Marion Square

At the intersection of King and Calhoun Streets
Charleston, SC

Submitted by: Rachel Gleeson

An urban park that connects many neighborhoods and hosts major events.

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Why It Works

This 10 acre park, much improved as the result of a recent renovation, accommodates a number of different urban activities, including a popular farmer’s market, a new fountain, a performance area, and a number of historic monuments. Some of the uses of the park are large in impact although brief in duration, such as the annual Piccolo Spoleto Arts Festival, but there are also a number of smaller and more frequent neighborhood and citywide events held here, including the presence of the city's Christmas tree. The space is flexible -- the park can host large events without feeling crowded and can host small events without feeling deserted.

Marion Square occupies a crucial position in the urban structure of Charleston. The park serves a number of adjacent neighborhoods with a broad demographic. This space has a long history of public uses – it has been used as a military marching ground since before the revolutionary war and was the site of a celebratory parade by the city’s African-American residents after the civil war. The parade ground was reclaimed for public use in the recent renovation with new paths crossing the large green lawn. The edges of the park are shady and cool. The mixture of native and exotic plantings label their continent of origin, which evokes for the park user Charleston’s history as a major port.

What Makes Marion Square a Great Place?

Marion Square is the point of convergence of several neighborhoods and thus it is very well connected in an urban sense. Within the park, paths are all accessible and offer a range of experiences from the shady cool borders to the center which is open to the sky.

Marion Square has the image of a traditional town square: seating, strolling, and playing are all well-accommodated within the park. In addition to abundant shading at the park’s edges, the fountain offers a moment of respite on a sweltering summer day. The park is well-used by the diverse population of the surrounding neighborhoods as well as being a popular tourist destination.

Marion Square boasts a local farmer’s market that is visited by up to 5,000 people each Saturday. The market affords growers the opportunity to sell their produce directly to the public. The daily use of the park is primarily as an urban stroll garden, but this routine is periodically shaken up by community events, both large and small, that are hosted here. The wide open space of the lawn is tremendously popular with sunbathers.

Marion Square encourages interaction among people. The market is a great place to come into direct contact with your city neighbors as well as the farmers from outlying areas. Because the park serves so many adjacent neighborhoods, it is an important meeting ground and an excellent place for people-watching.

History & Background

Although Marion Square has existed as public open space for centuries, it was recently renovated, with work completed in 2002.

Contact Info:

The City of Charleston, Department of Parks: 843-724-7321

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