From our 2016 College Student Guide.
Charleston has been voted the No. 1 city of … well, the world, so it’s no surprise that people love learning about the Holy City. Sometimes all the glossy magazine coverage gets in the way of the city’s not-always-pretty past: we are a city built on slave labor, home to two of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and site of the first shots of the American Civil War, after all. In the spirit of learning (wecolme to college!), we’ve compiled a list of historical sites around Charleston that you might not see in your average brochure, but that we feel are essential to the city’s history.
325 Country Club Dr. James Island
It’s hard to understate how important plantations are to Charleston’s history. The cultural, economic, and social implications they left behind still resonate today. McLeod Plantation is the closest plantation to downtown and has the most well preserved slave quarters, thanks in part to its designation as a Gullah/Geechee heritage site. Admission to the site is $10 and you can check it out Tues.-Sun., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Kress Building (now H & M)
281 King St. Downtown
The Kress building now houses clothing retailer H&M, but in the 1960s it was a five and dime department store. And in that department store there was a lunch counter where on April 1, 1960, 24 brave students of Burke High School staged a sit-in to protest segregation. Head over to the building, just a block from the college, admire the beautiful art deco, and take in a chapter of history that too often gets forgotten.
This island, about a 15-minute drive from downtown, is home to several historical sites. Fort Moultrie, a former military installation that’s been around since the American Revolution, is sort of the star of the island’s history. The fort fought off British warships in 1776 and Union ships in 1863. In addition to the fort, famous author Edgar Allen Poe was stationed at the fort and set his short story “The Gold Bug” in the area. A lesser known fact, during the slave trade 40 percent of all enslaved Africans brought to North America made their passage through Sullivan’s island, according to the National Park Service.
and White Point Garden
2 Murray Blvd. Downtown
As old as Charleston itself, the Battery is both a beautiful place and filled with years of military history from colonial defense to Civil War embattlement; the seawall known as The Battery was armed and used as defense during the Civil War. Today, White Point Gardens stands as one of Charleston’s most popular waterfront spots, a good place to observe the harbor and its many surrounding homes.
The Aiken Rhett House
48 Elizabeth St. Downtown
There are quite a few old mansions around town to tour, where guests can take in the extravagant wealth of antebellum Charleston, but what makes the Aiken Rhett house stand out is that it focuses on preservation rather than conservation. That means the house exists as it was back in the 1800s, with no renovations having been made. The peeling walls and lack of air conditioning create an eerie — and authentic — atmosphere that makes it stand out among the homes of Charleston’s wealthy. And it’s an excellent example of an urban plantation with slave quarters still intact.