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Mount Pleasant's Cultural Offerings Include Museums, Public Art and Plenty of History

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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If you plan a visit to the Charleston area primarily to take in its rich history, you’ll quickly discover a wealth of that history -- some of the earliest parts -- is located across the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant.

Take, for instance, the American Revolution, much of which began and was fought in South Carolina. In fact, the first South Carolina battle for independence from Great Britain was fought when a British fleet attempted to capture the colonial center of (then) Charlestown. The would-be invaders failed because of Fort Moultrie, located on Sullivan’s Island a short drive across the Ben Sawyer Bridge from Mount Pleasant.

Constructed of palmetto logs and sand, Fort Moultrie was incomplete when Commodore Sir Peter Parker led nine warships to attack the fort on June 28, 1776. Nine hours of bombardment later, the fleet withdrew because its cannonballs were unable to pierce the soft wood of the palmettos. The British returned and captured Charleston in 1780, but withdrew in 1782 as the war wound down.

Today, Fort Moultrie, which also fired shots at Fort Sumter to open the American Civil War and was part of U.S. coastal defenses through World War II, is open to public touring, its walls now made of stone and concrete, with vintage cannon from several eras on display.

For a more modern look at naval warfare, Patriots Point is a gold mine with the World War II-era aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, a U.S. Navy destroyer (USS Laffey) and submarine. A history nut's dream, the Yorktown features vintage aircraft from several wars and displays of life aboard the vessel.

Within the property’s 350 acres you'll also find Patriots Point Museum, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and its Medal of Honor Museum and the Cold War Memorial, the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the U.S. Patriots Point averages 300,000 visitors each year, and the Yorktown offers one of the nation’s largest education and overnight camping programs, hosting 40,000-plus children each year.

More into architecture than warfare? Mount Pleasant is home to a pair of historic properties. Boone Hall Plantation, established in 1681 by Major John Boone on the banks of Wampacheone Creek, has been open to public viewing since 1956. Owners have furnished the home with period antiques that display life during its history.

The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is a 28-acre remnant of the 715-acre plantation home of Charles Pinckney, a post-Revolution politician and major contributor to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. National Park Service has found artifacts that link the Pinckney family and nearby Snee Farm, now a housing development but formerly a country retreat for the family.

If you’re looking for a piece of history you can take home with you, spend a bit of time riding along U.S. Highway 17, which runs north from Mount Pleasant toward Georgetown. There you’ll find a number of roadside stands where African-American women create sweetgrass baskets in a process handed down for hundreds of years. If you’d rather just look at examples of their craft, the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion is an enjoyable and educational stop.

And then there’s art for everyone on display in an ongoing local project where artists paint and decorate the large, green electrical boxes that control traffic signals. A 2018 project of Mount Pleasant’s Culture, Arts and Pride Commission, everything from renditions of the Ravenel Bridge to sea Turtles to palm trees — created by 47 Lowcountry artists — adorn the ubiquitous electrical boxes, a quirky example of public art that anyone can view and enjoy.

That’s Mount Pleasant: historical and quirky, too.

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.