Walterboro is located in southern South Carolina near the junction of US 17A and I-95. It was established as a village as early as 1784 when several Lowcountry planters built summer retreats here. The town’s earliest settlers initially called the community Hickory Valley until changing its name to Walterborough in honor of its founders, brothers Paul and Jacob Walter. The town became the county seat of Colleton County in 1817; some sources claim it became the county seat in 1822, the year the courthouse was completed. Walterboro also received its first United States Post Office in 1822. Archibald Campbell served as the town’s postmaster. In 1829 the post office shortened the town’s spelling to “Walterboro.”
In 1820 Walterboro received a library, affectionately called Little Library, which still stands today as the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society. The addition of the library gave the town a reputation for valuing education, which in turn attracted more people to the hamlet. In the 1880s, the Atlantic Coast Railroad added a rail line to Walterboro which further vitalized the community. By 1915 the town’s street lamps had been updated with electricity.
A plaza, seen below, was added to the downtown area in 1985 as part of the city’s redevelopment project. Led by then-mayor Elton L. Culpepper, the plaza features a concrete waterfall, benches, and an open space.
The plaza also features a veterans’ war memorial, erected in 1990. It consists of four granite slabs attached to the left wall. Each slab is dedicated to one war, and plans are in place for a fifth panel to honor those who have fallen since Vietnam. The inscription on the main memorial reads:
Short and tall, rich and poor, black and white, farmer and shopkeeper – they came from every walk of life. The men and women of Colleton County have always answered the call to defend the flag and protect our freedom. They have done this without hesitation during times of conflict and peace. They gave their all for God and country. We owe them a great debt.
Today Walterboro is a modern community with an historic flair. It is home to more than 5,000 residents who take advantage of the town’s many offerings, including the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market. The South Carolina Artisans Center is also located in Walterboro, showcasing more than 300 South Carolina artists and demonstrations.
As Colleton’s county seat, downtown Walterboro boasts many historic buildings, including the Old Colleton County Jail. Restaurants, churches, and antebellum homes also pepper the streets of downtown Walterboro, giving the town its nickname, “The Front Porch of the Lowcountry.”
Last but not least, Walterboro is noted for its water tower, one of just three remaining standpipe towers in South Carolina, as shown in the image above and below; its base also served as the local jail. (The others include the Allendale Water Tower and Belton Standpipe.)