University City

A 'campus' of colonial carolina

Historic Camden

Camden, S.C. 803- 432-9841;

You don't have to drive to the coast to stroll a city that shows off its authentic colonial past: Camden is less than two hours from home.

It's the oldest existing inland town in South Carolina - planned out in 1732 and launched over the two decades that followed. English merchant Joseph Kershaw stared a store here in 1758; he and the community prospered as settlement continued.

The Battle of Camden was fought near town in August 1780; it was a disaster for the Americans. The following April, a second British victory there proved so costly to the redcoats that they were forced to leave.

A 105-acre chunk of old Camden is today Historic Camden, an outdoor museum complex affiliated with the National Park Service. Buildings include the restored and furnished 1785 John Craven House, the 1830 Cunningham House, the partly restored McCaa House (1795), a pair of log cabins and the reconstructed/furnished Kershaw mansion - which served as headquarters for Lord Cornwallis during British occupation.

You'll also find a blacksmith exhibit, some reconstructed military fortifications, the 1758 Quaker Cemetery and walking trails.

Special programs are held throughout the year; they range from lectures and exhibits to weekend events that showcase military re-enactors. Feb. 19-March 4, a "World of Miniatures" exhibit will be at the Kershaw House (admission charged); the next major event is "Armies Through Time" (April 21-22; admission charged), an unusual historical mash-up with military re-enactors portraying warriors from ancient Greece and Rome all the way to modern times.

Historic Camden hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 2-5 p.m. Sunday; closed major holidays.

Admission: Free. Pick up a site map for a self-guided tour. Guided tours ($5; $4 for 62 and older and for military; $3 for ages 6-18) offered twice daily.

Target audience: Anyone who wants to mix history with fresh air and exercise.

Travel time from Charlotte: 1 hour 45 minutes.

Directions: Interstate 77 South to Columbia, then I-20 East to U.S. 521 (Exit 98). Drive north on U.S. 521 a couple miles; it becomes Broad Street. Historic Camden is on Broad Street, south of downtown.