Charleston history

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Founded and settled by English colonists in 1670, Charleston grew from a colonial seaport to a wealthy city by the mid-eighteenth century. Through the mid-nineteenth century, Charleston’s economy prospered due to its busy seaport and the cultivation of rice, cotton, and indigo.

In April of 1861, Confederate soldiers fired on Union-occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, thus signaling the beginning of the Civil War. Charleston was slow to recover from the devastation of the war. However, its pace of recovery became the foundation of the City’s greatest asset – its vast inventory of historically significant architecture. Short on capital after the war, Charleston was forced to repair its existing damaged buildings instead of replacing them.
After the war, the City gradually lessened its dependence on agriculture and rebuilt its economy through trade and industry. Construction of the Navy Yard in 1904, just north of the City’s boundaries, pushed Charleston vigorously into the twentieth century. During the first few decades of the 1900’s, industrial and port activities increased dramatically. Later, major sources of capital came from the Charleston Naval Base, the area’s medical industry and the tourism industry. Today approximately 4.51 million people visit our city annually generating an estimated economic impact of $3.22 billion.

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Dining in Charleston can be an unforgettable experience. The Holy City and its surrounding areas have literally hundreds of restaurants from which to choose. Lowcountry cuisine is the choice of many who wish to sample the local fare but Charleston is rife with highly trained, world-class chefs who seek to show off their skills in all areas of cuisine.
Below is a selection of restaurants for you to consider from However, this is by no means a comprehensive list! Check with the concierge at the hotel for additional information about local restaurants or your specific dining interests. Be sure to make your reservations early!

FIG. FIG stands for Food Is Good. FIG is a local neighborhood eatery located in the heart of downtown Charleston, serving seasonally-inspired cuisine with a commitment to using local and sustainable foods. They have a passion for pure flavor, quality ingredients, and for creating an atmosphere that is convivial, approachable, and a haven for people who simply love food. Laid-back, eclectic and unpretentious, FIG is one part retro diner, one part neighborhood café, and one part elegant bistro. Warm hues, soft lighting and an unexpected quirkiness encourage guests to settle in, get comfortable, and have a great time. 232 Meeting Street Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 805-5900 or

Husk. Centrally located in historic downtown Charleston, Husk, the newest offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group, transforms the essence of Southern food. Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston. Husk serves seasonally-inspired cuisine with a commitment to using local and sustainable foods. I hear from a local that Husk Bar, a separate building has great cocktails and martinis). 76 Queen Street Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 577-2500 or

Hanks Seafood. At Hank's, Chef Frank McMahon has fashioned a menu that re-creates that of a classic Charleston fish house serving a creative blend of traditional fried seafood platters and time-honored Low Country dishes. Chef McMahon also showcases his creativity with local, sustainable, and contemporary culinary fare. Hank's, overlooking the historic market, is modeled after the great Charleston fish houses of the 1940s and is located in a turn-of-the-century warehouse now designated as a national historic landmark. NewYork-based architectural firm Bentel & Bentel, famous for designing some of New York City's most popular restaurants, set the stage for local interior designer Amelia Handegan to create a convivial atmosphere. Authentic details abound with mahogany frames, hand-blown leaded glass windows, and custom-distressed stained pine. Antique tiling accents the pine plank floors and zinc and copper encase the exhibition raw bar, which serves as a focal point within the restaurant. Corner of Church and Hayne Streets Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 723-3474 or

SNOB. SNOB stands for Slightly North of Broad, which references its location. Here the dining room is a natural extension of the kitchen, a place where culinary skill, a clever, considered wine program, warm service, and conversations meld together. Our local farmers, fishermen and producers are as integral to the food we make as they are to our place in this community. 192 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 723-3424 or

Circa 1886 at Wentworth Mansion. Chef Marc Collins draws inspiration from many cuisines around the world to create a menu that is truly unique to Charleston’s fine dining restaurant scene. Drawing inspiration from historic Southern dishes and always highlighting what is local and in season, Chef Collins puts a healthful, distinctive spin on classic Lowcountry dishes. This means there is less butter and cream than typically found on Southern menus. Whole grains are incorporated to dishes and ingredients are used at the peak of flavor. The result is satisfying dishes that retain their bright, bold flavors without the large amounts of fat found in many restaurant dishes. From our Plantation Rice Bread Rolls made in house daily, to the selection of local fresh seafood, to Pastry Chef Lovorn’s incredible desserts, Circa 1886 promises one of the best restaurant experiences in Charleston, the region we call home. 149 Wentworth Street Charleston, SC 29403. (843) 853-7828 or

