The History of Charleston, South
Charleston, South Carolina is located directly on the Atlantic
Ocean in Southeastern region of the United States. In 1670,
Charlestown or Charles Towne Landing was established. In 1690 it was
moved from Charlestowne Landing west of the Ashley River to the
peninsula of present day downtown Charleston. In 1800, Charleston
was the fifth largest city in North America, behind only
Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Quebec City. In 1783, it adopted
its present name, Charleston. Known as The Holy City,
Charleston offers great historic secrets and folklore. Culturally
unique, Charleston is located at the mid-point of South Carolina's
coastline, at the junction of the Cooper and Ashley Rivers.
Charleston's name is derived from Charles Town, after King Charles
II of England. The State’s nickname is "The Palmetto State" after
the Palmetto Palm tree which flourishes in the area. The Ashley
River meets with the Cooper River in Charleston harbor before
discharging into the Atlantic Ocean.
After Charles II of England was reinstated to the English throne,
he granted the chartered Carolina territory to eight of his loyal
subjects and personal friends, known as the Lords Proprietor, in
1663. Seven years later, the Lords arranged to establish the
settlement of Charles Towne. In 1670, the community leaders moved
the city of Charles Towne across the Ashley River to the city's
current location. Anthony Ashley-Cooper, one of the Lords
Proprietor, decreed that Charleston become a "great port towne." In
1680, the settlement was joined by other settlers from England,
Barbados, and Virginia, and relocated to its current peninsular
location. Charleston was the capital of the Carolina colony and the
center for further expansion and the southernmost point of English
exploration during the late 1600s.
often attacked from sea and from land by both Spain and France, who
still contested England's claims to the region. Also, this was
combined with resistance from Native Americans as well as famous
pirate raids. Charleston's colonists built a fortification wall
around Charleston to protect it from these attack and intruders.
The Grand Modell,
in 1680, devised a plan for the new settlement presented "the model
of an exact regular town," and the future for the growing community.
Land surrounding the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets was
dedicated as a Civic Square to the Four Corners of the Law,
referring to the various arms of governmental and religious law
presiding over Charleston. St. Michael's Episcopal, Charleston's
oldest and most notable church was built in 1753. Its prominent
position and elegant architecture signified to Charleston's citizens
and visitors its importance in the British colonies. Provincial
court met on the ground floor, the Commons House of Assembly and the
Royal Governor's Council Chamber met on the second floor.
home to a mixture of ethnic cultures and religious groups, although
the original settlers mainly came from England. In colonial times,
Boston and Charleston were sister cities, and the people who could
afford it spent summers in Boston and winters in Charleston.
Charleston had a great deal of trade with the Caribbean Islands,
especially Bermuda, which caused many people to emigrate from those
areas. French, Irish, Scottish and Germans migrated to the growing
Charleston area with numerous Protestant denominations, as well as
Judaism and Catholicism. Sephardic Jews migrated to Charleston in
such large numbers that Charleston became one of the largest Jewish
communities in North America. In 1682, the Jewish Coming Street
Cemetery broke ground on their first burial plot, which attests to
their long-standing occupation in the community. In 1682, the first
Anglican Church, St. Philip's Episcopal, was built, destroyed by
fire later and relocated to its current location.
Black slaves, in
1797, comprised a major portion of the Charleston population, and
were active in the city's religious community. Freed black Charleston
area slaves helped established the Old Bethel United Methodist
Church and the congregation of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church stems from
a religious group organized solely by African Americans, free and
1850, had become a bustling harbor of business and trade. It was
also the largest and wealthiest city south of Philadelphia. Indigo
and rice were being successfully cultivated by gentleman planters at
the coastal Lowcountry plantations, while merchants profited from
the lucrative shipping industry.
and England’s relationship deteriorated and Charleston became a
focal point for the ensuing America Revolution. In 1773, in protest
of the Tea Act of 1773, which embodied the concept of taxation
without representation, Charlestonians confiscated tea at the
Exchange and Custom House. In 1774, Representatives from the colony
came to the Exchange, to elect delegates to the Continental
Congress, the representatives responsible for drafting the
Declaration of Independence; and South Carolina declared its
independence from the crown of England, on the steps of the
its tall church steeples, especially St. Michael's, became the
favorite targets for British war ships causing rebel forces to paint
the steeples black to hide in the night skies. In 1776, a siege on
Charleston was successfully defended by William Moultrie from
Sullivan's Island, but by 1780, Charleston fell to British control
for approximately two and a half years. In 1792, the British
retreated and the city’s name was officially changed to Charleston.
