BEAUFORT, S.C. – In December, Henry C. Chambers is expected to get his due as a wall at the Henry C. Chambers Park is emblazoned with his name.
Over the years, the 7-acre park has become known simply as Waterfront Park. But when it opened in 1979, it was dedicated to Mayor Chambers and named after him, with a simple plaque that is easy to miss.
Chambers, who was elected mayor in 1969 and served for 20 years, fought hard for the park, and many times was opposed by members of City Council. But his vision “saved the town of Beaufort,” Duncan Fordham, longtime downtown business owner, said in a video tribute to Chambers.
When Chambers was elected, the fishing industry that had sustained Beaufort was in decline, and the waterfront was an unsightly mishmash of old buildings and dilapidated docks. The marsh was little more than a dumping ground.
Chambers, a Beaufort native, saw the potential for a beautiful park along the Beaufort River, and the economic boost it would deliver to his city. He went to work, looking for money from federal sources, meeting on a regular basis with Sen. Strom Thurmond, and enlisting allies throughout the state and federal governments. Ultimately, the park cost $5.3 million; bridge loans from local banks kept the project alive as it waited for funding sources to come through.
Today the park is the City’s crown jewel – a place for residents and visitors to dine, play, gather, and immerse themselves in the beauty of the riverfront.
Current Mayor Billy Keyserling and former City Councilmember Edie Rogers led the recent drive to memorialize Mayor Chambers, who died in 2018 at the age of 89. “Henry C. Chambers had the vision and tenacity to ‘bring back’ a dying downtown Beaufort by creating an environmental and commercial destination to draw people from the greater Beaufort area and from across the region to enjoy our natural resources in what was then the center of commerce for the region,” Mayor Keyserling said.
“While some take it for granted today, Chambers astutely navigated through some opposed to change but achieved community support and then scaled the high mountain of cobbling together financial resources from every local, state and national source,” he added. “It is time to put the finishing touch on this great asset by appropriately displaying its proper name prominently in the park."
On Tuesday, Nov. 24, the memorial design will be presented to City Council at its Regular Meeting for signage approval.
Chamber’s son, Bill, an architect, designed the bronze lettering that will be affixed to the wall. The cost of the memorial is approximately $10,000, and will be funded through the City’s Beaufort Pride of Place program. Pride of Place is funded through donations, not tax money.
Those interested in making a donation to this project can:
▪ Mail a check to:
City of Beaufort, Pride of Place
Henry C. Chambers Memorial
1911 Boundary St.
Beaufort, SC 29902
▪ Make a payment online here. No fee is charged.
Video tribute to Chambers: