Charleston is the oldest and second-largest city in the southeastern 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 and Cooper rivers.
Founded in 1670 as Charles Towne in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston adopted its present name in 1783. It moved to its present location on Oyster Point in 1680 from a location on the west bank of the Ashley River known as Albemarle Point. By 1690, Charles Towne was the fifth largest city in North America, and it remained among the ten largest cities in the United States through the 1840 census. With a 2010 census population of 120,083 (and a 2013 estimate of 127,999), current trends put Charleston as the fastest-growing municipality in South Carolina. The Charleston Metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, population was counted by the 2013 estimate at 712,220 – the third largest in the state – and the 76th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States.
Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people, Charleston has received a large number of accolades, including “America’s Most Friendly [City]” by Travel + Leisure in 2011 and in 2013 by Condé Nast Traveler, and also “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.
Colonial era (1670–1786)
After Charles II of England (1630–1685) was restored to the English throne in 1660 following Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, he granted the chartered 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. The first of these founded Charles Towne, in 1670. The community was established by several shiploads of settlers from Bermuda (which lies due East of South Carolina, although at 1,030 kilometres (640 mi) it is closest to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina), under the leadership of governor William Sayle, on the west bank of the Ashley River, a few miles northwest of the present day city center. It was soon predicted by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, one of the Lords Proprietors, to become a “great port towne,” a destiny the city quickly fulfilled. In 1680 the settlement was moved east of the Ashley River to the peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers. Not only was this location more defensible, but it offered access to a fine natural harbor. As the capital of the Carolina colony, Charles Towne was a center for inland expansion, but remained the southernmost point of English settlement on the American mainland until the Georgia colony was established in 1732.
The early settlement was often subject to attack from sea and land, including periodic assaults from Spain and France (both of whom contested England’s claims to the region), and pirates. These were combined with raids by Native Americans, who violently resisted further expansion of the settlement. The heart of the city was fortified according to a 1704 plan by Governor Johnson. Except those fronting Cooper River, the walls were largely removed during the 1720s.
The first settlers primarily came from England, its Caribbean colony of Barbados, and its Atlantic colony of Bermuda. Among these were free people of color, established in the West Indies where color lines were looser in the early colonial years. Charles Towne was attracted a mixture of ethnic and religious groups. French, Scottish, Irish, and Germans migrated to the developing seacoast town, representing numerous Protestant denominations. Because of the battles between English royalty and the Roman Catholic Church, practicing Catholics could not settle in South Carolina until after the American Revolution. However, Jews were allowed, and Sephardic Jews migrated to the city in such numbers that by the beginning of the 19th century, the city was home to the largest and wealthiest Jewish community in North America—a status it would hold until about 1830. Africans were brought to Charles Towne on the Middle Passage, first as servants, then as slaves, especially Wolof,Yoruba, Fulani, Igbo, Malinke, and other peoples of the Windward Coast. The port of Charles Towne was the main dropping-off point for Africans captured and transported to the American English colonies for sale as slaves.
By the mid-18th century Charles Towne had become a bustling trade center, the hub of the Atlantic trade for the southern colonies. Charles Towne was also the wealthiest and largest city south of Philadelphia. By 1770, it was the fourth-largest port in the colonies, after Boston, New York, and Philadelphia; with a population of 11,000—slightly more than half of them slaves.
Charles Towne was a hub of the deerskin trade, which was the basis of Charles Towne’s early economy. Trade alliances with the Cherokee and Creek nations insured a steady supply of deer hides. Between 1699 and 1715, an average of 54,000 deer skins were exported annually to Europe through Charles Towne. Between 1739 and 1761, the height of the deerskin trade era, an estimated 500,000 to 1,250,000 deer were slaughtered. During the same period, Charles Towne records show an export of 5,239,350 pounds of deer skins. Deer skins were used in the production of men’s fashionable and practical buckskin pantaloons, gloves, and book bindings.
