Charleston is the oldest and largest city in the
U.S. state of South
Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal
city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan
Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical
midpoint of South Carolina's coastline and is located on Charleston
Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the
Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers. Charleston had an estimated
population of 134,385 in 2016. The estimated population of the
Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and
Dorchester counties, was 761,155 residents in 2016, the third-largest
in the state and the 78th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the
Charleston was founded in 1670 as Charles Town, honoring King
Charles II of England. Its initial location at Albemarle Point on
the west bank of the Ashley River (now Charles Towne Landing) was
abandoned in 1680 for its present site, which became the fifth-largest
city in North America within ten years. Despite its size, it remained
unincorporated throughout the colonial period; its government was
handled directly by a colonial legislature and a governor sent by
London. Election districts were organized according to Anglican
parishes, and some social services were managed by Anglican wardens
and vestries. Charleston adopted its present spelling with its
incorporation as a city in 1783 at the close of the Revolutionary War.
Population growth in the interior of
South Carolina influenced the
removal of the state government to Columbia in 1788, but the port city
remained among the ten largest cities in the
United States through the
1840 census. Historians estimate that "nearly half of all Africans
brought to America arrived in Charleston", most at Gadsden's Wharf.
The only major antebellum American city to have a majority-enslaved
population, Charleston was controlled by an oligarchy of white
planters and merchants who successfully forced the federal government
to revise its 1828 and 1832 tariffs during the Nullification Crisis
and launched the Civil War in 1861 by seizing the Arsenal, Castle
Fort Sumter from their federal garrisons.
Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished
restaurants, and hospitable people, Charleston is a popular tourist
destination. It has received numerous accolades, including "America's
Most Friendly [City]" by
Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure in 2011 and in 2013 and 2014
by Condé Nast Traveler, and also "the most polite and
hospitable city in America" by
Southern Living magazine. In 2016,
Charleston was ranked the "World's Best City" by Travel + Leisure.
1.3 Metropolitan Statistical Area
2.1 Colonial era (1670–1786)
American Revolution (1776–1783)
2.3 Antebellum era (1783–1861)
2.4 Civil War (1861–1865)
2.5 Postbellum (1865–1945)
2.6 Contemporary era (1945–present)
4.1 Annual cultural events and fairs
4.3 Live theater
4.4 Museums, historical sites, and other attractions
4.6 Creative works
6.1 Fire department
6.2 Police department
6.3 EMS and medical centers
6.4 Coast Guard Station Charleston
8.3 Interstates and highways
8.3.1 Major highways
8.3.2 Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
8.4 Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority
9 Nearby cities and towns
9.1 Other outlying areas
11 Schools, colleges, and universities
12 Armed Forces
12.1 U.S. Coast Guard
13.1 Broadcast television
14 Notable people
15 Sister cities
16 See also
19 Further reading
19.2 Art, architecture, city planning, literature, science
20 External links
Map showing the major rivers of Charleston and the Charleston Harbor
The city proper consists of six distinct areas: the Peninsula or
Downtown, West Ashley, Johns Island, James Island, Daniel Island, and
See also: Charleston Harbor
The incorporated city fit into 4–5 square miles (10–13 km2)
as late as the First World War, but has since greatly
expanded, crossing the Ashley River and encompassing James Island and
some of Johns Island. The city limits also have expanded across the
Cooper River, encompassing
Daniel Island and the
Cainhoy area. The
present city has a total area of 127.5 square miles (330.2 km2),
of which 109.0 square miles (282.2 km2) is land and 18.5 square
miles (47.9 km2) is covered by water.
North Charleston blocks any
expansion up the peninsula, and Mount Pleasant occupies the land
directly east of the Cooper River.
Charleston Harbor runs about 7 miles (11 km) southeast to the
Atlantic with an average width of about 2 miles (3.2 km),
surrounded on all sides except its entrance.
Sullivan's Island lies to
the north of the entrance and
Morris Island to the south. The entrance
itself is about 1 mile (2 km) wide; it was originally only 18
feet (5 m) deep, but began to be enlarged in the 1870s. The
tidal rivers (Wando, Cooper, Stono, and Ashley) are evidence of a
submergent or drowned coastline. There is a submerged river delta off
the mouth of the harbor and the Cooper River is deep.
Damage left from
Hurricane Hugo in 1989
Charleston has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate
classification Cfa), with mild winters, hot, humid summers, and
significant rainfall all year long. Summer is the wettest season;
almost half of the annual rainfall occurs from June to September in
the form of thundershowers. Fall remains relatively warm through the
middle of November. Winter is short and mild, and is characterized by
occasional rain. Measurable snow (≥0.1 in or 0.25 cm) only
occurs several times per decade at the most however freezing rain is
more common; a snowfall/freezing rain event on January 3, 2018 was the
first such event in Charleston since December 26, 2010. However,
6.0 in (15 cm) fell at the airport on December 23, 1989, the
largest single-day fall on record, contributing to a single-storm and
seasonal record of 8.0 in (20 cm) snowfall.
The highest temperature recorded within city limits was 104 °F
(40 °C) on June 2, 1985, and June 24, 1944, and the lowest was
7 °F (−14 °C) on February 14, 1899. At the airport,
where official records are kept, the historical range is 105 °F
(41 °C) on August 1, 1999, down to 6 °F (−14 °C)
on January 21, 1985. Hurricanes are a major threat to the area
during the summer and early fall, with several severe hurricanes
hitting the area—most notably
Hurricane Hugo on September 21, 1989
(a category 4 storm). The dewpoint in June to August ranges from 67.8
to 71.4 °F (19.9 to 21.9 °C).
Climate data for Charleston Int'l,
South Carolina (1981–2010
normals, extremes 1938–present)
Record high °F (°C)
Mean maximum °F (°C)
Average high °F (°C)
Average low °F (°C)
Mean minimum °F (°C)
Record low °F (°C)
Average precipitation inches (mm)
Average snowfall inches (cm)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Percent possible sunshine
Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990)
Climate data for Charleston,
South Carolina (Downtown), 1981–2010
normals, extremes 1893–present
Record high °F (°C)
Mean maximum °F (°C)
Average high °F (°C)
Average low °F (°C)
Mean minimum °F (°C)
Record low °F (°C)
Average precipitation inches (mm)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Metropolitan Statistical Area
The Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan
Statistical Area consists of three counties: Charleston, Berkeley, and
Dorchester. As of the 2013 U.S. Census, the metropolitan statistical
area had a total population of 712,239 people.
North Charleston is the
second-largest city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville
Metropolitan Statistical Area and ranks as the third-largest city in
the state; Mount Pleasant and Summerville are the next-largest cities.
These cities combined with other incorporated and unincorporated areas
along with the city of Charleston form the Charleston-North Charleston
Urban Area with a population of 548,404 as of 2010[update]. The
metropolitan statistical area also includes a separate and much
smaller urban area within Berkeley County, Moncks Corner (with a 2000
population of 9,123).
The traditional parish system persisted until the Reconstruction Era,
when counties were imposed. Nevertheless, traditional
parishes still exist in various capacities, mainly as public service
districts. When the city of Charleston was formed, it was defined by
the limits of the Parish of St. Philip and St. Michael, now also
includes parts of St. James' Parish, St. George's Parish, St. Andrew's
Parish, and St. John's Parish, although the last two are mostly still
incorporated rural parishes.
The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston, was built of
Bermudian limestone at 17 Chalmers Street, between 1694 and 1712
Main articles: History of Charleston,
South Carolina and Timeline of
Charleston, South Carolina
Colonial era (1670–1786)
A c. 1724 English copy of a Catawba map of the tribes between
"Charlestown" (left) and "Virginie" (right) following the
displacements of a century of disease, enslavement, and the 1715–7
After Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660, he
granted the chartered
Province of Carolina
Province of Carolina to eight of his loyal
friends, known as the Lords Proprietors, on March 24, 1663. It took
seven years before the group arranged for settlement expeditions. In
William Sayle brought over several shiploads of
settlers from Bermuda, which lies due east of Charleston although
closer to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. These settlers established
Town at Albemarle Point on the west bank of the Ashley River a
few miles northwest of the present-day city center. Charles Town
became English-speaking America's first comprehensively planned town
with governance, settlement, and development to follow a visionary
plan known as the Grand Model prepared for the
Lords Proprietors by
John Locke. Because the Carolina's Fundamental Constitutions was
never ratified, however, Charles
Town was never incorporated during
the colonial period. The
British Crown did not approve the one attempt
to do so in the 1720s. Instead, local ordinances were passed by
the provincial government, with day-to-day administration handled by
the wardens and vestries of St Philip's and St Michael's
At the time of contact, the area was inhabited by the
The settlers declared war on them in October 1671. The Charlestonians
initially allied with the Westo, a slaving northern tribe that had
grown powerful trading for guns with the colonists in Virginia. The
Westo had made enemies of nearly every other tribe in the region,
however, and the English turned on them in 1679. Destroying the Westo
by 1680, the settlers were able to use their improved relations with
Cusabo and other tribes to trade, recapture runaway slaves, and
engage in slaving raids of Spanish-allied areas.