By 1788, Carolinians were meeting at the Capitol building for the
Constitutional Ratification Convention, and while there was support
for a strong Federal Government, dissension arose over the location
of the new State Capital and a very suspicious fire burned the
Capitol building during the Convention, after which the delegates
removed to the Exchange and decreed Columbia the new South Carolina
State Capital. In 1792, the Capitol building had been rebuilt and
became the new Charleston County Courthouse.
The city now
possessed all the public buildings necessary to be transformed from
a colonial capital to the center of the antebellum South. Both the
grandeur and number of buildings erected in the following century
reflect the optimism, pride, and civic destiny that many
Charlestonians felt for their community.
In 1774, the Continental Congress was the federal legislature of the
Thirteen Colonies and later of the United States from 1774 to 1789,
a period that included the American Revolutionary War and the
Articles of Confederation, which announced to the world that The
Thirteen Colonies had declared themselves independent of the Kingdom
of Great Britain.
quickly grew wealthy from its prosperous shipping and agricultural
products and the community's cultural and social opportunities,
especially for the elite business merchants, plantation owners and
planters. In 1736, the first theater building in America was built
in Charleston, but was later replaced by the 19th-century Planter's
Hotel where wealthy planters played and stayed during Charleston's
horse-racing season (now the Dock Street Theatre). Many different
benevolent societies were established by several different ethnic
groups: the South Carolina Society, founded by French Huguenots in
1737; the German Friendly Society, founded in 1766; and the
Hibernian Society, founded by Irish immigrants in 1801. The
Charleston Library Society was established in 1748 by a group of
wealthy Charlestonians who wished to learn more about the scientific
and philosophical issues of the day. In 1770, this group also helped
establish the College of Charleston, the oldest college in South
Carolina and the 13th oldest in the United States.
Charleston became even more prosperous during the
plantation-dominated economy of the post-Revolutionary years. In
1793, the invention of the cotton gin, a machine invented by
American Eli Whitney to mechanize the production of cotton fiber
thereby revolutionizing cotton production, quickly made South
Carolina a major exporter.
Slave labor was
started to help off-set the lack of workers to harvest the crops
produced by the large plantations. Slaves worked as domestics,
artisans, laborers and market workers. Native language to the
Charleston black slavers was Gullah; a dialect based on African
American structures combined African, Portuguese, and English words.
The population of Charleston in 1820 was held by a black majority.
In 1822, a massive slave revolt planned by
a free black, was discovered. Such hysteria ensued among the white
Charlestonians and Carolinians that the future activities of most
free blacks and slaves were severely restricted. Hundreds of blacks,
both free and slave, as well as some white supporters were involved
in the planned uprising in the Old Jail. It also was the beginning
of the construction of a new State Arsenal in Charleston.
government, society and industry grew, commercial institutions were
established to support the community's aspirations. The Bank of
South Carolina, the second oldest building constructed as a bank in
the nation, was established here in 1798. Branches of the First and
Second Bank of the United States were also located in Charleston in
1800 and 1817. While the First Bank was converted to City Hall by
1818, the Second Bank proved to be a vital part of the community as
it was the only bank in the city equipped to handle the
international transactions so crucial to the export trade. By 1840,
the Market Hall and Sheds, where fresh meat and produce were brought
daily, became the commercial hub of the city. The slave trade also
depended on the port of Charleston, where ships could be unloaded
and the slaves sold at markets.
In the first
half of the 19th century, South Carolinians became more devoted to
the idea that state's rights were superior to the Federal
government's authority. Buildings such as the Marine Hospital
ignited controversy over the degree in which the Federal government
should be involved in South Carolina's government, society, and
commerce. During this period over 90 percent of Federal funding was
generated from import duties, collected by custom houses such as the
one in Charleston. In 1832 South Carolina passed an ordinance of
nullification, a procedure in which a state could in effect repeal a
Federal law, directed against the most recent tariff acts. Soon
Federal soldiers were dispensed to Charleston's forts and began to
collect tariffs by force. A compromise was reached by which the
tariffs would be gradually reduced, but the underlying argument over
state's rights would continue to escalate in the coming decades.
