Charleston lies near the midpoint of South Carolina’s coastline where the Cooper and Ashley rivers spill into a natural harbor. The nearly 128-square-mile city includes around 19 square miles of water as well as several islands and the Cainhoy Peninsula.
As the oldest city in South Carolina, Charleston was settled by British colonists in 1670. Located on an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by two rivers, the coastal city served as a major shipping point for rice and cotton during the first 150 years of its history. In 1861, Confederate troops attacked the Union-held Fort Sumter in the city’s harbor, triggering the start of the Civil War. The economic decline that followed the war turned out to be a mixed blessing for Charleston. Lacking the necessary funds to replace structures damaged in the conflict, the city repaired them instead, thus preserving Charleston’s historic architecture.
The construction of a naval yard in 1904 revived Charleston’s economy, and the city gained a further economic boost when the Charleston Naval Base was added during World War II. The waterfront continues to play an important role in the success of the city. It is the site of many tourist attractions, including the Memorial Waterfront Park. The complex features a 1,250-foot-long pier offering views of the harbor and the iconic Arthur Ravenel Bridge, the longest cable-stay bridge in the nation.
Charleston has a warm and humid subtropical climate with around 52 inches of rainfall each year. Winter temperatures average 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In summer, the average temperature is 82 degrees. Snowfall is rare in Charleston. Hurricanes are a significant threat to the city in summer and fall.
The population of Charleston was around 125,000 in 2012. There are more than 50,000 households in the city, with an average of 2.27 people per household. The median household income is around $51,000, and the median residential property value is around $367,000. Charleston has a well-educated population, with around 47 percent of people 25 years and over holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Charleston’s star attractions center around the city’s historical significance and cultural heritage. Stand-out landmarks include:
- The 7-acre Battery and White Point Gardens features some of the city’s grandest antebellum homes.
- The Charleston Museum showcases Charleston’s cultural and natural history.
- Located in a striking 1905 Beaux-Arts building, the Gibbes Museum of Art features more than 10,000 works of fine art.
- Ferry rides take visitors to Fort Sumter, the island site where the Civil War began.
- The Magnolia Plantation features the country’s oldest gardens as well as a 17th-century plantation house.
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