The Earl of Shaftesbury, one of the Lords Proprietors, proclaimed that
it would soon become a "great port towne". Instead,
the initial settlement quickly dwindled away and disappeared while
another village—established by the settlers on Oyster Point at the
confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers around 1672—thrived;
this settlement formally replaced the original Charles
1680. (The original site is now commemorated as Charles Towne
Landing.) Not only was this location more defensible, but it also
offered access to a fine natural harbor, which accommodated trade with
the West Indies. The new town was the 5th-largest in North America by
1690. On Carolina's southern coast, transportation between the
early communities by river and sea was so convenient that Charleston
was the only court needed until the late 1750s, but difficulty in
transport and communications with the north meant its settlers were
effectively independent of Charles
Town as late as the governorship of
Philip Ludwell; even then, the north was controlled through an
appointed deputy governor. On December 7, 1710, the Lords Proprietors
decided to separate the Province of
North Carolina from Charles Town's
government, although they continued to own and control both regions.
A smallpox outbreak hit in 1698, followed by an earthquake in February
1699 whose ensuing fire destroyed about a third of the town. During
rebuilding, a yellow fever outbreak killed about 15% of the
remaining inhabitants. Charles
Town suffered between 5 and 8 major
yellow fever outbreaks over the first half of the 18th century. It
developed a deserved reputation as one of the least healthy locations
British North America
British North America for whites, although mistaken observations
over the period led some doctors to think that blacks had a natural
immunity to the disease. Both black and white locals appear to have
developed a general immunity to the disease by 1750, with future
outbreaks (lasting until 1871) tending to kill only new arrivals,
prompting its local name as "stranger's fever".
locally known as "country fever" since yellow fever was largely
confined to Charles
Town and the coast — was endemic. Although it
did not have the high fatalities of yellow fever, it caused much
illness and was also a major health problem through most of the city's
history before dying out in the 1950s after use of pesticides.
Herman Moll's 1733
Town and Harbour of Charles
Town in South Carolina,
showing the town's defensive walls.
Town was fortified according to a plan developed in 1704 under
Governor Nathaniel Johnson. The early settlement was often subject to
attack from sea and land. Both Spain and France contested England's
claims to the region. Native Americans and pirates both raided it,
Yamasee War of the 1710s did not quite reach it. Charles
Town was besieged by the pirate "Blackbeard" for several days in May
1718; his pirates plundered merchant ships and seized the passengers
and crew of the Crowley.
Blackbeard released his hostages and left in
exchange for a chest of medicine from Governor Robert Johnson.
Around 1719, the town's name began to be generally written
Charlestown and, excepting those fronting the Cooper River, the
old walls were largely removed over the next decade. Charlestown was a
center for inland colonization of South Carolina, but remained the
southernmost point of English settlement on the American mainland
Province of Georgia
Province of Georgia was established in 1732. The first
settlers primarily came from England and its colonies on
Bermuda. The latter planters brought African slaves with them who had
been purchased in the islands. Early immigrants to the city included
Protestant French, Scottish, Irish, and Germans, as well as hundreds
of Jews, predominately
Sephardi from England and the Netherlands.
As late as 1830, Charleston's Jewish community was the largest and
wealthiest in America. Because of the struggles of the English
Reformation and particularly because the papacy long recognized
James II's son as the rightful king of England, Scotland, and
Ireland, Roman Catholics were prohibited from settling in South
Carolina throughout the colonial period. (
Catholic emancipation did
not proceed in earnest until after the onset of the American
By 1708, however, the majority of the colony's population were black
Africans. They had been brought to Charlestown on the Middle Passage,
first as "servants" and then as slaves. Of the estimated 400,000
Africans transported to North America for sale as slaves, 40% are
thought to have landed at
Sullivan's Island off Charlestown, a
Ellis Island of sorts" where they were held in quarantine for
a period to control disease. As no official monument marked this role,
Toni Morrison organized a privately funded commemorative
bench. The Bakongo, Mbundu, Wolof, Mende, and
formed the largest groups of Africans brought through here. Free
people of color also arrived from the West Indies, where wealthy
whites took black consorts and color lines were (especially early on)
looser among the working class. In 1767 Gadsden's Wharf was
constructed at the city port on the Cooper River; it ultimately
extended 840 feet and was able to accommodate six ships at a time.
Many slaves were sold from here. Devoted to plantation
agriculture, the state of
South Carolina had a black majority from the
colonial period until after the Great Migration of the early 20th
Rainbow Row's 13 houses along East Bay Street formed the commercial
center of the town from the colonial period through the early 20th
At the foundation of the town, the principal items of commerce were
pine timber and pitch for ships and tobacco. The early economy
developed around the deerskin trade, in which colonists used alliances
Cherokee and Creek peoples to secure the raw material used
for Europeans' buckskin pants, gloves, and bookbindings. Records show
an average annual export of 54,000 skins for the years from 1699 to
1715. During the height of the trade from 1739 to 1761,
5,239,350 lb (2,376,530 kg) of deerskin were exported
through Charlestown, representing between 0.5–1.25 million
deer. To a lesser extent, beaver pelts were also
exported. At the same time, Indians were used to enslave one another.
From 1680 to 1720, approximately 40,000 native men, women, and
children were sold through the port, principally to the West Indies
but also to
Boston and other cities in British North America. The
Lowcountry planters did not keep Indian slaves, considering them too
prone to escape or revolt, and instead used the proceeds of their sale
to purchase black African slaves for their own plantations. The
slaveraiding—and the European firearms it introduced—helped
Spanish Florida and
French Louisiana in the 1700s during
the War of the Spanish Succession. But it also provoked the
Yamasee War of the 1710s that nearly destroyed the colony, after which
they largely abandoned the Indian slave trade.
The area's unsuitability for tobacco prompted the
to experiment with other cash crops. The profitability of growing rice
led the planters to pay premiums for slaves from the "Rice Coast" who
knew its cultivation; their descendants make up the Gullah. Slaves
imported from the Caribbean showed the planter George Lucas's daughter
Eliza how to raise and use indigo for dyeing in 1747. Within three
years, British subsidies and high demand had already made it a leading
Throughout this period, the slaves were sold aboard the arriving ships
or at ad hoc gatherings in town's taverns. Runaways and minor
rebellions prompted the 1739 Security Act requiring all white men to
carry weapons at all times (even to church on Sundays), but before it
had fully taken effect, the Cato or
Stono Rebellion broke out. The
white community had recently been decimated by a malaria outbreak and
the rebels killed about 25 white people before being stopped by the
colonial militia; the rebellion resulted in whites killing 35 to 50
The planters attributed the violence to recently imported Africans and
agreed to a 10-year moratorium on slave importation through
Charlestown, relying on the communities they already possessed. The
1740 Negro Act also tightened controls, requiring one white for every
ten blacks on any plantation and banning slaves from assembling
together, growing their own food, earning money, or learning to read.
Drums were banned owing to Africans' use of them for signaling,
although slaves continued to be permitted string and other
instruments. When the moratorium expired and Charlestown reopened
to the slave trade in 1750, the memory of the
Stono Rebellion meant
that traders avoided purchasing slaves from the Congo and Angola were
By the mid-18th century, Charlestown was the hub of the Atlantic trade
of England's southern colonies. Even with the decade-long moratorium,
its customs processed around 40% of the African slaves brought to
North America between 1700 and 1775. and about half up until the
end of the African trade. From 1767, many were sold from the newly
constructed Gadsden's Wharf, where six slave ships at a time could tie
up. The plantations and the economy based on them made this the
wealthiest city in British North America and the largest in
population south of Philadelphia. In 1770, the city's 11,000
inhabitants—half slaves—made it the 4th-largest port after Boston,
New York, and Philadelphia. The elite used this wealth to create
cultural and social development. America's first theater building was
constructed here in 1736; it was later replaced by today's Dock Street
Theater. St Michael's was erected in 1753.
Benevolent societies were formed by the Huguenots, free people of
color,[b] Germans, and Jews. The Library Society was established in
1748 by well-born young men who wanted to share the financial cost to
keep up with the scientific and philosophical issues of the day. This
group also helped establish the town's college in 1770, the first in
the colony. Until it was acquired by the state university system in
College of Charleston
College of Charleston was the oldest municipally supported
college in the United States.