High Cotton. High steppin' Lowcountry living. It's a feeling of warmth and celebration that begins the moment you step inside. You'll find it in our gracious, knowledgeable servers, expertly prepared dishes and a remarkable wine and cocktail program. From conversation and laughter in our bar to our stylish dining rooms of heart pine floors and antique brick, you'll come to understand true Charleston hospitality. That is, there's always cause for celebration - of our neighbors, our food and drink and each other. It's our great pleasure to share it with you. 199 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 2940.1 (843) 724-3815 or

Charleston Grill at Charleston Place Hotel. General Manager Mickey Bakst and his staff have carefully curated an ambiance that is all at once mellow and lively, traditional and contemporary. Soft jazz bounces off of wood-paneled walls and crisp, white tablecloths. Servers trained in the French tradition delight guests with each menu suggestion and wine pairing. Seamless service, orchestrated by the attentive, knowledgeable and approachable staff, sets the stage for an unforgettable dining experience.The menu, which changes regularly, is divided into four categories: Pure, Lush, Southern, and Cosmopolitan, each section beautifully reflecting its title, or allow the chef to create your own special tasting menu. Jazz Nightly. 224 King Street Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 577-4522 or

Blossom. Blossom, located on historic East Bay Street in downtown Charleston, S.C., serves American cuisine highlighting the Lowcountry’s best seafood. Executive chef Adam Close and his team offer simple, clean dishes, featuring local, seasonal ingredients sourced from area fishermen and farmers, such as Cornmeal Fried Oyster Salad with candied bacon, cherry tomatoes, bacon jam, cornbread croutons, drunken goat cheese, bacon vinaigrette; Cast Iron Skillet Scallops with white cheddar grits, creamy charred corn, leeks, and beer mustard beurre blanc; and Pan Roasted Mahi Mahi with rock shrimp, creamy rice pirloo, and tomato butter. 171 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 722-9200 or

Cypress. Cypress, housed in a historic two-story building on East Bay Street in downtown Charleston, S.C., opened in 2001. Led by two-time James Beard nominee Craig Deihl, the team at Cypress uses Lowcountry ingredients to showcase Deihl’s signature style. The menu, which includes dishes such as Crisp Wasabi Tuna with a ginger-garlic glaze and Certified Angus Beef Filet of Beef with housemade Boursin cheese, is complemented by a wine list displayed in a three-story wine wall, featuring vintages from well-known to small, boutique wineries around the world. The menu also includes selections from Deihl’s award-winning in-house charcuterie program, the Artisan Meat Share, which produces over 80 types of meats. 167 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 727-0111 or

Basil Restaurant. Invigorating dining experience in the heart of downtown Charleston. Basil's infectious atmosphere centers around a prominent glass kitchen as the sound of heat to metal, blade to board and liquid to flame resonate throughout the restaurant. Dine with us and celebrate quality cuisine made with the finest, freshest ingredients. 460 King Street Charleston SC 29401. (843) 724-3490 or

Rooftop Bar and Grill at the Vendue. Want a good view of downtown Charleston and the bay? ‘Nuff said. Supposed to reopen after renovations in March – hopefully in time for our arrival! 23 Vendue Range Charleston SC 29401. (843) 723-0485 or

