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Charleston: A Southern Gem

Charleston, South Carolina is a popular vacation spot rich with Southern history. Founded in 1670 as Charles Town, and named for King Charles II of England, it was the fifth largest city in North America until 1880. It is located on South Carolina's coast, and during its early history was often subjected to attack from Spain and France, which also wanted to stake their claim in the area. By the mid-18th century, Charleston had developed into a hub of trade for the Southern colonies, and became the largest city south of Philadelphia.

Charleston was and is a city of ethnic and religious diversity. Protestants, Roman Catholics and Jews all migrated to Charleston and built places of worship there. African Americans, both free and slave, established churches in the area as well. Today it is still known as "The Holy City" because of the many churches and steeples which appear on its city skyline.

Charleston is also significant for its role in the Civil War and Reconstruction. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860, and on January 9, 1861, Charleston's Citadel cadets fired the first shots of the American Civil War at a Union ship which had entered the Charleston Harbor. A few months later, nearby Fort Sumter surrendered to Confederate batteries. When the war was finally over and Confederate forces had been defeated, Charleston faced difficult economic and social crises. Previously a wealthy antebellum city, its economic prosperity was devastated, and freed slaves continued to face discrimination and poverty. But there were signs of change and improvement. In 1867, the Avery Institute was established. This was Charleston's first free secondary school for African Americans. Industries slowly returned to the city and eventually commerce and the city itself began to revitalize.

Charleston is a popular tourist destination today. It is host to a wealth of historical homes and buildings, upscale boutiques, art galleries and fine restaurants. King Street, Charleston Place and the open air market will provide the most devoted shopper hours of enjoyment! The Gibbes Mueum of Art is one of the nation's oldest art organizations and has over 10,000 works of art in its collection. The Old Exchange and Customs House, is one of the most important Colonial buildings in the country, behind Boston's Faneuil Hall and Philadelphia's Independence Hall. Drive along the battery and wind through the residential streets of Charleston, and you will see some of the most beautiful historic homes. Rainbow Row, a set of historic pastel-colored homes along Charleston's waterfront, is famously portrayed in paintings and photographs. Visitors can also visit old plantations like Boone Hall Plantation, Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation. Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter are popular sites for those interested in Civil War history.

Charleston also hosts several festivals and events each year. The Spoleto Festival is a 17-day art festival that draws visitors from across the country. The MOJA Arts Festival is a two-week celebration of African-American and Caribbean arts, music, and culture. Other festivals include The Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Charleston Maritime Festival, and the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. Several tours are also available by foot or carriage across the city. Many walking tours focus on specific areas of Charleston's history. From a Tea Tour, Slavery and Freedom Walk, Pirates and Buccaneers Walk, Historic Home Tours, and Ghosts of Charleston walk, there is something to interest anyone! And while in town, you can stay at a number of fine historic homes, inns and hotels.

Charleston is also close to many beautiful beaches and resorts. Kiawah Island and the Isle of Palms are great places to stay a little farther away from the city, but within a half hour drive. Whatever your interest, Charleston is a wonderful place to visit, replete with history and brimming with character. It is truly a gem of the South!


Rainbow Row

Magnolia Plantation

Fort Sumter

Charleston Place