American Revolution (1776–1783)
Charlestown and environs in 1780
Delegates for the
Continental Congress were elected in 1774, and South
Carolina declared its independence from Britain on the steps of the
Exchange. As part of the Southern theater of the American Revolution,
the British attacked the town in force three times, generally
assuming that the settlement had a large base of Loyalists who would
rally to their cause once given some military support. The loyalty
of the white southerners had largely been forfeited, however, by
British legal cases (such as the 1772 Somerset case which marked the
prohibition of slavery in England and Wales; a significant milestone
Abolitionist struggle) and military tactics (such as Dunmore's
Proclamation in 1775) that promised the emancipation of the planter's
slaves; these efforts did however, unsurprisingly win the allegiance
of thousands of Black Loyalists.
The Battle of
Sullivan's Island saw the British fail to capture a
partially constructed palmetto palisade from Col. Moultrie's militia
regiment on June 28, 1776; this was the British Royal Navy's first
defeat in a century. The
Liberty Flag used by
Moultrie's men formed the basis of the later
South Carolina flag, and
the victory's anniversary continues to be commemorated as Carolina
Making the capture of Charlestown their chief priority, the British
sent Gen. Clinton, who began his siege of Charleston on April 1, 1780
with about 14,000 troops and 90 ships. Bombardment began on March
11. The rebels, led by Gen. Lincoln, had about 5,500 men and
inadequate fortifications to repel the forces against them. After the
British cut his supply lines and lines of retreat at the battles of
Monck's Corner and Lenud's Ferry, Lincoln's surrender on May 12 became
the greatest American defeat of the war.
The British continued to hold Charlestown for over a year following
their defeat at Yorktown in 1781, although they alienated local elites
by refusing to restore full civil government. General Nathanael Greene
had entered the state after Cornwallis's pyrrhic victory at Guilford
Courthouse and kept the area under a kind of siege. General Alexander
Leslie, commanding Charlestown, requested a truce in March 1782 to
purchase food for his garrison and the town's inhabitants. Greene
refused and formed a brigade under
Mordecai Gist to oppose British
forays. One such foray in August led to a British victory at the
Combahee River, but Charlestown was finally evacuated in December
1782. Gen. Greene presented the leaders of the town with the Moultrie
From the summer of 1782, French planters fleeing the Haitian
Revolution began arriving in the port with their slaves. The major
outbreak of yellow fever that occurred in
Philadelphia the next year
probably spread there from an epidemic these refugees brought to
Charleston, although it was not publicly reported at the time. Over
the 19th century, the health officials and newspapers of the town came
under repeated criticism from Northerners, fellow Southerners, and one
another for covering up epidemics as long as possible in order to keep
up the city's maritime traffic. The distrust and mortal risk meant
that between July and October each year communication nearly shut down
between the city and the surrounding countryside, which was less
susceptible to yellow fever.
Antebellum era (1783–1861)
Former German Fire Co. Engine House and
Old Slave Mart
Old Slave Mart Museum built
1859, 8 & 6 Chalmers St., respectively
Edmondston-Alston House (built 1828) by the Battery with carriage tour
Charleston home near the Battery
The spelling Charleston was adopted in 1783 as part of the
city's formal incorporation.
Although Columbia replaced it as the state capital in 1788, Charleston
became even more prosperous as Eli Whitney's 1793 invention of the
cotton gin sped the processing of the crop over 50 times. The
development made short-staple cotton profitable and opened the upland
Piedmont region to slave-based cotton plantations, previously
restricted to the
Sea Islands and Lowcountry. Britain's Industrial
Revolution—initially built upon its textile industry—took up the
extra production ravenously and cotton became Charleston's major
export commodity in the 19th century. The Bank of South Carolina, the
second-oldest building in the nation to be constructed as a bank, was
established in 1798. Branches of the First and Second Bank of the
United States were also located in Charleston in 1800 and 1817.
Throughout the Antebellum Period, Charleston continued to be the only
major American city with a majority-slave population.[c] The city
widespread use of slaves as workers was a frequent subject of writers
and visitors: a merchant from Liverpool noted in 1834 that "almost all
the working population are Negroes, all the servants, the carmen &
porters, all the people who see at the stalls in Market, and most of
the Journeymen in trades". American traders had been prohibited
from equipping the
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade in 1794 and all importation of
slaves was banned in 1808, but American ships long refused to permit
British inspection, and smuggling remained common. Much more important
was the domestic slave trade, which boomed as the
Deep South was
developed in new cotton plantations. As a result of the trade, there
was a forced migration of more than one million slaves from the Upper
South to the Lower South in the antebellum years. During the early
19th century, the first dedicated slave markets were founded in
Charleston, mostly near Chalmers & State streets. Many
domestic slavers used Charleston as a port in what was called the
coastwise trade, traveling to such ports as Mobile and New Orleans.
Slave-ownership was the primary marker of class and even the town's
freedmen and free people of color typically kept slaves if they had
the wealth to do so. Visitors commonly remarked on the sheer
number of blacks in Charleston and their seeming freedom of
movement, though in fact—mindful of the
Stono Rebellion and the
violent slave revolution that established Haiti—the whites closely
regulated the behavior of both slaves and free people of color. Wages
and hiring practices were fixed, identifying badges were sometimes
required, and even work songs were sometimes censored. Punishment
was handled out of sight by the city's Work House, whose fees netting
the municipal government thousands a year. In 1820, a state law
mandated that each individual act of freeing a slave henceforth
legislative approval, effectively halting the practice.
The effects of slavery were pronounced on white society as well. The
high cost of 19th-century slaves and their high rate of return
combined to institute an oligarchic society controlled by about ninety
interrelated families, where 4% of the free population controlled half
of the wealth, and the lower half of the free population—unable to
compete with owned or rented slaves—held no wealth at all. The
white middle class was minimal: Charlestonians generally disparaged
hard work as the lot of slaves. All the slaveholders taken
together held 82% of the city's wealth and almost all non-slaveholders
were poor. Olmsted considered their civic elections "entirely
contests of money and personal influence" and the oligarchs dominated
civic planning: the lack of public parks and amenities was noted,
as was the abundance of private gardens in the wealthy's walled
In the 1810s, the town's churches intensified their discrimination
against their black parishioners, culminating in Bethel Methodist's
1817 construction of a hearse house over its black burial ground.
4,376 black Methodists joined
Morris Brown in establishing Hampstead
African Methodist Episcopal
African Methodist Episcopal church now known as Mother
Emanuel. State and city laws prohibited black literacy,
limited black worship to daylight hours, and required a majority of
any church's parishioners be white. In June 1818, 140 black church
Hampstead Church were arrested and eight of its leaders
given fines and ten lashes; police raided the church again in 1820 and
leaned on it in 1821.
In 1822, members of the church, led by Denmark Vesey, a lay
preacher and carpenter who had bought his freedom after winning a
lottery, planned an uprising and escape to Haiti—initially for
Bastille Day—that failed when one slave revealed the plot to his
master.[d] Over the next month, the city's intendant (mayor) James
Hamilton Jr. organized a militia for regular patrols, initiated a
secret and extrajudicial tribunal to investigate, and hanged 35 and
exiled 35 or 37 slaves to
Spanish Cuba for their involvement.
In a sign of Charleston's antipathy to abolitionists, a white
co-conspirator pled for leniency from the court on the grounds that
his involvement had been motivated only by greed and not by any
sympathy with the slaves' cause. Governor
Thomas Bennett Jr.
Thomas Bennett Jr. had
pressed for more compassionate and Christian treatment of slaves but
his own had been found involved Vesey's planned uprising. Hamilton was
able to successfully campaign for more restrictions on both free and
South Carolina required free black sailors to be
imprisoned while their ships were in
Charleston Harbor though
international treaties eventually required the
United States to quash
the practice; free blacks were banned from returning to the state if
they left for any reason; slaves were given a 9:15 pm curfew;
the city razed
Hampstead Church to the ground and erected a
new arsenal. This structure later was the basis of the Citadel's first
campus. The AME congregation built a new church but in 1834 the city
banned it and all black worship services, following Nat Turner's 1831
rebellion in Virginia. The estimated 10% of slaves who came to
America as Muslims never had a separate mosque. Slaveholders
sometimes provided them with beef rations in place of pork in
recognition of religious traditions.
South Carolina passed an ordinance of nullification, a
procedure by which a state could, in effect, repeal a federal law; it
was directed against the most recent tariff acts. Soon, federal
soldiers were dispensed to Charleston's forts, and five United States
Coast Guard cutters were detached to
Charleston Harbor "to take
possession of any vessel arriving from a foreign port, and defend her
against any attempt to dispossess the Customs Officers of her custody
until all the requirements of law have been complied with." This
federal action became known as the Charleston incident. The state's
politicians worked on a compromise law in Washington to gradually
reduce the tariffs.
On 27 April 1838, a massive fire broke out around 9:00 in the evening.