Fish. South Carolina’s singular French Master Chef Nico Romo reimagines classic French cuisine with delicate Asian touches and unrivaled presentation at Fish Restaurant. Our always-changing menu showcases the finest local and sustainable ingredients, resulting in fresh and flavorful dishes that engage and inspire. Chef Romo and our passionate culinary team work closely with local fishermen and farmers to source the freshest, most flavorful ingredients complementing seasonal harvests. Featuring fresh-off-the-boat seafood and locally harvested produce, Fish’s vibrant fare spans farm-raised meats, innovative dim sum, artisan cocktails and boutique wines. Small and large plates feature light fare, family-style bites and hearty entrees, alongside vegan and gluten-free selections. Guests enjoy a relaxed, inviting ambiance inside this restored 1837 Charleston single on Upper King Street. Custom artwork adorns the 20-seat purple heart wood bar and main dining room, a sleek and contemporary space with banquette seating, antiqued mirrors and cork walls. An outdoor courtyard is a perfect blend of tucked away privacy and Upper King Street views. Upstairs, Fish's new second floor dining venue features an open floor plan with flexible seating for up to 70 seated guests. Just outside, the piazza offers additional gathering space overlooking the interior courtyard and Upper King Street. 442 King Street Charleston, SC 29401. (843) 722-FISH or

IL Cortile Del Re. It is our intention to offer you our hopitality today and we wish tomorrow too. In our space we have made an "Enoteca con Cucina", which you can find in the big and small centers of Italy. A place for enjoyable conversations and traditional Italian foods. We offer big and small plates as well as a full bar. Our wine selections are primarily Italian, but we do offer several American choices. Our food is prepared at the moment for you ...your patience is our quality. We believe it is not necessary to spend excessively to enjoy quality wine. Our list has always been affordable and most of our wines are offered by the glass.428 King Street Charleston SC 29401. (843) 853-1888 or


Toast. Best breakfast in Charleston? Find out. 155 Meeting Street Charleston, SC 29401. 843.534.0043 or
Red Drum Gastropub. According to my contacts, it is worth the drive. Welcome to the intersection of South by Southwest. It’s a wood-grilled steak and a 2005 Luigi Bosca Malbec by candlelight in the Wine Room. It’s Crab Meat Tostaditas and cocktails in deep sofas by an adobe fireplace under the stars. It’s the islanders’ hangout where the food honors Southern heritage and Chef/Owner Ben Berryhill’s Texan cuisine. It’s named for a prized local fish and everybody knows when supper’s over, there’s great live music for dancing in the bar that Imbibe magazine ordains one of the “Best Places in America to Have a Beer.” Is this a great country, or what? 803 Coleman Boulevard Mount Pleasant, SC 29464. 843.849.0313 or
Old Village Post House. This post house is a neighborhood tavern and inn nestled in Mount Pleasant's historic Old Village. In feel and décor, it's as comfortable as your best friend's home - from the original worn pine floors to our lively tavern. We delight in the quality of our producers and devote ourselves to skillful preparation that brings joy to both maker and guest. We believe the tastiest fare is even better with noteworthy wines and cocktails. 101 Pitt St. Mount Pleasant, SC 29464. (843) 388-8935 or

Magnolia Cemetery 70 Cunnington Ave. Charleston, SC 29405 843.722.8638

This is a historic cemetery that was first opened in 1850. It was a former rice plantation. Magnolia Cemetery has beautiful landscaped grounds and paths. Charlestonians would come to Magnolia to picnic and play.

Charleston Water Taxi Charleston Maritime Center Charleston, SC 29401

843.330.2989 Price $10.00 per person

This is the best way to see Charleston harbor. The taxi runs every hour between Waterfront Park/Historic districts, Aquarium Wharf, Patriots Point and Charleston Harbor Resort with dolphin sighting in between.
Old Exchange & Provost 122 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401 843.727.2165 Price: $9.00 per person

History comes to life as Colonial dressed guides talk about Pirates, Patriots, and Presidents. Explore spots where pirates were once held and explore a section of the 1698 fortification that once protected the Walled City. This walled city was completed in 1771 as the New exchange and Customs House, this is recognized today as South Carolina’s most historic building. Patriots were held as prisoners, the Constitution was ratified and George Washington was entertained.

Ghosts of The South 84 North Market St Charleston, SC 29401 843.343.9255

This tour is located in downtown Charleston, SC. It has been in business for about 80 years. The company gives nightly tours of the historical district.

