Charleston is the oldest and second-largest city in the 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, or, as is locally expressed, “where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean”. Founded in 1670 as Charles Towne in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston adopted its present name in 1783. 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 and 2014 by Condé Nast Traveler, and also “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.
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. Africans were brought to Charles Towne on the Middle Passage, first as servants, then as slaves. An estimated 40 percent of the total 400,000 Africans transported and sold as slaves into North America are estimated to have landed at Sullivan’s Island, just off the port of Charles Towne. 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, in part because of the lucrative slave trade. 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 Loyalist supporters who would rally to the king’s forces given some military support. 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 American Civil War. On December 11th of 1861, an enormous fire burned over 500 acres of the city. 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. Hunley made 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.
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. 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. Charleston has many historic buildings, art and historical museums, and other attractions.
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 Wine and Food Festival, Charleston Fashion Week, the MOJA Arts Festival, the Holiday Festival of Lights (at James Island County Park), and the Charleston International Film Festival.
Read more on City of Charleston, Charleston Tourism, Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Port of Charleston, Wikitravel Charleston and Wikipedia Charleston. Photos by Wikimedia Commons.