Colonial Lowcountry landowners experimented with cash crops ranging from tea to silk. African slaves brought knowledge of rice cultivation, which plantation owners made into a successful business by 1700. With the help of African slaves from the Caribbean, Eliza Lucas, daughter of plantation owner George Lucas, learned how to raise and use indigo in the Lowcountry in 1747. Supported with subsidies from Britain, indigo was a leading export by 1750. Those and naval stores were exported in an extremely profitable shipping industry.
As Charles Towne grew, so did the community’s cultural and social opportunities, especially for the elite merchants and planters. The first theater building in America was built in 1736 on the site of today’s Dock Street Theatre. Benevolent societies were formed by different ethnic groups, from French Huguenots to free people of color to Germans to Jews. The Charles Towne 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 College of Charles Towne in 1770, the oldest college in South Carolina and, until its transition to state ownership in 1970, the oldest municipally supported college in the United States.
American Revolution (1776–1783)
As the relationship between the colonists and Britain deteriorated, Charles Towne became a focal point in the ensuing American Revolution. It was twice the target of British attacks. At every stage the British strategy assumed the existence of a large base of Loyalistsupporters who would rally to the king’s forces given some military support.
In late March 1776, South Carolina President and Commander in Chief, John Rutledge, learned that a large British naval force was moving toward Charles Town. To defend the city, he ordered the construction of Fort Sullivan (now Ft. Moultrie), on Sullivan’s Island overlooking the main shipping channel into Charleston Harrbor. He placed Col. William Moultrie in charge of the construction and subsequently made him the fort’s commanding officer.
On June 28, 1776 General Sir Henry Clinton along with 2,000 men and a naval squadron tried to seize Charles Towne, hoping for a simultaneous Loyalist uprising in South Carolina. When the fleet fired cannonballs, they failed to penetrate Fort Sullivan’s unfinished, yet thick, palmetto log walls. Additionally, no local Loyalists attacked the town from behind, as the British had hoped. Col. Moultries’ men were able to return fire and inflicted heavy damage on several of the British ships. The British were forced to withdraw their forces, and the fort was renamed Fort Moultrie in honor of its commander.
This battle kept Charles Towne safe from conquest for four years, and therefore was perceived as so symbolic of the revolution that it spawned a number of key icons of South Carolina and the revolution:
- During the battle, the flag Moultrie had flown in the battle (which he had designed, himself) was shot down. It was then hoisted into the air again by Sargent William Jasper and kept aloft, rallying the troops, until it could be remounted. This Liberty Flag was seen as so important that it became the Flag of South Carolina, with the addition of the palmetto tree, the logs of which had been used to make the fort so impenetrable.
- The day of that battle, June 28, is now a state holiday known as Carolina Day.
Clinton returned in 1780 with 14,000 soldiers. American General Benjamin Lincoln was trapped and surrendered his entire 5,400-man force after a long fight, and the Siege of Charles Towne was the greatest American defeat of the war. Several Americans who escaped the carnage joined up with other militias, including those of Francis Marion, the ‘Swampfox’, and Andrew Pickens. The British retained control of the city until December 1782. After the British left, the city’s name was officially changed to Charleston in 1783.
When the city was freed from the British, General Nathanael Greene presented its leaders with the Moultrie Flag, describing it as the first “American” flag flown in the South.
Antebellum era (1785–1861)
Although the city lost the status of state capital to Columbia, Charleston became even more prosperous in the plantation-dominated economy of the post-Revolutionary years. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 revolutionized the production of this crop, and it quickly became South Carolina’s major export commodity. Cotton plantations relied heavily on slave labor, and slaves were also the primary labor force within the city, working as domestics, artisans, market workers and laborers. By 1820 Charleston’s population had grown to 23,000, with a black majority. When a massive slave revolt planned by Denmark Vesey, a free black, erupted in 1822, hysteria ensued amidst white Charlestonians and Carolinians who feared that the violent retribution of slaves against whites during the Haitian Revolution might be copied. Soon after, Vesey was hanged along with 34 other slaves. Later, the activities of free blacks and slaves were severely restricted.
As Charleston’s government, society, and industry grew, commercial institutions were established to support the community’s aspirations. 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.