It raged until noon the next day, damaging over 1,000 buildings, a
loss estimated at $3 million at the time. In efforts to put the fire
out, all the water in the city pumps was used up. The fire ruined
businesses, several churches, a new theater, and the entire market
except for the fish section. Most famously, Charleston's Trinity
Church was burned. Another important building that fell victim was the
new hotel that had been recently built. Many houses were burnt to the
ground. The damaged buildings amounted to about one-fourth of all the
businesses in the main part of the city. The fire rendered penniless
many who were wealthy. Several prominent store owners died attempting
to save their establishments. When the many homes and business were
rebuilt or repaired, a great cultural awakening occurred. In many
ways, the fire helped put Charleston on the map as a great cultural
and architectural center. Previous to the fire, only a few homes were
styled as Greek Revival; many residents decided to construct new
buildings in that style after the conflagration. This tradition
continued and made Charleston one of the foremost places to view Greek
Revival architecture. The
Gothic Revival also made a significant
appearance in the construction of many churches after the fire that
exhibited picturesque forms and reminders of devout European
By 1840, the Market Hall and Sheds, where fresh meat and produce were
brought daily, became a hub of commercial activity. The slave trade
also depended on the port of Charleston, where ships could be unloaded
and the slaves bought and sold. The legal importation of African
slaves had ended in 1808, although smuggling was significant. However,
the domestic trade was booming. More than one million slaves were
transported from the Upper South to the
Deep South in the antebellum
years, as cotton plantations were widely developed through what became
known as the Black Belt. Many slaves were transported in the coastwise
slave trade, with slave ships stopping at ports such as Charleston.
Civil War (1861–1865)
Main article: Charleston in the American Civil War
Two 10" Columbiads guarding the Battery in 1863.
The ruins of Charleston in 1865, following major fires in 1861 and at
the evacuation of the Confederates.
The 1932 monument in the Battery honoring the Confederate defenders of
Following the election of Abraham Lincoln, the
South Carolina General
Assembly voted on December 20, 1860 to secede from the Union. On
Castle Pinckney was surrendered by its garrison to the
state militia and, on January 9, 1861, Citadel cadets opened fire on
Star of the West
Star of the West as it entered Charleston Harbor.
The first full battle of the
American Civil War
American Civil War occurred on April 12,
1861 when shore batteries under the command of General Beauregard
opened fire on the US Army-held
Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.
After a 34-hour bombardment,
Major Robert Anderson
Major Robert Anderson surrendered the
fort. On December 11, 1861, an enormous fire burned over 500 acres
(200 ha) of the city.
Union control of the sea permitted the repeated bombardment of the
city, causing vast damage. Although Admiral Du Pont's naval
assault on the town's forts in April 1863 failed, the Union navy's
blockade shut down most commercial traffic. Over the course of the
war, some blockade runners got through but not a single one made it
into or out of the
Charleston Harbor between August 1863 and March
1864. The early submarine H.L. Hunley made a night attack on the
USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864.
General Gillmore's land assault in July 1864 was unsuccessful but
the fall of Columbia and advance of General William T. Sherman's army
through the state prompted the Confederates to evacuate the town on
February 17, 1865, burning the public buildings, cotton warehouses,
and other sources of supply before their departure. Union troops
moved into the city within the month. The War Department recovered
what federal property remained and also confiscated the campus of the
Citadel Military Academy
Citadel Military Academy and used it as a federal garrison for the
next 17 years. The facilities were finally returned to the state and
reopened as a military college in 1882 under the direction of Lawrence
After the defeat of the Confederacy, federal forces remained in
Charleston during Reconstruction. The war had shattered the city's
prosperity, but the African-American population surged (from 17,000 in
1860 to over 27,000 in 1880) as freedmen moved from the countryside to
the major city. Blacks quickly left the Southern Baptist Church
and resumed open meetings of the
African Methodist Episcopal
African Methodist Episcopal and AME
Zion churches. They purchased dogs, guns, liquor, and better
clothes—all previously banned—and ceased yielding the sidewalks to
whites. Despite the efforts of the state legislature to halt
manumissions, Charleston had already had a large class of free people
of color as well. At the onset of the war, the city had 3,785 free
people of color, many of mixed race, making up about 18% of the city's
black population and 8% of its total population. Many were educated
and practiced skilled crafts; they quickly became leaders of South
Carolina's Republican Party and its legislators. Men who had been free
people of color before the war comprised 26% of those elected to state
and federal office in
South Carolina from 1868 to 1876.
By the late 1870s, industry was bringing the city and its inhabitants
back to a renewed vitality; new jobs attracted new residents. As
the city's commerce improved, residents worked to restore or create
community institutions. In 1865, the Avery Normal Institute was
established by the
American Missionary Association as the first free
secondary school for Charleston's African American population. Gen.
Sherman lent his support to the conversion of the United States
Arsenal into the Porter Military Academy, an educational facility for
former soldiers and boys left orphaned or destitute by the war. Porter
Military Academy later joined with Gaud School and is now a
university-preparatory school, Porter-Gaud School.
In 1875, blacks made up 57% of the city's and 73% of the county's
population. With leadership by members of the antebellum free
black community, historian Melinda Meeks Hennessy described the
community as "unique" in being able to defend themselves without
provoking "massive white retaliation", as occurred in numerous other
areas during Reconstruction. In the 1876 election cycle, two major
riots between black Republicans and white Democrats occurred in the
city, in September and the day after the election in November, as well
as a violent incident in
Cainhoy at an October joint discussion
Violent incidents occurred throughout the Piedmont of the state as
white insurgents struggled to maintain white supremacy in the face of
social changes after the war and granting of citizenship to freedmen
by federal constitutional amendments. After former Confederates were
allowed to vote again, election campaigns from 1872 on were marked by
violent intimidation of blacks and Republicans by white Democratic
paramilitary groups, known as the Red Shirts. Violent incidents took
place in Charleston on King Street in September 6 and in nearby
Cainhoy on October 15, both in association with political meetings
before the 1876 election. The
Cainhoy incident was the only one
statewide in which more whites were killed than blacks. The Red
Shirts were instrumental in suppressing the black Republican vote in
some areas in 1876 and narrowly electing Wade Hampton as governor, and
taking back control of the state legislature. Another riot occurred in
Charleston the day after the election, when a prominent Republican
leader was mistakenly reported killed.
On August 31, 1886, Charleston was nearly destroyed by an earthquake.
The shock was estimated to have a moment magnitude of 7.0 and a
maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme). It was felt as far away as
Boston to the north,
Milwaukee to the northwest, as far
west as New Orleans, as far south as Cuba, and as far east as Bermuda.
It damaged 2,000 buildings in Charleston and caused $6 million worth
of damage ($146 million in 2016 dollars), at a time when all the
city's buildings were valued around $24 million ($585 million in 2016
Investment in the city continued. The William Enston Home, a planned
community for the city's aged and infirm, was built in 1889. An
elaborate public building, the
United States Post Office and
Courthouse, was completed by the federal government in 1896 in the
heart of the city. The Democrat-dominated state legislature passed a
new constitution in 1895 that disfranchised blacks, effectively
excluding them entirely from the political process, a second-class
status that was maintained for more than six decades in a state that
was majority black until about 1930.
Charleston's tourism boom began in earnest following the publication
Albert Simons and Samuel Lapham's Architecture of Charleston in
Contemporary era (1945–present)
A Charleston street
Charleston languished economically for several decades in the 20th
century, though the large federal military presence in the region
helped to shore up the city's economy.
The Charleston Hospital Strike of 1969, in which mostly black workers
protested discrimination and low wages, was one of the last major
events of the civil rights movement. It attracted Ralph Abernathy,
Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, and other prominent figures to march
with the local leader, Mary Moultrie. Its story is recounted in Tom
Dent's book Southern Journey (1996).
Joseph P. Riley, Jr., was elected mayor in the 1970s, and helped
advance several cultural aspects of the city. Riley worked to revive
Charleston's economic and cultural heritage. The last 30 years of the
20th century had major new investments in the city, with a number of
municipal improvements and a commitment to historic preservation to
restore the city's unique fabric. There was an effort to preserve
working-class housing of African Americans on the historic peninsula,
but the neighborhood has gentrified, with rising prices and rents.
From 1980 to 2010, the peninsula's population has shifted from
two-thirds black to two-thirds white; in 2010 residents numbered
20,668 whites to 10,455 blacks. Many African Americans have moved
to the less-expensive suburbs in these decades.
The city's commitments to investment were not slowed down by Hurricane
Hugo and continue to this day. The eye of
Hurricane Hugo came ashore
Charleston Harbor in 1989, and though the worst damage was in
nearby McClellanville, three-quarters of the homes in Charleston's
historic district sustained damage of varying degrees. The hurricane
caused over $2.8 billion in damage. The city was able to rebound
fairly quickly after the hurricane and has grown in population,
reaching an estimated 124,593 residents in 2009.
