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Charleston - Historic District, SC
Saturday, April 29, 2000 - 6:00am by Lolo
87 miles and 2 hours from our last stop
Charleston is a great city, but one which we barefly touched the surface of. We figured that the best way to get an overview of the city was to take a guided horse drawn carriage ride through the historic part of town. We used the Old Towne Carriage Company and it cost us only $46 for the four of us. The tour guide was pretty humorous and informative and told us a lot about the history of the sites we passed along the way. Charleston was actually the first city in the United States to zone for an historic district. Today, there are more than one thousand buildings in Charleston that predate the Civil War.
Someday when we have more time, I would like to come back here, stay at one of these fine old hotels, and sip mint julips on the porch.
The city of Charleston is located roughly at the mid-point of South Carolina's coastline, at the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.
It is a city rich in history. Originally founded as Charles Towne in 1670, it became the first permanent English settlement in South Carolina. Its original location was about 3 miles inland on the other side of the Ashley River. Today that location is preserved as Charles Towne Landing State Park (see Stop 2 on this trip). In 1680, the city was moved to its present location on the peninsula.
The city quickly became a thriving port where wealthy rice planters built stately town houses. Charleston gained a reputation as a city of gentility and culture. During the 1800s, Charleston and the rest of the South became increasingly dependent on slavery and the plantation system, and more and more disaffected from the industrial North. Tensions increased over the years until finally in 1860 the first Ordinance of Secession was signed in Charleston. In April of 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired here when Southern troops shelled Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The city remained a Confederate stronghold throughout the war.
After the war ended, Charleston did not have enough money to rebuild. The demolition of old buildings did not begin until the early 1900s. Fortunately, a preservation movement developed and helped save many of the old structures. In 1931, Charleston became the first city in the nation to zone for a historic district. Now visitors can enjoy the more than one thousand buildings that predate the Civil War.
A good place to start a visit to Charleston's historic district is at the Visitor Center at 375 Meeting Street. Here you can obtain maps, brochures, and information on carriage and walking tours. Most of the historic sites are several blocks south of the visitor center. A carriage ride is a wonderful way of taking in the sites of the city.
Some of the sites in the historic district include:
- White Point Gardens at the Battery - landscaped park on the end of the peninsula, facing the Cooper River and the harbor
- Calhoun Mansion (16 Meeting Street)
- Edmondston-Alson House (21 E. Battery Street) - ranks among the grandest of the homes at the tip of the peninsula
- Charleston Museum (360 Meeting Street)
- Joseph Manigault House (350 Meeting Street)
- Catfish Row (89 - 91 Church Street) - row of connected buildings made famous by George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
- City Hall (Broad and Meeting Streets) - its portrait gallery contains the famous John Trumbell portrait of George Washington and Samuel F. B. Morse's portrait of James Monroe
- The Gothic Revival French Huguenot Church (136 Church Street) - one of the last surviving French Protestant churches in the country
- Old City Market (East Bay and Market Streets) - open-air market dating back to the late 18th century. Today it is filled with boutiques selling crafts, clothing, gifts, etc.
- Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon (122 East Bay Street) - built by the British in 1771 and used to imprison pirates and patriots, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence
and much more..
Charleston - Historic District location map