South Carolina’s newest museum will focus on its oldest European settlement.
A new $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry will allow a Beaufort nonprofit to open its first exhibits on the Santa Elena settlement. The colony was built by the Spanish almost 450 years ago on what is now Parris Island — roughly 16 miles northeast of Savannah.
“It’s a wonderful step in securing the funds we need to be able to open the inaugural exhibit,” Santa Elena Foundation development director Megan Meyer told South Carolina Radio Network.
The Santa Elena History Center opened at the former Beaufort federal courthouse last month. Right now, the center acts as a information venue for visitors and gift shop. The foundation hopes to have the new exhibits in place by April 2016, which would be the 450th anniversary of Spanish settlers arriving in what is now South Carolina.
Meyer said the new exhibit will be developed with help from a Spanish government agency to focus on the little-known history of the former colony — which predated the British creation of Charleston by more than 100 years. The site was originally a French outpost known as “Charlesfort” that was abandoned after a year. A few years later, a Spanish force took the post in 1566 and renamed it, intending for Santa Elena to become the capitol of their relatively young “Florida” colony.
The Spanish occupied the site for roughly two decades before a series of Native American raids and other troubles forced them to abandon the settlement for good in 1587.