Famous Fountains: Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC
Charleston is known as the Holy City because of its abundance of churches, but it could easily be called the Park City, instead. It is difficult to walk more than a block or two without finding some patch of ground designated as a city park. Even unlikely spots, such as a small cement pad with a wrought iron gazebo at a firehouse on Meeting Street, are officially parks.
Without a doubt, the city's most famous parks are White Point Gardens, Marion Square, and Waterfront Park. Waterfront Park is the newest of the three, and an absolute must-see addition to the city's green spaces.
According to the city website, Waterfront Park is "an eight-acre linear park and pier" designed for tourists and residents, alike. It is an amazing combination of a wide, open path with waterfront views and private, shady "rooms" with single person-sized benches. The park's main features are a long pier with porch swings and fanatic views of the USS Yorktown, a giant fountain you can play in, and the Pineapple Fountain, which is also a wading fountain.
The park's design won the 2007 Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award recognizes sites that are between 15 and 50 years old at the time of awarding for their outstanding landscape architecture and meaningful contributions to the community.
If you travel to Charleston, Waterfront Park is neither difficult to find nor inconvenient to visit. It is located at the head of Vendue Range, a short street that connects to East Bay about two blocks South of the Market. Since most visitors to Charleston stop by the Market, Waterfront Park is a short walk away. Alternatively, a parking garage is available just across the street from the park.
Playing in the Fountains at Waterfront Park
Adults and children love cooling off in Waterfront Park's fountains. As long as you follow the posted rules, it is perfectly legal to play in the fountains. One fountain is basically a large, flat area with jets of water shooting from the outside to a pedestal in the center. This large area is a favorite cool-down spot for locals, but visitors are definitely welcome, too!
The Pineapple Fountain's wading rules have evolved over the years. As a child, I remember swimming in the second and third tiers of the fountain. The times have changed, however, and today waders are only permitted in the fountain's lower level. Honestly, I'm not sure we were really 'supposed to' climb in the upper levels, but no one had posted signs or fountain monitors to tell us otherwise.
Do not worry about the water quality; a few years ago, the city upgraded the fountain's filtration systems to accommodate a large number of bathers to ensure water safety.
If you are unfamiliar with Charleston, it may seem odd that Charlestonians still talk about Hurricane Hugo as a defining moment in the city's history and refer to things as pre-Hugo or post-Hugo. Yes, Hugo was in September 1989, but its impacts are still noticeable in the city. Realistically, post-Hugo reconstruction shaped today's Charleston. While the storm brought great loss to the area, it also helped usher in an era of rebirth that is exemplified by structures and areas like Waterfront Park.
While it sounds cheesy, I believe Waterfront Park exemplifies the Charleston post-Hugo spirit. Ground was broken for the park in 1988. Hugo caused about $1 million in damage to the unfinished park, but Mayor Riley was determined to see his pet project through to the end. In spite of adversity, construction crews worked around the clock and the park opened on May 11, 1990, only one week behind schedule. You can read about the post-Hugo cleanup and the site's 10-year anniversary celebrations in 2000 on the Post and Courier website.
Whether you want to cool off in a fountain, relax in a swing while watching the harbor, or take a jog down the wide paths, Charleston's Waterfront Park is a community treasure. Unlike many parks that are hyped, created by cities, and left to die, Waterfront Park has remained an evolving, vibrant, and beloved part of Charleston for over 20 years. When you visit Charleston, spend some time at the park and I'm confident you'll see why we love it.
If you want to know more about Charleston sites, visit my article on choosing which plantation to see while you are in the area. Pay the Lady of the South a visit; you won't regret it.