it's thought to be at least 25,000 years old, and first inhabited by the indigenous Seewee Indians. The Seewees were said to have greeted the first English settlers to the area by swimming to the ships and carrying the travelers to shore. Whatever contributions the English made to the Seewees reportedly inspired some of them to try and reach England in their canoes-all lost at sea in storms.

Legend has it that the only other occupants of the island were the pirates who buried their treasures for safekeeping in the deserted dunes and woods, although none has been found so far.

During the Revolutionary War a British Army contingent of 2,500 men attempted to raid a colonial encampment on adjacent Sullivan's Island. Many men drowned and the attack failed when the force attempted to cross the treacherous waters of the Breach Inlet between the two islands. The area was of significance again during the Civil War, as a point of departure for the CSS Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel. After successfully sinking the USS Housatonic, the Hunley and her crew were lost at sea, probably as a result of the encounter with the Union ship. Amazingly, the wreck of the Hunley was recently discovered offshore of Sullivan's Island, and will soon be recovered for posterity.

The island remained without permanent inhabitants until the late 19th century when the island became recognized by locals of the area as a refuge from the summer heat and tempo of Charleston. The island was purchased in 1899 by J.S. Lawrence, who renamed it the Isle of Palms. In 1906 a 50 room resort hotel was built to offer the first permanent accommodations. By 1912, James Sottile constructed a spacious beach pavilion and an amusement park with Ferris wheel. Accompanying transportation developments enabled residents of Charleston to catch a ferry to Mt. Pleasant, and from there catch a rail trolley car to Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms. Access became even easier in 1929 when the ferry across the Charleston harbor was replaced by the Grace Memorial Bridge. A bridge link to the islands was established in 1946, and at that time most of the Isle of Palms was purchased by developer J.C. Long of The Beach Company.

As he began development, J.C. Long provided low-cost housing to veterans returning from World War II. The Isle of Palms slowly developed into a residential bedroom community of greater Charleston while still maintaining its charm, natural beauty, and desirability as a summertime getaway destination.

In the 1970's the rest of the world discovered the joys of the Isle of Palms, and real estate development blossomed. In 1975, the Sea Pines Co., one of the major developers of now renown Hilton Head Island, established a similar resort enterprise on 900 acres of land at the northeast end of the island. Originally named The Isle of Palms Beach and Racquet Club it was renamed The Wild Dunes Beach and Racquet Club in 1984 and today is simply called Wild Dunes. With nationally recognized golf courses and other resort amenities, Wild Dunes has become a major vacation locale on the South Carolina coast.

In spite of the changes wrought over the last 20 years, with its six miles of white, sandy beaches, the Isle of Palms remains as much a place of beautiful serenity for residents and visitors today, as it was for the Seewee Indians and the colonists who followed.
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Historical Places of Interest

Battery Logan

Fort Moultrie, Poe Ave
Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

Battery Logan (1899-1944) - Battery Logan was a reinforced concrete, Endicott Period 6 inch coastal gun battery on Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. The battery was named in G.O. 78, 25 May 1903, after Captain William Logan, 7th U.S. Infantry, who was killed, 9 Aug 2877, in action with Nez Perce Indians at Big Hole Basin, Montana. Battery construction started in 1898, was completed in 1899 and transferred to the Coast Artillery for use 25 Sep 1899 at a cost of $ 34,618.07. Deactivated in 1944.

Castle Pinckney

Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

Set on an overgrown island, these ruins represent a small 1810 fortification used in the Civil War.

Secessionville Historic District

Charleston, SC 29412

Set on an overgrown island, these ruins represent a small 1810 fortification used in the Civil War.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

1254 Long Point Rd
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

Remnants of a 1700s plantation, with indoor & outdoor exhibits on Charles Pinckney's life & times.

Farmers' and Exchange Bank

141 E Bay St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Farmers and Exchange Bank, a National Historic Landmark, is perhaps the only example of Moorish Revival architecture in America that evolved from one aspect of English Regency architecture and the only Moorish Revival building in Charleston. Designed by Edward D. Jones and Francis D. Lee, both notable Charleston architects, the building was completed in 1854. Typical of the eclectic Moorish style are horseshoe arches and the banded facade, produced by using two different varieties of brownstone from New Jersey and Connecticut. Its design is thought to have been influenced by illustrations in Washington Irving's The Alhambra, a volume which was published around the time the building was constructed. The exotic and romantic world of Moorish Spain was popularized by Irving in this book.