On June 17, 2015, 21-year-old
Dylann Roof entered the historic Emanuel
African Methodist Episcopal
African Methodist Episcopal Church and sat in on part of a Bible study
before shooting and killing nine people. Senior pastor Clementa
Pinckney, who also served as a state senator, was among those killed
during the attack. The deceased also included congregation members
Susie Jackson, 87; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Ethel Lance, 70; Myra
Thompson, 59; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49;
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; and Tywanza Sanders, 26. The
attack garnered national attention, and sparked a debate on historical
racism, Confederate symbolism in Southern states, and gun violence, in
part based on Roof's online postings. On July 10, 2015, the
Confederate battle flag
Confederate battle flag was removed from the
South Carolina State
House. A memorial service on the campus of the College of Charleston
was attended by President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President
Joe Biden, Jill Biden, and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
U.S. Decennial Census
In 2010, the racial makeup of Charleston was 70.2% White, 25.4%
African American, 1.6% Asian, and 1.5% of two or more races; in
addition, 2.9% of the population was Hispanic or Latino, of any
Given Charleston's high concentration of African Americans who spoke
Gullah language, a creole language that developed on the Sea
Islands and in the Low Country, the local speech patterns were also
influenced by this community. Today,
Gullah is still spoken by many
African American residents. However, rapid
development since 1980, especially on the surrounding Sea Islands, has
attracted residents from outside the area and led to a decline in
The traditional educated Charleston accent has long been noted in the
state and throughout the South. It is typically heard in wealthy white
families who trace their families back generations in the city. It has
ingliding or monophthongal long mid-vowels, raises ay and aw in
certain environments, and is nonrhotic.
Sylvester Primer of the
College of Charleston
College of Charleston wrote about aspects of the local dialect in his
late 19th-century works: "Charleston Provincialisms" (1887)  and
Huguenot Element in Charleston's Provincialisms", published in a
German journal. He believed the accent was based on the English as it
was spoken by the earliest settlers, therefore derived from
Elizabethan England and preserved with modifications by Charleston
speakers. The rapidly disappearing "Charleston accent" is still noted
in the local pronunciation of the city's name. Some elderly (and
usually upper-class) Charleston natives ignore the 'r' and elongate
the first vowel, pronouncing the name as "Chah-l-ston".
Charleston is known as "The Holy City", perhaps because churches
are prominent on the low-rise cityscape or because South Carolina
was among the few original colonies to tolerate all Christian
Protestant denominations (though not Roman Catholicism). The
Anglican church was dominant in the colonial era, and the Cathedral of
St. Luke and St. Paul is today the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of
South Carolina. Many French
Huguenot refugees settled in Charleston in
the early 18th century. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal
Church is the oldest
African Methodist Episcopal
African Methodist Episcopal church in the
United States and houses the oldest black congregation south
of Baltimore, Maryland.
South Carolina has long allowed Jews to practice their faith without
restriction. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded in 1749 by Sephardic
Jews from London, is the fourth-oldest Jewish congregation in the
United States and was an important site for the
development of Reform Judaism. Brith Sholom Beth Israel is the
oldest Orthodox synagogue in the South, founded by Sam Berlin and
Ashkenazi German and Central European Jews in the mid-19th
The city's oldest Roman Catholic parish, Saint Mary of the
Annunciation Roman Catholic Church, is the mother church of Roman
Catholicism in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. In 1820,
Charleston was established as the see city of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Charleston, which at the time comprised the Carolinas and
Georgia, and presently encompasses the state of South Carolina.
Churches in Charleston
The French Protestant
Huguenot Church (1844)
St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
African Methodist Episcopal
African Methodist Episcopal Church
The German St. Johannes Lutheran Church
St. Philip's Episcopal Church
Charleston is known for its unique culture, which blends traditional
Southern U.S., English, French, and West African elements. The
downtown peninsula has gained a reputation for its art, music, local
cuisine, and fashion.
Spoleto Festival USA, held annually in late
spring, has become one of the world's major performing arts festivals.
It was founded in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo
Menotti, who sought to establish a counterpart to the Festival dei Due
Mondi (the Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy.
Charleston's oldest community theater group, the Footlight Players,
has provided theatrical productions since 1931. A variety of
performing arts venues includes the historic Dock Street Theatre. The
annual Charleston Fashion Week held each spring in Marion Square
brings in designers, journalists, and clients from across the nation.
Charleston is known for its local seafood, which plays a key role in
the city's renowned cuisine, comprising staple dishes such as gumbo,
she-crab soup, fried oysters,
Lowcountry boil, deviled crab cakes, red
rice, and shrimp and grits. Rice is the staple in many dishes,
reflecting the rice culture of the Low Country. The cuisine in
Charleston is also strongly influenced by British and French elements.
Annual cultural events and fairs
Charleston annually hosts
Spoleto Festival USA
Spoleto Festival USA founded by Gian Carlo
Menotti, a 17-day art festival featuring over 100 performances by
individual artists in a variety of disciplines. The
is internationally recognized as America's premier performing arts
festival. The annual Piccolo
Spoleto festival takes place at the
same time and features local performers and artists, with hundreds of
performances throughout the city. Other festivals and events include
Historic Charleston Foundation's Festival of Houses and Gardens and
Charleston Antiques Show, the Taste of Charleston, The Lowcountry
Oyster Festival, the Cooper River Bridge Run, The Charleston
Marathon, Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE), Charleston
Food and Wine Festival, Charleston Fashion Week, the MOJA Arts
Festival, and the Holiday Festival of Lights (at James Island County
Park), and the Charleston International Film Festival. The
Charleston Conference is a major library industry event, held in the
city center since 1980.
Main article: Music in Charleston
As it has on every aspect of Charleston culture, the
has had a tremendous influence on music in Charleston, especially when
it comes to the early development of jazz music. In turn, the music of
Charleston has had an influence on that of the rest of the country.
The geechee dances that accompanied the music of the dock workers in
Charleston followed a rhythm that inspired Eubie Blake's "Charleston
Rag" and later James P. Johnson's "Charleston", as well as the dance
craze that defined a nation in the 1920s. "Ballin' the Jack", which
was a popular dance in the years before "Charleston", was written by
native Charlestonian Chris Smith.
Jenkins Orphanage was established in 1891 by the Rev. Daniel J.
Jenkins in Charleston. The orphanage accepted donations of musical
instruments and Rev. Jenkins hired local Charleston musicians and
Avery Institute Graduates to tutor the boys in music. As a result,
Charleston musicians became proficient on a variety of instruments and
were able to read music expertly. These traits set Jenkins
musicians apart and helped land some of them positions in big bands
with Duke Ellington and Count Basie. William "Cat" Anderson, Jabbo
Freddie Green are but a few of the alumni from the Jenkins
Orphanage band who became professional musicians in some of the best
bands of the day. Orphanages around the country began to develop brass
bands in the wake of the
Jenkins Orphanage Band's success. At the
Colored Waif's Home Brass Band in New Orleans, for example, a young
Louis Armstrong first began to draw attention.
As many as five bands were on tour during the 1920s. The Jenkins
Orphanage Band played in the inaugural parades of Presidents Theodore
Roosevelt and William Taft and toured the USA and Europe. The
band also played on Broadway for the play "Porgy" by DuBose and
Dorothy Heyward, a stage version of their novel of the same title. The
story was based in Charleston and featured the
Gullah community. The
Heywards insisted on hiring the real
Jenkins Orphanage Band to portray
themselves on stage. Only a few years later, DuBose Heyward
collaborated with George and
Ira Gershwin to turn his novel into the
now famous opera,
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess (so named so as to distinguish it
from the play).
George Gershwin and Heyward spent the summer of 1934
Folly Beach outside of Charleston writing this "folk opera", as
Gershwin called it.
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess is considered the Great American
Opera and is widely performed.
To this day, Charleston is home to many musicians in all genres. A
unique showcase of Charleston's musical heritage is presented weekly.
"The Sound of Charleston....from gospel to Gershwin", is staged at the
historic Circular Congregational Church.
The Music Farm concert venue opened in Charleston on Ann Street in
Charleston has a vibrant theater scene and is home to America's first
theater. In 2010, Charleston was listed as one of the country's top 10
cities for theater, and one of the top two in the South. Most of
the theaters are part of the League of Charleston Theatres, better
known as Theatre Charleston. Some of the city's theaters include:
The Dock Street Theatre, opened in the 1930s on the site of America's
first purpose-built theater building, is home of the Charleston Stage
Company, South Carolina's largest professional theater company.
Sottile Theater is on the campus of The College of Charleston.
Museums, historical sites, and other attractions
See also: Charleston Historic District
Calhoun Mansion at 16 Meeting Street was built in 1876 by George
Williams, but derives its name from a later occupant, his
grandson-in-law Patrick Calhoun.
Nathaniel Russell House
Nathaniel Russell House built 1808
Exchange and Provost
Exchange and Provost Dungeon built 1767 on Broad St.
