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Discover the Fascinating History of Sullivan’s Island

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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With a storied past dating back to the Revolutionary War, Fort Moultrie is the undisputed star attraction on Sullivan’s Island. But visitors will find other fascinating historical sites, along with an array of art offerings on this South Carolina barrier island.

Here are a few not to miss:

Fort Moultrie – Originally built from palmetto logs and sand, Fort Moultrie held strong during a June 28, 1776 attack by the British navy, saving nearby Charlestown from British occupation in the early years of the Revolutionary War. The existing brick fort was built in 1809 to serve as part of Charleston’s defenses. After South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, Confederate troops stationed at the fort bombarded the Federal garrison on Fort Sumter, plunging the nation into civil war. Today, visitors to the Fort Moultrie National Monument can learn about the many periods of the fortification’s history, from the original Palmetto-log fort to its role in World War II. A 20-minute orientation film provides a great overview to get you started.

Thompson Park – Overlooking Breach Inlet between Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms, the park commemorates the Revolutionary War battle site where patriots repelled British troops attempting to wade through the incoming tide to storm Fort Moultrie during the Battle of Sullivan’s Island—one of America’s first great victories of the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War, the Confederates’ H.L. Hunley departed from Breach Inlet on a mission to destroy the Federal blockading ship U.S.S. Housatonic located four miles offshore. The first submarine to sink an enemy warship, the Hunley itself sank shortly after the attack.

U.S Coast Guard Historic District – Before the U.S. Coast Guard became the search and rescue service it is today, distressed sailors at sea relied on the United States Life Saving Service. To serve Charleston Harbor, a life-saving station was built on Morris Island and later moved to Sullivan’s Island. Completed in 1895, it included the two-story living quarters for a crew of six men and a keeper. The building, located at 1815 I’On Avenue, is now part of the National Park Service.

Edgar Allan Poe Library in Battery Gadsden – While this 2,000-square-foot branch library is similar to others in the Charleston County Library System, the site where it is housed is unique. In 1977, the library was moved from the Township Building on Sullivan’s Island to the renovated Battery Gadsden, a former Spanish-American War four-gun battery built in 1902. The walls of the battery are two feet thick, providing more than adequate protection for the library’s 15,000 books. The library, of course, is named after author Edgar Allan Poe, who was stationed on Sullivan’s Island as a private in the U.S. Army between 1827-28, and used the island setting as the background for his famous short story, “The Gold Bug.”

Battery Gadsden Cultural Center – Along with the Edgar Allan Poe Library, the historic Battery Gadsden is home to the town’s cultural center, which serves as a showcase for artists, lecturers, musicians and performers. It also features a collection of Sullivan’s Island oral histories stored in the Lowcountry Digital Library. Throughout the year, the cultural center hosts a variety of community events, like “Shakespeare by the Sea” and a lecture series on “The Ghosts of Sullivan’s Island.”

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.