Fort Moultrie

1214 Middle St
Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

This historic military site, in use from 1776–1947, has artifacts & harbor and Fort Sumter views. The first fort on Sullivan's Island, constructed of palmetto logs and sand, was still incomplete when Commodore Sir Peter Parker of the Royal Navy and nine British men-of-war attacked it on June 28, 1776. After a nine-hour battle, the ships were forced to retire. Charlestown was saved from British occupation, and the fort was named in honor of its commander, Colonel William Moultrie. In May 1780 the British finally captured Charlestown, including Fort Moultrie, finally evacuating the city in December 1782 as the Revolution entered its final year.

Today Fort Moultrie has been restored to portray the major periods of its history. A visitor to the fort moves steadily backwards in time from the World War II Harbor Entrance Control Post to the site of the Palmetto-log fort of 1776.

Fort Sumter National Monument

South Carolina 29412

Accessed by boat, this fort with ruins, gun emplacements & a museum saw the Civil War's first shots.

Governor Thomas Bennett House

69 Barre St
Charleston, SC 29401

Historical home with period antiques and guided tours. The Governor Thomas Bennett House, circa 1825, is one of the grandest and most beautiful houses in Charleston, South Carolina. It is available for corporate events, private parties, luncheons, wedding ceremonies, receptions and rehearsal dinners.

Historic Charleston City Market

188 Meeting St
Charleston, SC 29401

4-block city market over 200 years old, with vendors of food, art & crafts like sweetgrass baskets.

Mount Pleasant Historic District

Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

McLeod Plantation Historic Site

325 Country Club Dr
Charleston, SC 29412

Preserved historical plantation with a Georgian-style mansion, slave cabins & interpretive tours. Established in 1851, McLeod Plantation has borne witness to some of the most significant periods of Charleston's - and our nations - history. Today McLeod Plantation is an important 37-acre Gullah/Geechee heritage site that has been carefully preserved in recognition of its cultural and historical significance. The grounds include a riverside outdoor pavilion, a sweeping oak allée, and the McLeod Oak, which is thought to be more than 600 years old. It is a place like no other, not frozen in time but vibrant, dynamic, and constantly evolving, where the winds of change whisper through the oak trees and voices from the past speak to all who pause to listen. McLeod Plantation was built on the riches of sea island cotton - and on the backs of enslaved people whose work and culture are embedded in the Lowcountry's very foundation. It is a living tribute to the men and women and their descendants that persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality, and justice.

Middleton Place

4300 Ashley River Rd
Charleston, SC 29414

Sprawling Ashley River rice plantation dating to the 1730s, with gardens and refined lodging. The historic preservation work and interpretation of history at Middleton Place focuses on major contributions of the Middleton family as well as the enslaved Africans and African Americans who lived and worked here. The stories are a microcosm of United States history. From the early Colonial period through the Revolution, the early Republic, the Civil War era and beyond, they made a mark on the land, the colony, state and nation.

Miles Brewton House

27 King St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Miles Brewton House is a National Historic Landmark residential complex located at 27 King Street in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. It is one of the finest examples of a double house (a reference to the arrangement of four main rooms per floor, separated by a central stair hall) in Charleston, designed on principles articulated by Andrea Palladio. Located on two acres, its extensive collection of dependencies makes it one of the most complete Georgian townhouse complexes in America. The house was built ca. 1765-1769 for Miles Brewton, a wealthy slave trader and planter.

Morris Island Lighthouse

Folly Beach, SC 20412

Towering, red-&-white offshore lighthouse, rebuilt in the 19th century and accessible by boat. Morris Island Light is a lighthouse on Morris Island in South Carolina. The light stands on the southern side of the entrance to Charleston Harbor, north of the City of Folly Beach. The lighthouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Although the lighthouse now stands several hundred feet offshore, it was originally inside a much larger island. When constructed in 1876, the light was approximately 1,200 feet (370 m) from the water's edge. However, the construction in 1889 of the jetties which protect the shipping lanes leading to Charleston Harbor altered ocean currents, resulting in the rapid erosion of Morris Island and the destruction of many structures and historical sites (such as Fort Wagner). By 1938 the shoreline had reached the lighthouse, forcing its automation as it was no longer safe or practical to keep it manned. In 1962 the Morris Island Light was decommissioned and replaced by the new Charleston Light, located on Sullivan's Island at the north end of the harbor.