Charleston remained one of the busiest port cities in the country,
and the construction of a new, larger United States Custom House
began in 1849, but its construction was interrupted by the events of
the Civil War.
Prior to the
1860 election, the National Democratic Convention convened in
Charleston. Hibernian Hall served as the headquarters for the
delegates supporting Stephen A. Douglas, who it was hoped would
bridge the gap between the northern and southern delegates on the
issue of extending slavery to the territories. The convention
disintegrated when delegates were unable to summon a two-thirds
majority for any candidate. This divisiveness resulted in a split in
the Democratic Party, and the election of Abraham Lincoln, the
Republican candidate nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and
the Great Emancipator, who was the 16th (1861–1865) President of the
United States, and the first president from the Republican Party.
Carolina legislature, on December 20, 1860, was the first state to
vote for secession from the Union. They asserted that one of the
causes was the election to the presidency of a man "whose opinions
and purposes are hostile to slavery."
Citadel cadets fired the first shots of the American Civil War, on
January 9, 1861, when they opened fire on a Union ship "The White
Star" entering Charleston's harbor. Shore batteries under the
command of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard, on April 12, 1861 opened
fire on the Union-held Fort Sumter in the harbor. The Union
commander Major Robert Anderson, after a 34-hour bombardment,
surrendered the fort to Cadets from the Citadel, South Carolina's
military college. The Citadel continued to help aid the Confederate
army by manufacturing ammunition, protecting arms depots, helping
drill recruits and guarding Union prisoners. Fort Moultrie is the
name of the fort on Sullivan’s Island, built to protect the city of
Charleston. Ft. Sumter was named after General Thomas Sumter.
In 1863, Fort
Sumter became the center for blockade running and was the site of
the first submarine warfare between the CSS Hunley and the Union
warship, the Housatonic.
Union troops invaded Charleston in 1865 and took back control of
many forts, such as the United States Arsenal which the Confederate
army had seized at the beginning of the war. Union forces came
mostly from the 23 northern states of the Union – and the
newly-formed Confederate States of America, which consisted of 11
southern states that had declared their secession.
remained in Charleston during the city's reconstruction. The war had
shattered the prosperity of the antebellum Charleston and the south
in general. Freed slaves were faced with discrimination and poverty.
Slowly business, trade and industry brought the city and its
inhabitants back to a renewed vitality and growth.
worked to restore their community institutions. In 1867 Charleston's
first free secondary school for blacks was established, the Avery
Institute. General William T. 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 well-known K-12 prep school. In
1889, a new city hospital was built for the city's aged and infirm.
The United States Post Office and Courthouse, an elaborate public
building was completed in 1896 and signaled renewed life into
On August 25,
1885, a 125 mile-an-hour hurricane hit Charleston destroying or
damaging approximately 90 percent of the homes and causing an
estimated $2 million in damages.
Also in 1886,
Charleston was nearly destroyed by a major earthquake that was felt
as far away as Bermuda and Boston. It damaged approximately 2,000
buildings and caused $6 million worth of damage, while in the whole
city the buildings were only valued at approximately $24 million
Charleston has survived wars,
hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, many fires and urban renewal.
Many of Charleston's historic buildings remain intact today.
today fondly refer to their city as The Holy City, and describe
it as the site where the "Ashley and Cooper Rivers merge to form the
Stewart, America’s most-published etiquette expert, recognized
Charleston since 1995 as the "best-mannered" city in the US, a claim
lent credence by the fact that it has the only Livability Court in the
is a major tourist
destination. History combined with beautiful scenic streets lined with
grand live oaks draped in Spanish moss. At the Battery on Charleston
harbor is the renowned "Rainbow Row," which are beautiful and historic
pastel-colored homes on the waterfront. Charleston is one of the
busiest ports in the world and the majority of large container ships
now dock at the Wando Terminal in Mount Pleasant. The Wando River and
the Cooper River meet at the Southern point of Daniel Island. A new
Cooper River bridge is under construction and due to in the summer of
2005. The new Arthur Ravenel Bridge, when completed will be the
largest cable-stayed bridge in North America.
annually hosts Spoleto Festival USA, an annual festival of the arts
held since 1977. Other special annual events include the Southeastern
Wildlife Exposition, the Family Circle Tennis Cup, the Cooper River
Bridge Run, the South Carolina Aquarium, the Audubon Swamp Garden or
Cypress Gardens, the Old Exchange Building, Fort Moultrie, Fort
Sumter, or any of the several beautiful Southern Plantations including
Boone Hall Plantation, Middleton Place, and Magnolia Plantation,
founded in 1676 on the Ashley River and one of the oldest plantations
in the south.