South Carolina Aquarium Per Person $24.95

Explore more than 60 fascinating exhibits at the South Carolina Aquarium, located on historic Charleston Harbor. See and learn about a wide variety of animals including alligators, river otters, sea turtles, owls, jellyfish, stingrays and sharks. Explore the habitats of many animals that call South Carolina home as you journey from the mountains to the sea. Choose admission only or upgrade to the premier pass to watch a 4-D film! 100 Aquarium Wharf,

Charleston, SC 2940.
Friends Of The Hunley 1250 Supply Street Charleston, SC 29405 843.744.1488

In 1864, the Hunley became the world’s first successful combat submarine and then mysteriously vanished. Lost at sea for over a century, the Hunley was recovered from the sea in 2000. These tours are on provided on the weekend.

Charleston Carriage Historic Tours. Palmetto Carriage Works is the oldest carriage tour company in Charleston, and has developed the greatest carriage experience in the city! A must on things to do in Charleston during your visit with us. During your one-hour, fully narrated tour through the streets of historic Charleston, your guide will recount the vibrant tale of the city's exquisite history with over three hundred years of information. Also, your tour begins and ends in our Red Barn, so you can purchase drinks or snacks, use the restroom, and interact with our animals before your tour begins. Our barn is also handicap accessible. From the ground crew that assists in the carriage loading to the guide that leads your tour, Palmetto Carriage personnel is the most experienced in the industry. Palmetto Carriage prides itself in the quality and longevity of our staff. Over half the employees have over ten years of experience in the carriage tour industry, so you can rest assured that you are getting the highest quality product on the market. A variety of carriages are available to suit your tour party’s needs, from public carriage historic tours, intimate private carriage rides, beautifully decorated wedding carriages, and group tour specials capable of carrying over 200 passengers, Palmetto Carriage Works has defined the carriage tour in Charleston for 40 years. Buy your tickets online to reserve your seats, or just show up. Although the wait time for our tours is generally less than 20 minutes, tours do sell out, so we recommend you purchase tickets in advance. 843-723-8145 or
Patriot’s Point. Just a hop away from Downtown Charleston is Patriot’s point. Come visit the USS Yorktown, USS Clamagore, and more! 40 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464. See:

Charleston Brews Cruise. Charleston is known for its rich history, beautiful beaches, friendly people and now, for its beer! Experience a taste of Charleston’s flourishing beer scene with an exclusive tour of the local craft breweries. Our tours offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the art, science and passion inside every glass of great beer, all while enjoying generous samples of unique Charleston brews. From pale ales to porters, ESBs to IPAs, there’s sure to be beer to suit every taste and you’re sure to discover local favorites. So sit back and relax because we’re doing the driving 1749 Mchenry Ave. Charleston, SC 29412. (843) 860-9847 or
Charleston Tea Party Private Tour. This tour is for the discerning visitor who wishes to experience Old Charleston as a guest, not a tourist. Laura Wichmann Hipp is your knowledgeable and charming guide. A native who loves and knows well the city in which she was born, Laura takes discerning visitors to her friends’ private homes and gardens, in fact caters each tour to the special interests of her visitors. This is the ultimate insider experience and a rare chance for a visitor to see the “real Charleston. The tour ends at lunchtime with an invitation to Tea at Laura’s home overlooking the Ashley River. 843-577-5896 or

Assorted Bulldog Tours. Bulldog Tours, Charleston’s premier walking tour company, offers the very best history, culinary, and ghost tours in town. Our nightly ghost tours have exclusive access to many of Charleston’s most infamous and haunted sites like a visit to a Pre-Revolutionary Dungeon (Charleston Ghost & Dungeon Tour), an uncensored look at Charleston’s past (The Dark Side Tour), a nighttime tour of one of the oldest graveyards in the country (Charleston Ghost & Graveyard Tour), or an inside look at Charleston’s haunted Old City Jail (Haunted Jail Tour). 843-722-8687 or

There is a ton of information available about things to do and places to eat in Charleston via a simple web search. Some helpful sites that you might want to start from are listed below:

This document was compiled by Lorraine Reitzel, and I hope you find it helpful. A hearty thanks to American Express for providing a some information contained in this document as well as to Dr. Sam McQuillin and Dr. Brad Smith for their dining recommendations. Please note that some businesses may change ownership or close over time, so be sure to check with the concierge at the hotel or call venues prior to your departure.

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