Nathaniel Russell House

51 Meeting St
Charleston, SC 29401

Ornate, circa-1808 home known for its "free-flying" 3-story spiral staircase, with guided tours.

Old Marine Hospital (Charleston)

20 Franklin St
Charleston, SC 29401

Robert Mills, the well-known federal architect, created a structure of charm and delicacy in Charleston's Marine Hospital. The structure, constructed ca. 1833, is two stories above a raised basement. The roof is hipped and a double-tiered porch is located over an arcaded basement. The façade is seven bays wide. The subtle Gothic style with the token pointed arches, pointed windows, and the clustered columns, then was considered a fitting kind of environment for hospitals, which were associated with medieval monasteries. Even the double-tiered porch railing follows a medieval motif. The main entrance door has large fanlight and sidelights. The porticoes were an adaptation to climate and acted as weather controls. The building was originally double its present size, with two long wings projecting from the rear. These were removed because of extensive fire damage before the building was restored. Mills erected a number of marine hospitals around the country on much the same plan. They were established to take care of grounded seamen who became public charges. Listed in the National Register November 7, 1973; Designated a National Historic Landmark November 7, 1973.

Simmons-Edwards House

14 Legare St
Charleston, SC 29401

The large, neoclassical Simmons-Edwards House is a Charleston single house built for Francis Simmons, a Johns Island planter, about 1800. The house, located at 14 Legare St., Charleston, South Carolina, is famous for its large brick gates with decorative wrought iron. The gates, which were installed by George Edwards (who owned the house until 1835) and which bear his initials, include finials that were carved to resemble Italian pinecones. They are frequently referred to as pineapples by locals, and the house is known popularly as the Pineapple Gates House.

South Carolina Historical Society

100 Meeting St
Charleston, SC 29401

Private library housing historical state photos & documents, with a Colonial & antebellum focus. An architectural treasure in its own right, the South Carolina Historical Society Museum is housed in a National Historic Landmark building and features interactive exhibits on the people, places, and movements that shaped the state and nation.

United States Coast Guard Historic District

1815 Ion Ave
Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

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Kayaking & Canoeing on Isle of Palms

Kayaking & Canoeing on Isle of Palms

Exploring the natural splendor and marsh wetlands of Isle of Palms is the best way to take in all the unspoiled beauty that South Carolina's lowcountry has to offer. Take a guided kayak tour of the local salt marsh and inland waterways. Rent a canoe or pedalboat and enjoy fishing or a relaxing paddle. Learn about SC's coastal ecosystems and wildlife as you explore the Isle of Palms beaches and marshlands. View Isle of Palms Outfitters »

Isle of Palms Restaurants

Isle of Palms Restaurants

We've compiled this comprehensive directory to help you find the right restaurant to whet your appetite, including options for casual dining, local seafood, Southern Cuisine, Asian, French & Mediterranean and everything in between.
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Isle of Palms Beaches

With six miles of white, sandy beaches, the Isle of Palms is a unique barrier island on the coast of South Carolina. Front Beach is located on Ocean Blvd with public parking available. The City of Isle of Palms has been certified for the Blue Wave Season and, as such, will again be flying the Blue Wave Flag. This certification is given to beaches that meet specific criteria related to cleanliness, safety and access to the public. The clean water and pristine beaches make an excellent spot for surfing, kiteboarding, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, parasailing, fishing and other watersports activities.
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Isle of Palms Fishing

The coastal lowcountry of South Carolina is a natural paradise for fishermen and outdoor Explorers. There are a vareity of seasoned guides and boat captains who can provide you and your family with an unforgettable salt water fishing charter or boat tour around Isle of Palms or Charleston harbor. Explore the quiet tidal creeks behind the island, where marsh islands dot the estuary and provide the opportunity to get out and swim or cast a net or a fishing line. You'll find plenty of local bait & tackle shops that can equip your adventure with all the supplies and gear needed for a day or a week. The Isle of Palms Marina is a full-service, 50-slip marina that is fully equipped to make your stay on South Carolina's coast enjoyable and comfortable. Here you can charter a boat tour, fishing expedition, or rent a boat and be your own captain for the day. The Isle of Palms Marina is located just minutes from beautiful beaches, luxury oceanfront accommodations, award-winning golf courses in the Wild Dunes Resort, excellent shopping at the Mount Pleasant Towne Centre and Charleston's Historic District.
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Map of Isle of Palms & Charleston Historical Places of Interest