Charleston has many historic buildings, art and historical museums,
and other attractions, including:
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum located in the nearby town of
Mount Pleasant. It includes the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10),
destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), submarine USS Clamagore (SS-343), Cold
War Submarine Memorial (SSBN and SSN), Vietnam Support Base and
Experience Exhibit, and Medal of Honor Museum.
The Calhoun Mansion, a 24,000-square-foot, 1876 Victorian home at 16
Meeting Street, is named for a grandson of John C. Calhoun who lived
there with his wife, the builder's daughter. The private house is
periodically open for tours.
The Charleston Museum, America's first museum, was founded in 1773.
Its mission is to preserve and interpret the cultural and natural
history of Charleston and the
South Carolina Low Country.
Warren Lasch Conservation Center
Warren Lasch Conservation Center houses the very first successful
submarine the CSS Hunley, which is on display while awaiting
Exchange and Provost
Exchange and Provost was built in 1767. The building, located on
Broad Street, has served as a customhouse, mercantile exchange, and
military prison and barracks. During the American Revolution, it was
used as a prison by both the British and Continental armies; later, it
hosted events for
George Washington in 1791 and the ratification of
U.S. Constitution in 1788. It is operated as a museum by the
Daughters of the American Revolution.
The Powder Magazine is a 1713 gunpowder magazine and museum. It is the
oldest surviving public building in South Carolina.
The Gibbes Museum of Art, opened in 1905, houses a premier collection
of principally American works with a Charleston or Southern
Fireproof Building houses the
South Carolina Historical Society, a
membership-based reference library open to the public.
Nathaniel Russell House
Nathaniel Russell House is an important federal-style house. It is
owned by the Historic Charleston Foundation and open to the public as
a house museum.
The Gov. William Aiken House, also known as the Aiken-Rhett House, is
a home built in 1820 for William Aiken, Jr.
Heyward-Washington House is a historic house museum owned and
operated by the Charleston Museum. Furnished for the late 18th
century, the house includes a collection of Charleston-made furniture.
Joseph Manigault House
Joseph Manigault House is a historic house museum owned and
operated by the Charleston Museum. The house was designed by Gabriel
Manigault and is significant for its
Adam style architecture.
The Market Hall and Sheds, also known as the
City Market or simply the
Market, stretch several blocks behind 188 Meeting Street. Market Hall
was built in the 1841 and houses the Daughters of the Confederacy
Museum. The sheds house some permanent stores, but are mainly occupied
by open-air vendors.
Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture
Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture was
established to collect, preserve, and make public the unique
historical and cultural heritage of African Americans in Charleston
South Carolina Low Country. Avery's archival collections,
museum exhibitions, and public programming reflect these diverse
populations, as well as the wider African Diaspora.
Fort Sumter, site of the first shots fired in the Civil War, is
located in Charleston Harbor. The National Park Service maintains a
visitor center for
Fort Sumter at Liberty Square (near the South
Carolina Aquarium), and boat tours including the fort depart nearby.
The Battery is an historic defensive seawall and promenade located at
the tip of the peninsula along with White Point Garden, a park
featuring several memorials and Civil War-era artillery pieces.
Rainbow Row is an iconic strip of homes along the harbor that date
back to the mid-18th century. Though the homes are not open to the
public, they are one of the most photographed attractions in the city
and are featured heavily in local art.
Pineapple Fountain- Located in Charleston's Waterfront Park, the
fountain was placed here in 1990 during the spring time after
Hurricane Hugo had hit. Pineapples are popular in Charleston as they
are used as symbols of hospitality.
Middleton Place, home to America's Oldest Landscaped Gardens, was
named "the most important and most interesting garden in America". It
is home to camellias that are hundreds of years old and hills of
azaleas. It was planned so that there is something in bloom
year-round. The house was built in 1755, and was home to four
generations of the Middleton Family. It still holds their exquisite
furniture, and decorations. The same family has held ownership of the
property for more than 320 years, and successfully keeps it in good
condition so that visitors can appreciate its significance.
South Carolina Aquarium is Charleston's #1 family attraction.
Visitors can come face-to-face with over 5000 wild animals, and anyone
can touch the sharks and sting rays. There is a Sea Turtle Hospital
where tourists can interact and learn. The mission of the aquarium is
to inspire conservation of the natural world by exhibiting and caring
for animals, by excelling in education and research, and by providing
an exceptional visitor experience. The aquarium is a not-for-profit
Waterfront Park located on the Cooper River. This park was completed
in May 1990, and has many activities, such as taking a nice walk
through the canopy of live oak trees and there are two fountains
located in the park, where most children will play in. The park
consists of 13 acres (5.3 hectares), therefore making it the ideal
place to take a walk or even get some studying done, as the College of
Charleston is very close.
Old Slave Mart
Old Slave Mart museum – Located at 6 Chalmers St in the historic
district is the first African American Museum. It has operated since
MUSC Health Stadium, home of the Charleston Battery
Charleston is home to a number of professional, minor league, and
amateur sports teams:
The Charleston Battery, a professional soccer team, plays in the
United Soccer League. The
Charleston Battery plays on
Daniel Island at
MUSC Health Stadium.
South Carolina Stingrays, a professional hockey team, plays in the
ECHL. The Stingrays play in
North Charleston at the North Charleston
Coliseum. The Stingrays are an affiliate of the Washington Capitals
and Hershey Bears.
The Charleston RiverDogs, a
Minor League Baseball
Minor League Baseball team, plays in the
South Atlantic League
South Atlantic League and are an affiliate of the New York Yankees.
The RiverDogs play at
Joseph P. Riley, Jr.
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.
Charleston Outlaws RFC
Charleston Outlaws RFC is a rugby union club in the Palmetto Rugby
USA Rugby South, and USA Rugby. It competes in Men's Division
II against the Cape Fear, Columbia, Greenville, and Charlotte "B"
clubs. The club also hosts a rugby sevens tournament during Memorial
Gaelic Athletic Association
Gaelic Athletic Association is a Gaelic athletic club
focusing on the sports of hurling and Gaelic football. The club
competes in the Southeastern Division of the North American County
Board of the GAA. The club hosts other division clubs in the Holy City
Cup each spring.
Lowcountry Highrollers is a women's flat-track roller derby league
in the Charleston area. The league is a local member of the Women's
Flat Track Derby Association.
Family Circle Tennis Center
Family Circle Tennis Center hosts major Women's Tennis Association
Events such as the Volvo Car Open. The facility is located on Daniel
Other notable sports venues in Charleston include Johnson Hagood
Stadium (home of
The Citadel Bulldogs
The Citadel Bulldogs football team) and Toronto
Dominion Bank Arena at the College of Charleston, which seats 5,700
people who view the school's basketball and volleyball teams.
Main articles: Creative works set in Charleston,
South Carolina and
List of television shows and movies in Charleston, South Carolina
Many creative works have been set in Charleston; some of the best
known works are listed below. In addition, Charleston is a popular
filming location for movies and television, both in its own right and
as a stand-in for Southern and/or historic settings.
Porgy (1925), by DuBose Heyward, adapted into the play in 1927. George
Gershwin's folk opera
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess (1935), based on the novel Porgy,
is set in Charleston and was partially written at Folly Beach, near
Charleston. A film version was released in 1959.
North and South series of books by John Jakes, was partially set in
Charleston. The North and South miniseries was partially set and
filmed in Charleston.
Part of the 1989 film Glory, starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel
Washington, and Morgan Freeman, features the 1863 Second Battle of
Fort Wagner on Morris Island.
The movies Swamp Thing (1982) and The Lords of Discipline (1983)
(based on the novel by Pat Conroy) were partly filmed in
Charleston is a major tourist destination, with a considerable number
of luxury hotels, hotel chains, inns, and bed and breakfasts, numerous
Lowcountry cuisine, and quality shopping.
Charleston is also an important art destination, named a top-25 arts
destination by AmericanStyle magazine.
Commercial shipping is important to the economy. The city has two
shipping terminals, owned and operated by the
South Carolina Ports
Authority, which are part of the fourth-largest container seaport on
the East Coast and the thirteenth-largest container seaport in North
Charleston is becoming a prime location for information technology
jobs and corporations, and this sector has had the highest rate
of growth between 2011 and 2012, due in large part to the Charleston
Digital Corridor. In 2013, the Milken Institute ranked the Charleston
region as the ninth-best performing economy in the US because of its
growing IT sector. Notable companies include Blackbaud, SPARC,
BoomTown, CSS, and Benefitfocus.
In June 2017, the average sales price for a home in Charleston was
$351,186 and the median price was $260,000.
City Hall is open to tourists for free historical tours.
Spoleto Festival USA
Charleston has a strong mayor-council government, with the mayor
acting as the chief administrator and the executive officer of the
municipality. The mayor also presides over city council meetings and
has a vote, the same as other council members. The current mayor,
since 2016, is
John Tecklenburg The council has 12 members who are
each elected from single-member districts.
