Charleston, South Carolina: Population = 132,609 (Metro area = 727,689), elevation = 30 feet, average January low temp = 42.1, Average July high temp = 88, average sunny days = 209, annual snowfall = 0.3”, annual rainfall = 46”, air quality index = 38, water quality index = 50, comfort index = 31, median age of residents = 36.3
The difference between Charleston and Myrtle Beach is stunning. Where Myrtle Beach looks like a new arrival, Charleston almost drips with history. The first settlement was in 1670, on the banks of the Ashley River in a low, swampy area. Since the French, Dutch, Spanish, and English were all fighting over the Carolinas, they thought it would be more defensible. After many hardships and crop failures, Charleston was founded at its present site, across the river, in 1680.
Colonial Charleston was the trading center for the many plantations that sprung up in the area. These plantations were worked by slaves, brought over from Africa. Of the estimated 400,000 slaves transported across the ocean, about 40% landed here first. By 1708, the majority of the people in Charleston were black African slaves.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, George Washington read the Declaration of Independence from the steps of the Exchange building in Charleston. During the war, Charleston was attacked three times and finally, defeated and occupied in 1778. It was not until 1782 that the city was besieged and reclaimed.
The Antebellum Era was a time of great prosperity and power for the 90 richest plantation owners who ruled the area. Cotton was king and slavery provided the labor to make it hugely profitable. But then the Civil War erupted. With the election of Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union. Fort Sumter was bombarded by a shore battery and taken. The city withstood a blockage until 1865, when General Sherman’s “march to the sea” captured it.
Somehow, the geography and luck has protected the city from the worst of hurricanes, earthquakes, war, and fires. Stroll through the downtown and you see building after building with historical plaques dating them back to the 1700s. Even some of the alleys are the original cobblestoned pathways though the gardens and huge trees.
Church steeples rise everywhere, earning Charleston the nickname “Holy City”.
Maybe this has been kind of a term paper but, with so much history everywhere, it is hard to describe Charleston without it. It is also a big modern city with all of the food, nightlife, business, and office buildings. It is a complex city with a lot to see and we didn’t have enough time to really see enough of it. Maybe another time.
Next up: Savannah, Georgia