History is Rich at Colonial Lake

Colonial Lake, a Charleston landmark established by the Commons House of Assembly, encompasses a city block in the midst of two neighborhoods. The Colonial Commons Commission was established to oversee the lake area, specifically to “authorize Commissioners to cut a canal from the upper end of Broad Street into Ashley River; and to reserve the vacant marsh on each side of the said canal, for the use of a common for Charlestown.”

This act was ratified on April 12, 1768, one of several public works projects initiated under Gov. Charles Greville Montagu. Those original commissioners have names still known in Charleston today: Henry Middleton, Isaac Mazyck, Rawlins Lowndes, Edward Fenwick, William Henry Drayton, Arthur Middleton and William Savage.

By the 1870s, the city still hadn’t developed the common space as outlined decades earlier so a group of local residents sued the city on the grounds it had failed to adhere to the Act of 1768. In addition, the group’s complaint included the fact that public lands South of Broad had been sold to private parties and public lands North of Broad had been leased to private parties.

The suit was settled and thus began development of what was then called “Rutledge Street Pond.” The settlement included stipulations that the remaining parts of the original lands be kept forever as a public common and that a board of commissioners be appointed. That area also includes what is now Moultrie Playground.

The actual Colonial Lake park was constructed between 1881 and the 1890s and has since become a landmark park for Charleston residents and visitors.

Historical details courtesy of Nic Butler, Ph.D., special collections manager at Charleston County Public Library.

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