In 2006, Charleston's residents voted against Amendment 1, which
sought to ban same-sex marriage in that state. Statewide, the measure
passed by 78% to 22%, but the voters of Charleston rejected it by
3,563 (52%) to 3,353 votes (48%).
Fire Department station houses for Engines 2 and 3 of the Charleston
City of Charleston Fire Department consists over 300 full-time
firefighters. These firefighters operate out of 20 companies located
throughout the city: 16 engine companies, two tower companies, and one
ladder company. Training, Fire Marshall, Operations, and
Administration are the divisions of the department. The
department operates on a 24/48 schedule and had a Class 1 ISO rating
until late 2008, when ISO officially lowered it to Class 3.
Russell (Rusty) Thomas served as Fire Chief until June 2008, and was
succeeded by Chief Thomas Carr in November 2008.
City of Charleston Police Department, with a total of 458 sworn
officers, 117 civilians, and 27 reserve police officers, is South
Carolina's largest police department. Their procedures on
cracking down on drug use and gang violence in the city are used as
models to other cities to do the same. According to
the final 2005 FBI Crime Reports, Charleston crime level was worse
than the national average in almost every major category. Greg
Mullen, the former Deputy Chief of the Virginia Beach, Virginia Police
Department, serves as the current Chief of the Charleston Police
Department. The former Charleston police chief was Reuben Greenberg,
who resigned August 12, 2005. Greenberg was credited with creating a
polite police force that kept police brutality well in check, even as
it developed a visible presence in community policing and a
significant reduction in crime rates. Crime overall, declining
since 1999, has continued to decline in Charleston and in most major
cities across the country since then.
EMS and medical centers
Emergency medical services
Emergency medical services (EMS) for the city are provided by
Charleston County Emergency Medical Services (CCEMS) & Berkeley
County Emergency Medical Services (BCEMS). The city is served by the
EMS and 911 services of both Charleston and Berkeley counties since
the city is part of both counties.
Charleston is the primary medical center for the eastern portion of
the state. The city has several major hospitals located in the
downtown area: Medical University of
South Carolina Medical Center
(MUSC), Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, and Roper
Hospital. MUSC is the state's first school of medicine, the
largest medical university in the state, and the sixth-oldest
continually operating school of medicine in the United States. The
downtown medical district is experiencing rapid growth of
biotechnology and medical research industries coupled with substantial
expansions of all the major hospitals. Additionally, more expansions
are planned or underway at another major hospital located in the West
Ashley portion of the city: Bon Secours-St Francis Xavier
Hospital. The Trident Regional Medical Center located in the
North Charleston and East Cooper Regional Medical Center
located in Mount Pleasant also serve the needs of residents of the
city of Charleston.
Coast Guard Station Charleston
Coast Guard Station Charleston responds to search and rescue
emergencies, conducts maritime law enforcement activities, and Ports,
Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) missions. Personnel from
Station Charleston are highly trained professionals, composed of
federal law enforcement officers, boat crewmen, and coxswains who are
capable of completing a wide range of missions.
The following table shows Charleston's crime rate for six crimes that
Morgan Quitno uses to calculate the ranking of "America's most
dangerous cities", in comparison to the national average. The
statistics shown are not for the number of crimes committed, but for
the number of crimes committed per 100,000 people.
Since 1999, the overall crime rate of Charleston has declined
markedly. The total crime index rate for Charleston in 1999 was 597.1
crimes committed per 100,000 people, while in 2011, the total crime
index rate was 236.4 per 100,000. (The
United States average is 320.9
per 100,000.)
City of Charleston is served by the Charleston International
Airport. It is located in the
North Charleston and is about 12
miles (20 km) northwest of downtown Charleston. It is the busiest
passenger airport in
South Carolina (IATA: CHS, ICAO: KCHS). The
airport shares runways with the adjacent Charleston Air Force Base.
Charleston Executive Airport
Charleston Executive Airport is a smaller airport located in the
John's Island section of the city of Charleston and is used by
noncommercial aircraft. Both airports are owned and operated by the
Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Charleston is served by two daily
Amtrak trains: The Palmetto and
Silver Meteor at the
Amtrak station located at 4565 Gaynor Avenue in
North Charleston located around 7.5 miles from downtown
Interstates and highways
Interstate 26 (I-26) begins in downtown Charleston, with exits to
the Septima Clark Expressway, the
Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge
Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge and
Meeting Street. Heading northwest, it connects the city to North
Charleston, the Charleston International Airport, I-95, and Columbia.
Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge
Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge and Septima Clark Expressway are part
of U.S. Route 17 (US 17), which travels east–west through
the cities of Charleston and Mount Pleasant. The Mark Clark
Expressway, or I-526, is the bypass around the city and begins and
ends at US 17. US 52 is Meeting Street and its spur is East
Bay Street, which becomes Morrison Drive after leaving the east side.
This highway merges with King Street in the city's Neck area
(industrial district). US 78 is King Street in the downtown area,
eventually merging with Meeting Street.
I-26 (eastern terminus is in Charleston)
US 52 (eastern terminus is in Charleston)
US 52 Spur
US 78 (Eastern terminus is in Charleston)
SC 7 (Sam Rittenberg Boulevard)
SC 30 (James Island Expressway)
SC 61 (St. Andrews Boulevard/Ashley River Road)
SC 171 (Old Towne Road/Folly Road)
SC 461 (Paul Cantrell Boulevard/Glenn McConnell Parkway)
SC 700 (Maybank Highway)
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge across the Cooper River opened on July
16, 2005, and was the second-longest cable-stayed bridge in the
Americas at the time of its construction. The bridge
links downtown Charleston with Mount Pleasant, and has eight lanes
plus a 12-foot lane shared by pedestrians and bicycles. It replaced
the Grace Memorial Bridge (built in 1929) and the Silas N. Pearman
Bridge (built in 1966). They were considered two of the more dangerous
bridges in America and were demolished after the Ravenel Bridge
Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, constructed in 2005 and named for
former U.S. Representative Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who pushed the project
to fruition, was at the time of its construction the second longest
cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority
The city is also served by a bus system, operated by the Charleston
Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA). Most of the urban area
is served by regional fixed route buses, which are equipped with bike
racks as part of the system's Rack and Ride program. CARTA offers
connectivity to historic downtown attractions and accommodations with
the Downtown Area Shuttle trolley buses, and it offers curbside pickup
for disabled passengers with its Tel-A-Ride buses.
Rural parts of the city and metropolitan area are served by a
different bus system, operated by Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Rural
Transportation Management Association. The system is also commonly
called the TriCounty Link.
Main article: Port of Charleston
Columbus Street Terminal viewed from the southwest
The Port of Charleston, owned and operated by the
South Carolina Ports
Authority, is one of the largest ports in the United States, ranked in
the top 25 by containerized cargo volume in 2014. It consists of
five terminals, and a sixth terminal was to open in 2018. Despite
occasional labor disputes, the port is ranked number one in customer
satisfaction across North America by supply chain executives.
Port activity at the two terminals located in the city of Charleston
is one of the city's leading sources of revenue, behind tourism.
Port of Charleston
Port of Charleston boasts the deepest water in the
southeast region and regularly handles ships too big to transit
through the Panama Canal. A harbor-deepening project is currently
underway to take the Port of Charleston's entrance channel to 54 feet
and harbor channel to 52 feet at mean low tide. With an average high
tide of 6 feet, the depth clearances will become 60 feet and 58 feet,
Union Pier, in the city of Charleston, is a cruise ship passenger
terminal which hosts numerous cruise departures annually. In May 2010,
Carnival Fantasy was permanently stationed in Charleston, offering
weekly cruises to the
Bahamas and Key West, eventually to include
Bermuda. With the addition of the weekly
Carnival Fantasy sailings,
Union Terminal hosted 67 embarkations and ports of call in 2010.
With the closure of the Naval Base and the Charleston Naval Shipyard
in 1996, Detyens, Inc. signed a long term lease. With three dry docks,
one floating dock, and six piers, Detyens Shipyard, Inc. is one of the
largest commercial marine repair facilities on the East Coast.
Projects include military, commercial, and cruise ships.
Nearby cities and towns
Town of Awendaw
Town of Cottageville
City of Folly Beach
City of Hanahan
City of Goose Creek
Town of Harleyville
Town of Hollywood
City of Isle of Palms
Town of James Island
Town of McClellanville
Town of Meggett
Town of Mount Pleasant
City of North Charleston
Town of Ridgeville
Town of Rockville
Town of Sullivan's Island
Town of Summerville
City of Walterboro
Other outlying areas
Bees Landing Park
Charles Towne Landing
Charles Towne Landing State Park
Corrine Jones Playground
Elliotborough Park and Community Garden
Hazel Parker Playground
Mary Utsey Park
Vivian Anderson Moultrie Playground
Washington Square Park
West Ashley Park
White Point Garden
Schools, colleges, and universities
See also: List of schools in Charleston, South Carolina
Because most of the city of Charleston is located in Charleston
County, it is served by the Charleston County School District. Part of
the city, however, is served by the
Berkeley County School District in
northern portions of the city, such as the
Cainhoy Historical District and Daniel Island.