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. The state’s politicians worked on a compromise law in Washington, DC to gradually reduce the tariffs.
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. Although the international African slave trade had ended in 1808, 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 was widely developed; many were shipped in thecoastwise slave trade, stopping at ports such as Charleston. From 1830 to 1860, the population of slaves in the city had declined but the free black population continued to grow. By 1860 free people of color comprised 19% of the city’s black population, a total of 3,237 persons. They formed a community that was larger than every town in the state other than Charleston and Columbia. Those with wealth and education were an elite.
Civil War (1861–1865)
On December 20, 1860, following the election of Abraham Lincoln, the South Carolina General Assembly voted to secede from the Union. On January 9, 1861, Citadel cadets opened fire on the Union ship Star of the West entering Charleston’s harbor. On April 12, 1861, shore batteries under the command of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in the harbor. After a 34-hour bombardment, Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort, thus starting the war.
Union forces repeatedly bombarded the city, causing vast damage, and kept up a blockade that shut down most commercial traffic, although some blockade runners got through. In a failed effort to break the blockade on February 17, 1864, an early submarine, the H.L. Hunleymade a night attack on the USS Housatonic.
In 1865, Union troops moved into the city and took control of many sites, including the United States Arsenal, which the Confederate Army had seized at the outbreak of the war. The War Department also confiscated the grounds and buildings of the Citadel Military Academy, and used them as a federal garrison for over seventeen years. The facilities were finally returned to the state and reopened as a military college in 1882 under the direction of Lawrence E. Marichak.
Postbellum era (1865–1945)
After the defeat of the Confederacy, Federal forces remained in Charleston during the city’s reconstruction. The war had shattered the prosperity of the antebellum city. Freed slaves were faced with poverty and discrimination. Industries slowly brought the city and its inhabitants back to a renewed vitality and growth in population. As the city’s commerce improved, Charlestonians also worked to restore their community institutions. In 1865 The Avery Normal Institute was established by the American Missionary Association as a private school for Charleston’s African American population. 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 prep school, Porter-Gaud School. 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 in 1896 and signaled renewed life in the heart of the city.
On August 31, 1886, Charleston was nearly destroyed by an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale. It was felt as far away as Boston, Massachusetts to the north; Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the northwest; as far west as New Orleans, Louisiana; 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 ($133 million in 2006 US$), at a time when all the city’s buildings were valued at approximately $24 million ($531 million in 2006 US$).
Contemporary era (1944–present)
Charleston languished economically for several decades in the 20th century, though the large military presence in the region helped to shore up the city’s economy. The Charleston Hospital Strike of 1969, in which workers protested discrimination and low wages, was one of the last major events of the civil rights movement; it brought Ralph Abernathy, Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young and other prominent figures to march with the local leader, Mary Moultrie. Its story is told in Tom Dent’s book Southern Journey.
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. was elected mayor in the 1970s, and helped advance several cultural aspects of the city. Riley has been the major proponent of reviving Charleston’s economic and cultural heritage. The last thirty years of the 20th century saw major new reinvestment in the city, with a number of municipal improvements and a commitment to historic preservation. These commitments were not slowed down by Hurricane Hugo and continue to this day. The eye of Hurricane Hugo came ashore at 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 degree. 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.
Charleston is famous for its unique culture, which blends traditional Southern U.S., English, French, and West African elements. The downtown peninsula is well known 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 byPulitzer 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. The cuisine in Charleston differs greatly even from the rest of South Carolina, with British and French elements heavily prevalent.
The traditional accent of Charleston has long been noted in the South and elsewhere. It traditionally has ingliding or monophthongal long mid-vowels, raises ay and aw in certain environments, and is non-rhotic. Some attribute these unique features of Charleston’s speech to its early settlement by French Huguenots and Sephardic Jews, both of whom played influential roles in Charleston’s development and history. However, given Charleston’s high concentration of African Americans who spoke the Gullah language, the speech patterns were probably more influenced by the creole dialect of the Gullah African-American community. Some also say the large influx of Barbados immigrants in Charleston’s early history also plays a role in its unique dialect. Two important 19th-century works shed light on Charleston’s early dialect: Charleston Provincialisms (1887) and The Huguenot Element in Charleston’s Provincialisms, both by Sylvester Primer, who gave these as papers to the Modern Language Association. Further scholarship is needed on the possible influence of Sephardic Jews on Charleston speech patterns.
