Charlestonians have a fond familiarity with Colonial Lake. Originally called Rutledge Street Pond, the lake is located in the heart of the Harleston Village, which stretches from Broad to Calhoun streets and Lockwood Drive to King Street. From sunbathers and students to runners and dog walkers, Colonial Lake is a special part of many folks’ daily lives — and has been since as far back as the 1700s.
In honor of Colonial Lake’s recent restoration, we thought it fitting to give you a brief history into the life of the beloved wee body of water. Here are 7 things you may not have known about Colonial Lake:
1. The area in which the lake sits was established for public use in 1768 by an Act of the Commons House of Assembly. The lake, evolving from a pond, would not come into existence until later on in 1869, complete with the wide walkways and picturesque promenade enjoyed now for well over a century.
2. Back then, the area west of the pond was an undeveloped area — unlike now where Harleston is a lively neighborhood complete with everything from tennis courts and fine-dining restaurants to antique shops, art galleries, and the College of Charleston.
3. Colonial Lake was once a popular spot for parking one’s boat, so much so that it soon became illegal to park your boat there without a license. By 1910, folks even staged boat races in the pond — the same year that Palmetto trees were planted in the park’s promenade.
4. In the early to mid ’70s, passersby could enjoy the lake’s fountains. They were removed in ’77 because of complaints of its saltwater overspray.
5. You can fish in Colonial Lake. A tidal lake after all, Colonial Lake has been known to deliver mullet, mud minnows, shrimp, and flounder when the tide is high. Its pipe runs from the lake, under the streets, and into the Charleston Harbor, so if it’s big enough to swim through the pipe, it just may wind up in Colonial Lake. For example, six years ago, a College of Charleston retrieved a 45-inch red drum from its waters.
6. In 2008, a deer was pulled out of Colonial Lake, believe it or not. Various witnesses reported seeing the deer wandering around the historic downtown area before running down Rutledge Avenue and into the water. It took rescuers several hours to sedate the animal and remove it from the lake.
7. You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t heard that the Park is officially open again. Fenced away in January of 2015, Colonial Park has experienced extensive renovations, much to its regulars’ dismay. However, a year-and-a-half and four-million dollars later, the Park got its official unveiling earlier this summer.
At long last, Harleston Village’s centerpiece, the place where locals often go to contemplate, has returned to its old, if more beautifully landscaped, self.
Since Charleston weather is picnic-permitting more often than not, Colonial Lake gets plenty of enjoyment year-round — be it for local joggers during the dog days of summer or for visitors and residents alike in the Christmas season, when a Christmas tree is lit in the center of the water.
What’s your favorite time of year to enjoy Colonial Lake?