40 Interesting Facts About Charleston, South Carolina

by Janis on March 10, 2017

Broad Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Khanrak.

Broad Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Khanrak.

1. The city of Charleston, South Carolina is located on the Atlantic Coast of the United States, roughly halfway between Washington D.C. and Miami, Florida.

2. Spread over 128 square miles, the heart of city is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.

Map of Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding area circa 1780.

Map of Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding area circa 1780. It has markings depicting Continental Army defenses set up in anticipation of British attack.

3. Charleston Harbor runs about 7 miles southeast to the Atlantic Ocean with a 1-mile wide entrance flanked by Sullivan’s Island to the north and Morris Island on the south.

4. Today Charleston had an estimated population of 132,600 residents, a dramatic increase from 1670 when 148 men and women that sailed into the harbor on three small ships from Bermuda. Led by William Sayle, this group established the settlement of Charles Town, named for British King Charles II. William Sayle, in his eighties, became the first Governor of South Carolina in 1670.

The Pink House, built of limestone from Bermuda around 1712, is considered the oldest stone house in Charleston, South Carolina  today. Photo by Brian Stansberry.

The Pink House, built of limestone from Bermuda around 1712, is considered the oldest stone house in Charleston, South Carolina today. Photo by Brian Stansberry.

5. Charles Town was the first surviving English colony in the South, and was a remarkable accomplishment given the hostile Spanish and French settlements in the region.

6. Within two years, the town was moved across the river to the peninsula known as Oyster Point, and for a while, Charles Town was also known as Oyster Town.

7. Within five years, the population of Charles Town had quadrupled. Over the years, trade in animal furs, rice, indigo, naval stores would turn the little community into a burgeoning seaport. It was also a central port for the slave trade.

8. The port and related trade brought Charles Town wealth, and the wealthy Charlestonians wanted culture. Soon they had the first theater, golf club, museum and City College in America.

9. On February 12, 1736 the original Dock Street Theatre opened with a performance of The Recruiting Officer. Built on the corner of Church Street and Dock Street (now known as Queen Street), this building was America’s first theater.

10. In 1739, Mrs. Elizabeth Timothy became Charleston’s first female newspaper editor and publisher.

11. In 1743, Charleston merchant David Deas received a shipment of 432 golf ball and ninety-six clubs from Scotland. This led to the first organized golf played in America on pastureland near the corner of Pitt and Bull Streets. Golf enthusiasts in Charleston organized the South Carolina Golf Club on September 29, 1786.


12. Dr. Alexander Garden, a Charleston physician first imported “Cape Jasmine” from South Africa around 1754. The flower was renamed Gardenia after Dr. Garden.

13. Founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785, the College of Charleston is the oldest municipal college in the United States.

14. Pineapples are a symbol of hospitality in Charleston, a tradition that goes back to Colonial days when returning sea captains would spear a pineapple outside their home. This was to let the captain’s friends know he had returned safely, and that they could come over to hear his stories from the high seas.

15. America’s first museum was founded in the city in 1773. Today the Charleston Museum’s mission is to preserve and interpret the cultural and history of Charleston and the South Carolina Low Country.

16. During the Revolutionary War, one of the most improbable victories in American military history was made near Charleston on June 28, 1776. During the Battle of Fort Sullivan, soft logs from Palmetto trees and sand smothered the effects of most of the British cannonballs, leading the America colonists to their first decisive victory during the Revolutionary War.

17. A week later the Declaration of Independence was signed, and South Carolina was on its way to becoming part of a new nation. Four Charlestonians signed the Declaration of Independence: Arthur Middleton, Thomas Heyward Jr., Edward Rutledge and Thomas Lynch Jr.

18. After the Revolutionary War it wasn’t popular to have cities named after British royalty. Charles Town was renamed Charleston in 1783.

The house at 94 Tradd St., Charleston, South Carolina was once the studio for Samuel Morse. Photo by ProfReader.

The house at 94 Tradd St., Charleston, South Carolina was once the studio for Samuel Morse. Photo by ProfReader.

19. Samuel F.B. Morse arrived in Charleston at the age of 26 from Boston in January, 1818. A painter in search of wealthy clients to commission him to paint their portraits, Morse set up a second-floor studio in the Samuel Wainwright House at 94 Tradd Street. From this studio he painted a portrait of Mrs. Daniel DeSaussure Bacot which can be viewed today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

20. After his 4-year stint in Charleston, Samuel Morse went on to invent the original Morse telegraph, as well as the Morse code, the primary language of telegraph data throughout the world.

