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In 2015, the city council of Charleston voted to rename Charleston Waterfront Park to Joe Riley Waterfront Park, which eventually led to a re-dedication of the park to Mayor Joseph. P. Riley Jr. April 28th, 2018. The eight acre park overlooks Charleston Harbor, U.S.S. Yorktown, Fort Sumter, and the Cooper River Bridge.

Picture of the Battery between 1900-1915

Picture of the Battery between 1900-1915

Joe Riley Waterfront Park is located on land that was once the center of boat traffic for those traveling in and out of the Charleston Harbor.  As Charleston filled in the peninsula to create more land, the area that is now the park was used for merchant homes and storerooms.  Many of the merchants that occupied the area were classified as French Huguenots.  

This area provided an abundance of Charleston’s early city markets that were also readily accessible from the water.  Examples include a fish market that is now Vendue Range and South Adger’s Wharf, which was a known produce market.  All markets in the area merged into the Centre Market (which is now the Charleston City Market).

The shipping industry was the focal point since Charleston was a leading port city. After the Civil War in 1861, Charleston experienced a decline in the shipping industry due to larger ports opening up in other cities, and the shipping industry saw a long period of decline occurring during the late 1800s to the 1950s.

The area that is now Joe Riley Waterfront Park was in poor condition in the early 1970s, with gravel parking lots and diminished pillars of old buildings. Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. took led an initiative to revitalize the area, and work began in the 1980s after a decade of fundraising, government approvals, and planning.  The 8+ acre park currently covers one mile of the Cooper River waterfront and four million natives and tourists visit annually.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park was not originally named after the retired mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr.  In 2015, the city council of Charleston voted to rename Charleston Waterfront Park to Joe Riley Waterfront Park, which eventually led to a re-dedication of the park on April 28th, 2018.  The Charleston Parks Conservancy and the City Council recognized the mayor’s dedication to improving parks and other public places, as well as stating the addition of new features to the park including the construction of a full-service hotel right on Concord Street, an expansion of the park that includes a longer Riverwalk starting from the entrance of the park on Concord Street, and ending on Cumberland Street, etc.  In 2007, the then Charleston Waterfront Park was awarded the Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy, Harry Lesesne stated, “Joe Riley Waterfront is a fitting name for this public space, which says so much about Joe Riley as a visionary leader who pursued the highest quality for our city, and we think these new additions to the park will help future generations understand his commitment to great parks as a foundation of a strong and just community.”  For a man to have such an impact on a city for so long during his 10-term tenure as Mayor of Charleston from December 15th, 1975, to January 11th, 2016, that the city and community respect him enough and his efforts to keep the public commodities and city as a whole intact, to name a park after him, means a whole lot and represents the citizens of Charleston, South Carolina very well.

. Charleston Waterfront Park. Accessed November 11th 2019.

, Charleston Parks Conservancy. Joe Riley Waterfront Park Dedication, Accessed November 11th 2019.

. Charleston Community History, February 22nd 2018. Accessed November 17th 2019.

Pearson, C H. Loving Waterfront Park in Charleston SC is Not a Cliche, Best of Charleston SC. May 13th 2017. Accessed November 17th 2019.

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