Isle of Palms – Isle of Palms, South Carolina
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Did you know that South Carolina has its own Long Island? Or at least it did at one time. Isle of Palms – one of several beautiful Charleston beaches – was called Hunting Island shortly after English settlers discovered it. The six miles of beach were later known as Long Island, a name credited to pirates. The island did not acquire its current name until 1899 when it was purchased by J.S. Lawrence, who gave it the name Isle of Palms for its abundance of native palmettos (Sabal palmetto). A resort hotel was built on the island around 1906, and by 1912 James Sottile had added an oceanfront pavilion and amusement park complete with a Ferris wheel (see postcard below). Though the amusements are now gone, a fishing pier takes visitors out onto the ocean.
The island’s first inhabitants were Sewee Indians, who reportedly were friendly towards the English when their ships were sighted on the horizon of the Atlantic. According to local lore, the Native Americans swam out to greet the incoming ships, assisting with their safe arrival to shore. Pirates were also known to take refuge here, though beachcombers have yet to discover any treasure other than what the tide brings from the sea.
Isle of Palms is separated from neighboring Sullivan’s Island by a small channel called Breach Inlet. Breach Inlet is known for its dangerous currents, and swimming there is strongly deadly. Many people have drowned over the years.
In fact, during the Revolutionary War, 2,500 British troops never made it across the notorious Breach Inlet to neighboring Sullivan’s Island to attack Patriots at what is now known as Fort Moultrie. The inlet was too deep to wade across and too shallow to allow for boats. The geography of the inlet was one of several factors that helped Patriots secure a victory at the infamous Battle of Sullivan’s Island.
During the Civil War, the CSS H.L. Hunley entered the ocean at Battery Marshall on the Isle of Palms to sink the USS Housatonic, making it the first submarine to sink an enemy ship. The submarine itself sunk to the ocean floor soon afterwards, to be discovered and recovered in 1995 four miles off the coast of Sullivan’s Island.
After World War II the beach town became a thriving residential area for soldiers returning from war and establishing homes. The addition of the Ben Sawyer Bridge in 1946 further connected people from Mount Pleasant to the beaches of Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms and created more housing demands. Prior to the construction of this bridge, people crossed to the islands by ferry. In 1993 the Isle of Palms connector bridge was completed, making the beach even more accessible – and more populated. Today the town is a mixture of full-time residents and vacation home owners.
Reflections on the Isle of Palms
Contributor Cindy Branscome says of her above photo, which she calls Tranquility: “This was taken on Friday the 13th of January, 2017. Lucky for me! There was a sandbar that this bird was perched on and it enabled me to get low enough to catch a great angle. There is nothing more peaceful and moving to me than catching a sunrise at the beach. There is no doubt in my mind that this bird was feeling the same thing!”
Isle of Palms Info
Address: Palm Blvd, Isle of Palms, SC 29451
GPS Coordinates: 32.787984,-79.78786
Isle of Palms Map
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The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Isle of Palms, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!