21. Charleston was a pro-slavery city. The Ordinance of Secession for South Carolina to formally secede from the United States of America was written and signed in Charleston in December 1860. This action was the beginning of the activities that led to the United States Civil War.

22. On January 9, 1861, Citadel cadets stationed on Morris Island opened fire on the USS Star of the West as it entered Charleston Harbor.

Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Photo by Jud McCranie.

Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Photo by Jud McCranie.

23. The first full battle of the American Civil War occurred in the Charleston harbor on April 12, 1861 when shore batteries under the command of General Beauregard opened fire on the US Army-held Fort Sumter.

24. Following the seizure of Fort Sumter, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers and planned an invasion of the South that led to the War Between the States.

25. After the Civil War, the North donated black paint to spruce up the city. There was backlash against the “Yankee color,” so the paint was mixed with some “Confederate” yellow paint and dash of blue to become the signature “Charleston” dark green paint color.

26. On August 31, 1886, Charleston was nearly destroyed by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that was felt from Boston to Chicago to New Orleans. The earthquake caused $6 million worth of damage, at a time when all the city’s buildings were valued around $24 million.

27. After the devastating earthquake in 1886, all newly constructed buildings in Charleston included earthquake rods. Today, the metal circles that can be seen on the outside of some historic buildings the ends of these earthquake rods.

28. Charleston established its first baseball team — the Sea Gulls — in 1886. In 2017, the Charleston RiverDogs are the local minor league baseball team, and an affiliate team of the New York Yankees. Actor Bill Murray is part-owner and “director of fun” for the RiverDogs.

29. The eye of Hurricane Hugo came ashore at Charleston Harbor in 1989, damaging three-quarters of the homes in Charleston’s historic district, and causing more than $2.8 billion in damage.

30. Named for the former U.S. Representative, the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge spans the Charleston Harbor, connecting historic Charleston and Mount Pleasant. When it was constructed in 2005, it was the longest cable-sustained bridge in United States. The bridge is 1,546 feet long and costs $700 million to build.

31. Charleston has about 230 days of sunshine each year and has an average daily temperature of 65.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

32. To keep cooler during the hot and humid summers, many homes in Charleston have verandahs that face south or west to take advantage of the prevailing winds.

33. Charleston calls itself the “Holy City” because of its numerous churches and their steeples that puncture the skyline.

The historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, SC. Photo by Cal Sr.

The historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, SC. Photo by Cal Sr.

34. On June 17, 2015, 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and sat in on part of a Bible study before shooting and killing nine people. Roof was convicted of all 33 federal hate crime charges against him stemming from the shooting, and has been sentenced to receive the death penalty.


35. While Cold Mountain, the 2003 Civil War movie featuring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renee Zellweger was primarily filmed in Romania, it has some scenes shot in Charleston. One example is where the male character Inman makes conversation with the blind man.

36. Actor Thomas Gibson, known for his roles in Dharma & Greg and Criminal Minds is from Charleston.

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

37. Stephen Colbert, comedian, author, and host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, grew up on James Island in Charleston County. He was the youngest of 11 children in a Catholic family and attended Charleston’s Episcopal Porter-Gaud School, where he participated in several school plays.

38. Boeing South Carolina in North Charleston is a final assembly and delivery point for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to customers around the world. All final assembly of Boeing’s 787-10 planes is completed at the North Charleston facility.

39. The Port of Charleston, owned and operated by the South Carolina Ports Authority, is one of top 10 container ports in the United States. In 2015, the port handled nearly $76 billion dollars of goods.

The Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship preparing to depart from Charleston, South Carolina.40. Charleston’s Union Pier Cruise Ship Passenger Terminal – located at 32 Washington Street – has 80 scheduled round-trip cruise departures in 2017, in addition to 25 port calls by 15 different cruise lines. The Union Pier Terminal is the homeport for the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship which sails 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-day cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean throughout 2017 and 2018. The Carnival Sunshine cruise ship will make eight round-trip sailings from Charleston during 2017.

Learn more about Charleston, South Carolina with these resources:

Historic Charleston and the Lowcountry

Charleston: A Historic Walking Tour Very Charleston: A Celebration of History, Culture, and Lowcountry Charm

Very Charleston: A Celebration of History, Culture, and Lowcountry Charm

Have you visited Charleston? What fun fact can you add to this list?

Interact with us on TwitterFacebookPinterest or Instagram.

Check out these other posts:

Previous post:

Next post: