Chesterfield (population 1,318), the county seat of Chesterfield County, was established in 1785 when the county was formed. Welsh, French Huegenot, Scotch-Irish, German, and English settlers were drawn to the area by its agricultural potential.
Leading up to the Civil War, the first secession meeting in South Carolina was held in Chesterfield in 1860. Five years later, residents paid for their commitment to secession when General William T. Sherman occupied the town and burned its public buildings. The John Craig House (1798), Chesterfield’s oldest extant house, served as Sherman’s headquarters.
Today, Chesterfield is located in one of the poorest regions of the United States and has recently lost 75% of its industrial base. But the community remains rich in historic resources – there are two historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places – and is working to use them to help revitalize its downtown.
Chesterfield recently relocated its visitor center to the Old Courthouse (1884), which replaced the courthouse burned by Sherman. The building had been underutilized since a new courthouse was constructed in 1977. A public/private partnership is working to fully renovate the building, which is located only a block from a major travel artery. Increased usage has already begun to increase the vitality of the surrounding business district.
Another preservation success in Chesterfield is the rehabilitation of the Public School Gymnasium (1934) as a community center. Currently, the town renovating the “Separate But Equal” Elementary School (1954) as a YMCA.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2005.