2 Your Roots: The history of Marion Square

2 Your Roots

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – In this week’s edition of 2 Your Roots, we take a trip to Downtown Charleston and turn our focus to Marion Square.

Previously known as the “Citadel Green”, Marion Square is one of Charleston’s most-used city parks. In the hub of Downtown, the 10-acre plot is a tourist attraction featuring farmers markets, historic monuments, and plenty of green space.

A historical marker for Marion Square was erected in 1941 by the City of Charleston. It reads:

“At the time of the Revolution the town-gates stood near this spot across what is now King Street, originally the high way into Charles Town and formerly called the “Broad Path”. In 1780 these gates were enclosed in the “Horn-Work”, the post of honor in the city’s land defenses extending from river to river and known as “The Lines”. The “Tobacco Inspection” – warehouses established for the inspection and storage of tobacco before exportation – stood north of the square between Tobacco and Hutson Streets. The buildings now on that site include the arsenal, erected for the municipal guard after the attempted slave uprising of 1822, and subsequently named the “Citadel”. In 1842 they were occupied by the South Carolina Military Academy. In 1937 these buildings were converted into county offices. Ceded in 1833 to the field officers of the Fourth Brigade, the square was and still is held as a public mall and parade ground. It has long been known as the “Citadel Green”.

After the Revolutionary War, the plot of land was transferred to the newly-incorporated City of Charleston. According to the National Parks Service, a lease agreement made with the City says that the central portion of the square is to be kept open forever as a parade ground for the Sumter Guards and the Washington Light Infantry.

The portion of land is named in honor of General Francis Marion. According to the Charleston County Library, On October of 1882, a committee of City Council met with Field Officers to discuss the future of Citadel Square. At the end of the meeting, they had created a list of recommendations that was sent to the Mayor and the members of City Council. One recommendation regarded the name of the square:

“Your committee are unanimous in the opinion that this public Mall and Parade Ground, which promises to be in the near future so useful and so attractive a resort, should be designated by some historic name acceptable to the people.  They unite in the recommendation that it be known hereafter as Marion Square.” 

The Charleston County Public Library

Born in 1732 in St. John’s Berkeley Parish, Francis Marion began his military career in the parish militia and earned a number of prestigious titles:

  • First Lieutenant, Parish Militia
  • Captain, S.C. Second Regiment
  • Lieutenant Colonel, Continental Army
  • Brigadier General

According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, Marion went on to serve in the South Carolina Senate from 1783-1786 and 1792-1794. He was elected to the 1790 state constitution convention and passed away in February of 1795.

Today, Marion Square serves as one of more than 1400 historically significant sites within the Charleston Old and Historic District.

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