The rapidly disappearing traditional “Charleston accent” can be particularly 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 like “Chah-l-ston.”
Today, the Geechee language and dialect is still spoken among many African-American locals. However, rapid development, especially on the surrounding Sea Islands, is slowly diminishing its prominence.
Charleston is known as The Holy City, perhaps by virtue of the prominence of churches on the low-rise cityscape, perhaps because, like Mecca, its devotees hold it so dear,and perhaps for the fact that Carolina was among the few original colonies to provide toleration for all Protestant religions, though it was not open to Roman Catholics. ManyHuguenots found their way to Charleston. Carolina also allowed Jews to practice their faith without restriction. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded in 1749, is the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the continental United States. Brith Sholom Beth Israel is the oldest Orthodox synagogue in the South, founded by Ashkenazi German and Central European Jews in the mid-19th century. The city’s oldest Roman Catholic parish, Saint Mary of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church, is the mother church of Roman Catholicism to North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. In 1820, Charleston became 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. The Cathedral of St Luke and St Paul is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Annual cultural events and fairs
Charleston annually hosts 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 Spoleto Festival 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 notable 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).
As it has on every aspect of Charleston culture, the Gullah community 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 “The 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 “The Charleston”, was written by native Charlestonian Chris Smith.
The 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 Smith and 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 trumpeter named 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. George Gershwin spent the summer of 1934 at Folly Beach outside of Charleston writing this “folk opera”. 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.
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. Home of the Charleston Stage Company, South Carolina’s largest professional theater company.
- The Woolfe Street Playhouse – A nationally recognized professional theater company and home to the Village Repertory Company.
- The Footlight Players – One of the leading community theaters in the South.
- Theatre 99 – An improvisational theater company.
- Pure Theatre – A small professional theater that produces contemporary plays.
- Sottile Theater – on the campus of The College of Charleston
- The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre – Clean comedy whodunits with volunteer audience participation.
- Threshold Repertory Theatre
- Creative Spark
Museums, historical sites and other attractions
Charleston has many historic buildings, art and historical museums, and other attractions, including:
- The Calhoun Mansion, a 24,000 square foot, 1876 Victorian home at 16 Meeting Street, 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, founded in 1773. Its mission is to preserve and interpret the cultural and natural history of Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry.
- The 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 the 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 and houses a premier collection of principally American works with a Charleston or Southern connection.
- The Fireproof Building houses the South Carolina Historical Society, a membership-based reference library open to the public.
- The 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.
- The 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.
- The 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.
- The 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 and the South Carolina Lowcountry. Avery’s archival collections, museum exhibitions, and public programming reflect these diverse populations as well as the wider African Diaspora.
- South Carolina Aquarium
- 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 Charleston Aquarium), and boat tours including the fort depart from 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 themselves are not open to the public, they are one of the most photographed attractions in the city and are featured heavily in local art.
Charleston is home to a number of professional, minor league, and amateur sports teams:
- The Charleston Battery, a professional soccer team, plays in the USL Professional Division. The Charleston Battery play on Daniel Island at Blackbaud Stadium.
- The Charleston RiverDogs, a Minor League Baseball team, play in the South Atlantic League and are an affiliate of the New York Yankees. The RiverDogs play at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.
- The South Carolina Stingrays, an ECHL ice hockey team, are an affiliate of the Boston Bruins. They play at the North Charleston Coliseum in nearby North Charleston.
- The Charleston Outlaws RFC is a rugby union club in the Palmetto Rugby Union, 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 sevenstournament during Memorial Day weekend.
- The Charleston 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.
Other notable sports venues in Charleston include Johnson Hagood Stadium (home of The Citadel Bulldogs football team) andToronto Dominion Bank Arena at the College of Charleston, which seats 5,700 people who view the school’s basketball and volleyball teams.
