April marks the 450th anniversary of the founding of the first Spanish settlement on what is now the South Carolina coast.
The Santa Elena settlement was founded on the site of a former French fort in 1566. The site on modern-day Parris Island near Beaufort was built to protect Spanish shipping interests and was the first capital of the colony known as Spanish Florida. The site of the settlement was rediscovered in the 1970s beneath a golf course at the Marine Corps basic training base on the island.
The nonprofit group Santa Elena Foundation kicked off its celebration this weekend with a sailing regatta and historical talks. The events (available here) will culminate with a grand opening ceremony for the new Santa Elena Historical Center on Saturday, April 30. An exhibit about the settlement entitled “America’s Untold Story” will be the center’s inaugural exhibition.
Also this month, a replica of a Spanish galleon from the colonial era will dock in nearby Port Royal.