In 1989, Hurricane
Hugo hit Charleston, damaging approximately 75% of the homes in
Charleston's historic district. The hurricane caused over $2.8 billion
Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command), in 2004
became the largest employer in the Charleston metropolitan area.
Previously the Medical University of South Carolina was the largest
Charleston employer. The Medical University of South Carolina was
established in 1824 as a small private college for the training of
International Airport serves the Charleston metropolitan area and is
located approximately fifteen miles from west of downtown Charleston.
The Census Bureau
estimated the population of the Charleston at 101,024, a 4% growth
over the population as of the 2000 census. The Charleston metropolitan
area and North Charleston had a population of total of about 549,000,
making Charleston the 76th largest city in the US.
As of the 2000
census there are 96,650 people in the city, organized
into 40,791 households and 22,149 families. Population density is
384.7/km² (996.5/mi²). Housing capacity is estimated at 44,563 housing
units, with an average density of 177.4/km² (459.5/mi²). The racial
makeup of the city is 63.08% White, 34.00% Black or African American,
1.24% Asian, 0.15% Native American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.54% from
other races, and 0.94% from two or more races. 1.51% of the population
is Hispanic or Latino of any race. In addition, 23.2% have children
under age 18 living with them, 36.0% are married couples living
together, 15.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and
45.7% are non-families. 33.7% of all households are made up of
individuals and 10.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age
or older. The average household size is 2.23 and the average family
size is 2.92.
In Charleston, the
population is spread out with 20.0% under the age of 18, 17.2% from 18
to 24, 28.8% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who are 65
years of age or older. The median age is 33 years. For every 100
females there are 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over,
there are 87.2 males.
median income for a household in the city is $35,295, and the median
income for a family is $48,705. Males have a median income of $32,585
versus $26,688 for females. The per-capita income for the city is
$22,414. 19.1% of the population and 13.3% of families are below the
poverty line. Out of the total population, 24.3% of those under the
age of 18 and 13.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty
Robert Furchgott (b. 1916) (chemist)
Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805)
James Gadsden (1788-1858) (diplomat)
Fritz Hollings (b. 1922) (US Senator)
Benjamin Huger (1805-1877)
Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941)
Henry Laurens (1724-1792)
Robert Mills (1781-1855) (architect)
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
(1746-1825) (revolutionary leader)
Joel Poinsett (1779-1851)
(politician, diplomat, and botanist)
William Charles Wells (1757-1817)
Melanie Thornton (born May 13, 1967
Charleston, South Carolina; died November 24, 2001 Bassersdorf,
Switzerland) was an American-German singer who fronted the Eurodance
act La Bouche, famous for their hits "Be My Lover" and "Sweet
Dreams" in the mid-1990s.
Robert F. Furchgott
(born June 4, 1916 in Charleston, South Carolina) is a Nobel
Prize-winning American chemist.
Robert Mills (1781 - 1855) was the
first native born American to become a professional architect.
Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was
born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 2 March 1779; was a special
agent to the South American states, 1810–1814; returned to South
Carolina in 1815; served in the state legislature, 1816–1820; was
chairman of the state’s Board of Public Works, 1818–1820; served in
the U.S. House of Representatives, 1821–1825; served as a special
envoy to Mexico, 1822–1823; was appointed the first American
minister to Mexico, 1825, and became embroiled in the country’s
political turmoil until his recall in 1830; returned to South
Carolina to espouse the Unionist cause in nullification quarrels,
1830–1833; married Mary Izard Pringle, 1833; served as Secretary of
War, 7 March 1837–5 March 1841; presided over the continuing removal
of Indians west of the Mississippi and over the Seminole War;
retired to his plantation at Georgetown, South Carolina, 1841;
developed the poinsettia from a Mexican flower; was a founder of the
National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts,
1840; died near Statesburg, South Carolina, on 12 December 1851.