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. For a list of both, see here. In addition, many novels, plays, and other works of fiction have been set in Charleston, including the following:
- In the Netflix original series ‘House of Cards’ main character Congressman Frank Underwood is an alumnus of The Citadel and returns to its campus in one episode upon the occasion of a new library building there being named for him.
- Several books by Citadel alumnus and novelist Pat Conroy, such as The Lords of Discipline (based on Conroy’s experiences as a cadet at The Citadel) and South of Broad.
- The Gullah opera Porgy and Bess
- Clive Barker’s novel Galilee
- Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory Series, an alternate history series about a Confederacy that won the Civil War
- Rafael Sabatini’s novel The Carolinian
- The 1991 bestseller Scarlett, sequel to Gone with the Wind. In fact, Alexandra Ripley, the author of Scarlett, derived inspiration from the city for her novel Charleston and its sequel On Leaving Charleston.
- The Notebook, 2004, starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, was filmed in Charleston. The American Theatre on King Street was Allie and Noah’s first date spot.
- The Novel, Werewolf Smackdown by Mario Acevedo is set in Charleston
- The novels Dreams of Sleep, Rich in Love and The Fireman’s Fair were written by Josephine Humphreys, a native of Charleston. All are set in Charleston and the Charleston area. See the film entry for Rich in Love, which was filmed on Mount Pleasant and in Charleston.
- The 2010 film, Dear John.
- Gullah Gullah Island
- The College of Charleston’s Randolph Hall is featured in the 2000 movie The Patriot. It serves as the meeting house where the South Carolinians decide to join the fight against the British.
- Virals and Seizure by Kathy Reichs. The book’s venue is Charleston.
- Rich in Love, a novel by author Josephine Humphreys published in 1987, was set in the Charleston suburb of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
- The hit TNT television show Falling Skies is set predominately in post apocalyptic Charleston in the second season onwards.
- The Lifetime television show Army Wives is set at a fictional Army post in Charleston and mostly filmed on location in the City of Charleston and in the City of North Charleston. They built a sound stage near the intersection of Dorchester Rd and Montague Ave in North Charleston and a small town at the old Naval Base in North Charleston and shot many scenes at the U.S. Air Force Base in North Charleston.
- Rick Riordan’s hit teen book Mark of Athena has several scenes set in Charleston.
- The Bravo reality series titled ‘Southern Charm’ follows the lives of a group of wealthy friends and socialites from Charleston.
The city proper consists of six distinct areas: the Peninsula/Downtown, West Ashley, Johns Island, James Island, Daniel Island, and the Cainhoy Peninsula.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the 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 water. The old city is located on a peninsula at the point where, as Charlestonians say, “The Ashley and the Cooper Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean.” The entire peninsula is very low, some is landfill material, and as such, frequently floods during heavy rains, storm surges and unusually high tides. The city limits have expanded across the Ashley River from the peninsula, encompassing the majority of West Ashley as well as James Island and some of Johns Island. The city limits also have expanded across the Cooper River, encompassing Daniel Island and the Cainhoy area. North Charleston blocks any expansion up the peninsula, and Mount Pleasant occupies the land directly east of the Cooper River.
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, affording a good location for a port. The rising of the ocean may be due to melting of glacial ice during the end of the Ice Age.
Charleston has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen 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 November. Winter is short and mild, and is characterized by occasional rain. Measurable snow (≥0.1 in/0.25 cm) only occurs several times per decade at the most, with the last such event occurring 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, although 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).
Charleston was hit by a large tornado in 1761, which temporarily emptied the Ashley River, and sank five offshore warships.
|[show]Climate data for Charleston Int’l, South Carolina (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1938–present)|
|[show]Climate data for Charleston, South Carolina (Downtown), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1893–present|
Metropolitan Statistical Area
The Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area currently consists of three counties: Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the metropolitan statistical area had a total population of 664,607 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 surrounding the city of Charleston form the Charleston-North Charleston Urban Area with a population of 548,404 as of 2010. 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. The city of Charleston which was originally defined by the limits of the Parish of St. Philip & 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.