The county seat of Charleston County, Charleston is also the oldest city in South Carolina, and has masterfully blended its rich history with modern sensibilities, resulting in a cosmopolitan metropolis brimming with elegance and distinguished flair.
Downtown Charleston is located on a peninsula where the waters of the Cooper and Ashley rivers mingle and empty into the Atlantic. It has the suburb of West Ashley to the west, James Island to the south, Daniel Island to the northeast, and Mount Pleasant to the east.
A brief history
Charleston was founded in 1670 by English colonists from Bermuda, who established the settlement as Charles Town on the west bank of the Ashley River. By 1680, the settlement had grown, and it was then moved across the river to its current peninsular location.
In the centuries that followed, the relocated community eventually grew into a thriving trade center and bustling port city. Present-day Charleston is known for its unique culture and architecture, and has received accolades such as “America’s Most Friendly City” and “Most Polite and Hospitable City in America” from the likes of Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and Southern Living magazine.
Neighborhoods in Downtown Charleston include:
- East Central
- French Quarter
- Hampstead Village
- Hampton Park Terrace
- Harleston Village
- North Central
- South of Broad
A diverse range of real estate options can be found in these neighborhoods. Choose from single-family residences and historic homes to townhouses, condominiums, and waterfront properties that provide panoramic views of Charleston Harbor. Homes incorporate a wide variety of architectural styles primarily from the Antebellum period such as Federal, Greek Revival, Georgian, and Italianate. These are also often adorned with details such as elaborate wrought iron balconies and ornate spiral staircases.
Charleston also boasts an iconic and distinctive type of house called the Charleston Single House, which is characterized by an exterior that’s usually one room wide, with the narrower facade facing the street. The front door actually leads to a long covered porch, where the real front door leading into the house is found. This not only added extra privacy and security for the residents, but also allowed air to flow through the house via the porches, effectively cooling the structure while at the same time sheltering it from the elements.
Areas of interest
The Charleston Historic District in the lower peninsula area contains numerous and beautifully preserved 18th and 19th-century structures in a variety of architectural styles, including important institutional buildings like the Charleston County Courthouse, the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, as well as a large number of distinctive Charleston Single Houses.
The district also contains the Historic Charleston City Market, along with Charleston’s French Quarter District with its quaint cobblestone streets and gas street lamps, which was actually a part of the original walled city of Charleston.
The South Carolina Aquarium overlooking Charleston Harbor is one of the most visited attractions in Charleston. It houses more than 10,000 plants and animals. Check out the Great Ocean Tank, a three-story high exhibit containing 385,000 gallons of water and over 700 animals. The aquarium also has a state-of-the-art environmental learning center, and provides facilities to operate a Sea Turtle Hospital.
Shoppers will not want to miss the King Street area, which is divided into three districts: Lower King is the Antique District and has many fine stores and specialty shops; Middle King is the Fashion District, home to clothing shops and boutiques featuring one of a kind and well-known designer brands; and Upper King, most recently known as the Design District, with its array of furniture stores and numerous dining establishments.