Charleston is also served by a large number of independent schools,
Porter-Gaud School (K-12), Charleston Collegiate School
(K-12), Ashley Hall (Pre K-12),
Charleston Day School (1–8), First
Baptist Church School (K-12), Palmetto Christian Academy (K-12),
Coastal Christian Preparatory School (K-12), Mason Preparatory
School (K-8), and Addlestone Hebrew Academy (K-8).
Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston
Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston Office of Education also
operates out of the city and oversees several K-8 parochial schools,
such as Blessed Sacrament School, Christ Our King School, Charleston
Catholic School, Nativity School, and Divine Redeemer School, all of
which are "feeder" schools into
Bishop England High School, a diocesan
high school within the city. Bishop England, Porter-Gaud School, and
Ashley Hall are the city's oldest and most prominent private schools,
and are a significant part of Charleston history, dating back some 150
Public institutions of higher education in Charleston include the
College of Charleston
College of Charleston (the nation's 13th-oldest university), The
Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and the Medical
University of South Carolina. The city is also home to private
universities, including the Charleston School of Law. Charleston is
also home to the Roper Hospital School of Practical Nursing, and the
city has a downtown satellite campus for the region's technical
school, Trident Technical College. Charleston is also the location for
the only college in the country that offers bachelor's degrees in the
building arts, The American College of the Building Arts. The Art
Institute of Charleston, located downtown on North Market Street,
opened in 2007. Higher education includes institutions such as the
Medical University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, The
Citadel, and Charleston School of Law. In addition, Charleston
Southern University is located in nearby North Charleston.
Charleston, North Charleston, Goose Creek, and Hanahan are home to
branches of the
United States military. During the Cold War, the Naval
Base (1902–1996) became the third largest U.S. homeport, with 23,500
Navy and Marine personnel, and 13,200 civilians serving over 80 ships
and submarines. In addition, the combined facilities of the Naval Base
and Weapons Station created the largest U.S. submarine port. The
Charleston Naval Shipyard
Charleston Naval Shipyard repaired frigates, destroyers, cruisers,
submarine tenders, and submarines. Also during this period, the
shipyard conducted refueling of nuclear submarines.
The Weapons Station was the Atlantic Fleet's loadout base for all
nuclear ballistic missile submarines. Two SSBN "Boomer" squadrons and
a submarine tender were homeported at the Weapons Station, while one
SSN attack squadron, Submarine Squadron 4, and a submarine tender were
homeported at the Naval Base. At the 1996 closure of the station's
Polaris Missile Facility Atlantic (POMFLANT), over 2,500 nuclear
warheads and their UGM-27 Polaris, UGM-73 Poseidon, and UGM-96 Trident
I delivery missiles (SLBM) were stored and maintained, guarded by a
U.S. Marine Corps security force company.
In 2010, the Air Force base (3,877 acres) and Naval Weapons Station
(>17,000 acres) merged to form Joint Base Charleston. Today, Joint
Base Charleston, supporting 53 military commands and federal agencies,
provides service to over 79,000 airmen, sailors, soldiers, Marines,
coast guardsmen, Department of Defense civilians, dependents, and
U.S. Coast Guard
Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy (MLEA)
Coast Guard Sector Charleston (District 7)
Coast Guard Station Charleston (Search and Rescue, Maritime Law
Enforcement, Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security)
Coast Guard Air Facility, Johns Island
Coast Guard Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin, Johns Island
USCGC Yellowfin, Marine Protector-class coastal patrol boat
USCGC Anvil, Charleston (Aids to Navigation)
USCGC Hamilton (WMSL-753)
USCGC Hamilton (WMSL-753) National Security Cutter, (NSC)
USCGC James (WMSL-754)
USCGC James (WMSL-754) National Security Cutter, (NSC)
United States Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District
Main article: Media in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the nation's 98th-largest Designated market area (DMA),
with 312,770 households and 0.27% of the U.S. TV population.
These stations are licensed in Charleston and have significant
operations or viewers in the city:
WCBD-TV (2, NBC) and (14, CW): licensed in Charleston, owned by
Nexstar Media Group, broadcast studios are located in Mount Pleasant
WGWG (4, Heroes & Icons): licensed in Charleston, formerly owned
by Allbritton Communications, currently owned by Howard Stirk
Holdings, broadcast studios are located in Mount Pleasant
WCSC-TV (5, CBS, Bounce TV, Grit): licensed in Charleston, owned by
Raycom, broadcast studios are located in Charleston
WITV (7, PBS): licensed in Charleston, owned by South Carolina
Educational Television, transmitter in Mount Pleasant
WLCN-CD (18, CTN) licensed in Charleston, owned by Faith Assembly of
God, broadcast studios are located in Summerville, South Carolina
WTAT-TV (24, Fox): licensed in Charleston, owned by Cunningham
Broadcasting Company, broadcast studios are located in North
Azteca America Independent) licensed in Charleston, owned
by Jabar Communications, broadcast studios are located in North
America One Independent) licensed in Charleston, owned by
Jabar Communications, broadcast studios are located in North
Charleston, South Carolina
WCIV (36, MyNetworkTV, ABC, MeTV): licensed in Charleston, owned by
Sinclair Broadcasting Company, broadcast studios are located in Mount
Herman Baer, American author
Solomon Nunes Carvalho, painter and photographer
Mo Brooks, U.S. Representative
Mark Catesby, English naturalist and author of the Natural History of
Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands
Catherine Coleman, chemist, former US Air Force officer, NASA
Stephen Colbert, comedian and host of The Late Show
Shepard Fairey, graffiti artist
Robert F. Furchgott, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner,
Thomas Gibson, actor and star of Criminal Minds
Lauren Hutton, model and actress, starring in
American Gigolo and The
Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney, Jr.), fantasy author, notable for
Wheel of Time
Wheel of Time series
John Laurens, American revolutionary
Lieutenant colonel in the
Helen Morris Lewis, suffragist
Peter Manigault, wealthiest person in
British North America
British North America in 1770
Louisa Susannah Cheves McCord, writer
Jeremy McLellan, stand-up comedian
Khris Middleton, basketball player for the
Milwaukee Bucks of the
National Basketball Association
Julie Mitchum, actress
Chris Owings, baseball player for Arizona Diamondbacks
Henry Peronneau (d.1754) said to be the wealthiest man in America
Alexandra Ripley, author of Scarlett
Darius Rucker, former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish
Louise Hammond Willis Snead, writer, lecturer, artist
Charleston has one official sister city, Spoleto, Umbria, Italy.
The relationship between the two cities began when Pulitzer
Prize-winning Italian composer
Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti selected Charleston
as the city to host the American version of Spoleto's annual Festival
of Two Worlds. "Looking for a city that would provide the charm of
Spoleto, as well as its wealth of theaters, churches, and other
performance spaces, they selected Charleston, South Carolina, as the
ideal location. The historic city provided a perfect fit: intimate
enough that the Festival would captivate the entire city, yet
cosmopolitan enough to provide an enthusiastic audience and robust
Charleston is also twinned with Speightstown, St. Peter,
Barbados. Early English settlers here designed the original parts
of Charlestown based on the plans of Barbados's capital city
Bridgetown. Many indigo, tobacco, and cotton planters relocated
their slaves and plantation operations from
Speightstown to Charleston
after the sugarcane industry came to dominate agricultural production
South Carolina portal
1886 Charleston earthquake
Charleston Sofa Super Store fire
French Quarter (Charleston, South Carolina)
Hampton Park Terrace
John Henry Devereux
List of people from Charleston, South Carolina
List of tallest buildings in Charleston, South Carolina
List of television shows and films in Charleston, South Carolina
National Register of Historic Places listings in Charleston, South
Old Slave Mart
^ The female figure is sometimes glossed as Athena, although the
official explanation is that she is a personification of Charleston
itself. Similarly, although aedes properly refers to temples and
originally referred to the churches depicted on the seal, the official
gloss is that it intends the city's "buildings".
^ The Brown Fellowship Society, initially a burial society, operated
from 1790 to 1945.
^ Savannah, Georgia, and Richmond, Virginia, came closest, reaching
40% at times.
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^ "Spence's Guide to South Carolina : diving, 639 shipwrecks
(1520–1813), saltwater sport fishing, recreational shrimping,
crabbing, oystering, clamming, saltwater aquarium, 136 campgrounds,
281 boat landings (Book, 1976) [WorldCat.org]". Worldcatlibraries.org.
2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
^ "H-Net Reviews". H-net.msu.edu. 2000-06-28. Retrieved