Depending on how you look at it, Sunday's unveiling of a new monument marking Beaufort's history was a few years or a few hundred years in the making.
On Sunday, a crowd celebrated a long-planned tricentennial memorial of 14 granite blocks with bronze plates set in a circle of palmetto trees at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
Inscriptions on the markers chart Beaufort's history, from explorations of the area by the Spanish in 1514 to its founding by the English on Jan. 17, 1711, and beyond.
The plaques were paid for with proceeds from the Beaufort 300 campaign, during which more than 300 people, businesses and organizations donated at least $300 each as a way to salute the city's 300th birthday in 2011.
"The goal was to really to look back at our past as Beaufort is going to be making big changes for the future," said Mayor Billy Keyserling. "But changes that are based hopefully on the fundamentals of what Beaufort has been about for all these years."
Beaufort 300 participants Kevin Cuppia and Jim Schroeder designed the monument, which was approved last year by Beaufort City Council.
The unveiling of the memorial included music and an invocation by Bishop Alden Hathaway of the Parish Church of St. Helena. Fifth-graders from Beaufort Elementary School read the inscriptions on the markers, detailing such historical figures as Jean Ribaut, Robert Smalls and Col. John "Tuscarora Jack" Barnwell.
Evan Fent, who read about how Barnwell drove the Yemassee Indians into Florida, said it's been "a really good experience to be a part of 300 years of Beaufort."
Beaufort, the second-oldest town in South Carolina, "really is the fountainhead of a great deal of American history," said local historian Larry Rowland, who wrote the inscriptions on the markers.
"Perhaps a thousand years from now, some Chinese real estate developer will come along and find these plaques with these strange, lost hieroglyhpics and discern there was a great deal of history before they arrived," Rowland joked.
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.