City to honor Henry C. Chambers with new signage at park

From staff reports 

The City of Beaufort will celebrate the legacy of Mayor Henry C. Chambers, whose vision led to the creation of what is known informally as Waterfront Park, with the unveiling and dedication of new signage in Mayor Chambers’ honor on Friday, May 21. The dedication will be held at 3:30 p.m. near the flagpole at the park. 

When the 7-acre 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. 

Former Mayor Billy Keyserling and former City Councilmember Edie Rogers led the 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,” Keyserling said. 

Chamber’s son, Bill, an architect, designed the bronze lettering that is affixed to the wall. The cost of the memorial is approximately $10,000, and was funded through the City’s Beaufort Pride of Place program. Pride of Place is funded through donations, not tax money. 

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