Charleston, South Carolina, also aptly known as “The Holy City” for the many churches dotting the skyline, but did you know that we’ve been a city since the 1600s? As South Carolina’s largest city, and one of the oldest in the nation, we’ve garnered a long and illustrious history. And along the way we’ve garnered a long and illustrious history. See how many of these 10 unique facts about Charleston you know.
Let’s Party Like it’s 1663
Thanks to eight loyal friends of England’s King Charles II, who helped him regain the throne after being exiled, King Charles rewarded them with the Carolina territory. After setting sail in 1670, the first expedition arrived and established the province’s first settlement, calling it Charles Town. The name held until after the American Revolution when it was shortened to Charleston.
We’re all familiar with the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, but where exactly do the names originate from? They’re named after one man, Anthony Ashley Cooper! Formally the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, and one of King Charles’ friends, he is credited with selecting Charleston’s location and was one of the first of many Lord Proprietors of East Coast.
Charleston was frequently the target for pirate attacks in the early days of the settlement. In 1718, none other than Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, attacked several ships trying to enter the Charleston Harbor. He took hostages and ransomed them for a chest of medicine.
I Thought That Was Black?!
That’s not black, it’s Charleston Green! Stroll around our beautiful town and you’ll notice numerous homes accented with a dark green known as Charleston Green, so dark in fact that visitors often mistake it for black. Tracing its roots to the Civil War, the Union army sent buckets of black paint for residents to use to fix their damaged homes. Rather than use “Yankee black,” citizens mixed in Southern yellow and created the distinctly dark hue.
The Truth Behind Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row is a particularly famous site around the Holy City but do you know why it’s painted in such vibrant colors? One rumor has it that the colors helped drunken sailors identify their lodgings, while another says merchants used them to identify goods sold in each building. However, the truth isn’t nearly as significant. In 1935, a judge and his wife decided to paint their home a lively pink and their neighbors decided to do the same.
That Shook Us!
On August 31, 1886, the largest earthquake ever recorded in the southeast occurred near Charleston. A remarkable 7.8 magnitude quake was registered and it damaged buildings in states as far away as Ohio. It killed 60 people, caused more than $5 million in damages, and an estimated 14,000 chimneys were destroyed.
Let’s Get Folky
Local author Dubose Heyward’s 1925 novel, Porgy, offered readers a look at Charleston’s Gullah community, and it inspired George Gershwin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess. In order to understand the Gullah culture, Gershwin spent the summer living on Folly Island!
In 1969, workers at the South Carolina Medical College Hospital went on strike to protest substandard pay and working conditions for minorities. The strike lasted four months and was a seminal moment for the Civil Rights movement.
Take a Tour
The Charleston Museum is widely believed to be the country’s oldest museum! Founded in 1773 as a storehouse for natural and local history collections, the museum is dedicated to preserving artifacts from the Lowcountry.
Blow ‘Er Up!
Speaking of old buildings, South Carolina’s oldest public building is a former gunpowder storage facility called the Powder Magazine. Built in 1713, the small building features three-foot thick walls and a thin, gabled roof where, if all the powder were to ignite, it would send the explosion shooting upwards rather than outwards.
While these are certainly just a few of the most interesting facts about Charleston, we’ve barely scratched the surface of history lessons and endless activities that Charleston has to offer. If a vacation to Charleston is on your bucket list, then let our Concierge team help you start planning your trip today so you can learn everything you can about this amazing city yourself!