Wandering around Hampton Park, it’s easy to forget the history of what happened here. This land was so many things to so many different people over the centuries. Now it’s a beautiful place to visit and has one of the few monuments dedicated to an African-American, in the city.
It’s a great park to visit to see a different side of Charleston and take a break from the city center. It’s where the locals go to relax under a live oak tree or to walk the many paths there. While looking for the monument to Denmark Vesey, I took my time walking and made sure to take in some scenery. For such a beautiful place, it’s interesting it has such a dark and fascinating past.
Hampton Park’s history is filled with uplifting as well as tragic memories. It was the location of a plantation, horse races, and then during the Civil War that same horse track became a place to keep Union prisoners. When they died they were buried in unmarked graves on the site.
After the war, the first observance of a large recorded Memorial Day like celebration happened there. African Americans and Union soldiers got together to commemorate the dead buried at the track. The land then became a World War I training ground, the site of the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, and a zoo. The zoo was an important part of many children’s lives growing up in Charleston. Then that too fell out of favor and was torn down.
Today, it’s a large expansive park with fields of grass, live oak trees, and a monument to Denmark Vesey. Vesey was a free African American who was executed on claims that he planned to lead a massive slave revolt.
It honestly took me a while to find the monument. The park is so large I didn’t even notice there was another section until I had explored more. There aren’t any markers pointing to the monument’s location. Charleston has so much dedicated to Confederates, it’s sad that one of the few monuments dedicated to an African American feels hidden.
How to Visit Hampton Park
If you’re planning on visiting the park it’s right outside the main downtown area. It’s easy to locate and there is plenty of parking.
A History of Charleston’s Hampton Park by Kevin R. Eberle