During your one hour tour of Charleston, you will see not only the highlights of Charleston’s past but you will also delve further into the city and learn about areas not normally seen by typical tourists. All of Charleston’s beauty and charm are preserved due to strict preservation laws, and the suburbs of Old Charleston are a remarkable place to hear and witness the ever unfolding history of the “Holy City.”
The Aiken-Rhett House is one of the best preserved collections of antebellum domestic structures left in the city. Built as a private home in 1817, the building is currently open for tours as a house museum.
This revolutionary war era structure known as Cabbage Row housed a tenement in the early 1900s and was known locally as “Cabbage Row”. Author DuBose Heyward used the building as the setting for his novel “Porgy” and changed the name to “Catfish Row” as the story was set on the waterfront.
The Calhoun Mansion is the largest private home ever constructed in the city. Built in 1876 by a civil war era “blockade runner” with his spoils from the War, the total square footage is around 24,000. Currently, it is open to the public for tours and boasts the best example of Victorian opulence in the city.
The City Market has been a publicly owned and operated market since 1788. Beef, fish, poultry, and produce have been replaced by visitor-friendly merchandise like sweet grass baskets, low-country recipe books, prints of downtown scenes, and Charleston charm bracelets.
In 1837, the College of Charleston, established in 1770, became a municipal college and is the oldest municipal college in the United States. Beautiful Randolph Hall, the original main building, still serves as the heart of the campus and the site of graduation ceremonies every spring.
The Old Exchange Building is one of the most historic buildings in America. Finished in 1771, this was the last building constructed by the British before the Revolutionary War. Also, it was the site of South Carolina’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, and was visited by George Washington in 1791. It is currently owned by the City of Charleston and available to tour.
Grace Episcopal Church features one of the grandest examples of gothic-revival architecture in the city. Built in 1848, the church’s distinctive spire and pinnacles, arched windows and doorways evokes medieval European cathedrals.
As the best example of Georgian-Palladian architecture remaining in the city, the Miles Brewton House was built in 1769 as a private residence by a wealthy merchant. The building most famously was used as the British Headquarters during their occupation of the city during the revolutionary war.
The Old City Jail is possibly the creepiest building in all of Charleston. A functional jail from 1802 to the 1930s, the jail’s gloomy, castle-like appearance only hints at what atrocities of justice and human suffering occurred during its history.
The Powder Magazine was built around 1713 just inside the original city walls. The modest structure housed a supply of gunpowder safely away from the civilian population. It is the oldest public building in the southeast.
One of the longest contiguous rows of pre-revolutionary buildings left in America, Rainbow Row is probably the most recognized set of buildings from Charleston. Originally constructed as shops and warehouses, the buildings were renovated in the early 1900s as residences. The multi colored facades were less a color “scheme” than an attempt by individual owners to differentiate their properties, and date only to the 20th century renovation.
St. Michael’s Church is Charleston’s most visible landmark. Its brilliant white spire gleams above the rest of the city’s rooftops. Constructed over ten years and competed in 1761, the church has seen visits by noblemen such as George Washington and Prince Charles. It is open to the public daily.
Founded in 1680, St. Philip’s Church is the oldest English congregation south of Virginia. The present structure dates to 1838 and is the second church built on the site. Spanning three sides of the church is the old St. Philips Graveyard.
Two Meeting Street Inn overlooks White Point Gardens and is one of the most photographed buildings in the southeast. This ornate Victorian Inn was built in 1892 by a wealthy merchant as a wedding present for his daughter. Today, it operates as one the most popular and romantic bed and breakfasts.
The best place to take in views of Charleston Harbor is at Waterfront Park. A long pier extends into the Cooper River and is populated with comfortable benches and porch swings on which to enjoy the harbor breezes.
The Wentworth Mansion was originally built by Francis Silas Rodgers. As a member of City Council, he organized the city’s first paid professional fire department. Built in the style of Second Empire, it sports a mansard roof on the exterior and mahogany, oak, and walnut woodwork as well as tile floors and marble mantles on the interior. It is currently operating as a luxury hotel.
White Point Gardens is the southernmost point in the city. Originally called Oyster Point or White Point for its bleached oyster beds, the land has been filled in since the 1840s. The location proved useful for fortifications during the Civil War and several replica artillery pieces are on display here. Currently, the Victorian Era bandstand is a popular place for wedding ceremonies.
The William Rhett House is one of the oldest private homes in the city. It was constructed between 1712 and 1728 as the home of Colonel William Rhett, who is most famous for his capture of the loathed pirate Stede Bonnet. Also, it is the birthplace of noted Confederate General Wade Hampton.
Before its current use, Colonial Lake probably served as a mill pond for local sawmills. In 1768, a law was passed establishing the land forever for public use. Originally named the Rutledge Street Pond, it was renamed Colonial Lake in 1881. The park around the lake was developed between 1882-1887.