Charleston Area Local Attractions
Opened in 1905, the Gibbes Museum of Art houses
a nationally significant collection of American and European
paintings reflecting Charleston's past and present. From portraits
and landscapes of the Colonial South to the era of Porgy and
Bess and the preservation of America's most beautiful city,
visitors come face to face with Charleston's history. Each
year, the Gibbes presents dozens of quality exhibits by artist
of regional, national, or international stature.
The Charleston Museum, founded in 1773, is
the first and oldest museum in America. The museum exhibits
the largest silver collection in Charleston, early crafts and
historic relics. Additionally there is an interactive “Discover
Me” room for children to learn and play. Since 1773,
the Charleston Museum has collected and preserved artifacts
pertaining to the cultural and natural history of the Low Country.
Visitors of all ages will be transported back through time,
viewing everything from ancient fossils and an enormous whale
skeleton to elegant costumes and Charleston silver. The museum
also is noted for its exhibits on African-American history,
crafts and slavery. Celebrate history and enjoy the eclectic
array of Charleston's most cherished treasures.
An architectural treasure, this 1876 Victorian
showplace is complete with period furnishings, including a
few original pieces. The antiques decorating the house were
brought from all over the world. There are porcelain-and-etched-glass
gas chandeliers; cherry, oak, and walnut woodwork. A freestanding
spiral staircase reflects the hull of a ship it is one of the
many remarkable features of this house.
This swamp garden was used as a freshwater
reserve for a rice plantation, and was then given to the city
in 1963. Today, the giant cypress trees draped with Spanish
moss provide an unforgettable setting for flat-bottom boats
that glide among their knobby roots. Enjoy a walk through the
butterfly house. Follow the footpaths in the garden and enjoy
the abundance of azaleas, camellias, daffodils, and other colorful
blooms. Visitors share the swamp with alligators, woodpeckers,
wood ducks, otters, barred owls, and other species. The gardens
are worth a visit at any time of year.
The house was built by Charles Edmondston in
1825 on High Battery, an elegant section of Charleston, It
was one of the earliest dwellings constructed in the city in
the late Federalist style. Charles Alston, a Low Country rice
planter, bought it from Edmondston who modified it in Greek
Revival style. The house has remained in the Alston family,
which opened the first two floors to visitors. Inside are heirloom
furnishings, silver, books and paintings. A house worth visiting
for its rich history.
Sumter National Monument
It was here that the first shot of the Civil
War was fired on April 12, 1861. Confederate forces launched
a 34-hour bombardment of the fort. Union forces eventually
surrendered, and the Rebels occupied federal ground that became
a symbol of Southern resistance. This action, however, led
to a declaration of war in Washington. Amazingly, Confederate
troops held onto Sumter for nearly 4 years, although it was
almost continually bombarded by the Union. When evacuation
finally came, the fort was nothing but a heap of rubble. Fort
Sumter became a National Monument in 1948.
In a district of Charleston called Cabbage
Row, this 1772 house was built by Daniel Heyward, called "the
rice king,". It was also the home of Daniel’s son,
Thomas Heyward, Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
President George Washington stayed down here in 1791. Many
of the pieces in the house are the work of Thomas Elfe, one
of America's most famous cabinetmakers. The restored 18th-century
kitchen is the only historic kitchen in the city that is open
to the public. The kitchen stands behind the main house, along
with the servants' quarters and the garden. It was recognized
as a National Historic Landmark in 1978.
This 1803 Adams-style residence, a National
Historic Landmark, was a wealthy rice planter's home. Designed
by architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother, Joseph, this
three-story brick town-house is an exceptional example of Adam-style,
or Federal, architecture. The Manigaults descended from French
Huguenots who came to America to escape persecution in Europe.
Joseph owned plantations, sat in the state legislature, and
was a trustee of the College of Charleston. Gabriel, who owned
plantations and commercial investments, is credited with designing
Charleston’s City Hall and the South Carolina Society
Hall. The house features a curving central staircase and an
outstanding collection of Charlestonian, American, English,
and French period furnishings.
Another fine example of Federal architecture,
this 1808 house was completed by Nathaniel Russell, one of
Charleston's richest merchants. It is celebrated architecturally
for its "free-flying" staircase, spiraling unsupported
for three floors. The staircase's elliptical shape is repeated
throughout the house. The interiors of the house are decorated
with period pieces, especially the elegant music room with
its golden harp and neoclassical-style sofa.
Old Exchange & Provost
One of America’s most historically significant
colonial buildings in the United States. Completed in 1771
during Charles Town’s Golden Age, this building quickly
became the commercial, political and social center of the most
prosperous of Britain’s thirteen American colonies. Then
it served as a prison during the American Revolution. In 1873,
the building became City Hall. It holds a large collection
of antique chairs, supplied by the local Daughters of the American
Revolution, each of whom brought a chair here from home in
1921. A “must see” when visiting Charleston.
The Citadel was established in 1842 as an arsenal
and a refuge for whites in the event of a slave uprising. In
1861, the Corps of Cadets were made part of the military organization
of the state and were known as The Battalion of State Cadets.
The Citadel ceased operation as a college when Union troops
entered Charleston and occupied the site. It reopened again
in 1882 with an enrollment of 185 cadets The Citadel had outgrown
its campus on Marion Square, despite numerous building additions,
and could accommodate only 325 students. In 1918, the City
of Charleston gave the State of South Carolina one hundred
seventy six acres on the banks of the Ashley River for a new
campus. In 1922 the college moved to its current location.
Today, the picturesque campus contains twenty-four
major buildings. There is an enrollment of approximately 1,900
cadets and nineteen degree programs are offered. Women were
admitted into the Corps of Cadets in 1996. The College of Graduate
and Professional Studies offers, during the evening and summer,
coeducational undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The
U.S. News & World Report has ranked The Citadel among the
best colleges in the region in their surveys of "America's
Next to Boone Hall plantation, the Palmetto
Islands County Park is a nature-oriented, 943 acre park designed
for family and groups use. It offers more organized fun in
the form of a big toy playground, mile-long canoe trails, picnic
sites, an observation tower, a water playground, toddler slides,
marsh boardwalks, and plenty of jogging trails and bicycle
paths. Bordering Boone Hall Creek are public fishing and boating
Built in 1818 then expanded and remodeled by
Gov. William Aiken Jr., this palatial town residence showcases
city life in antebellum Charleston. Aiken and his wife traveled
to Europe and bought magnificent crystal and bronze chandeliers,
classical sculptures and paintings to furnish the house. Many
of these objects still remain. The intact work yard is one
of the nation's most complete and compelling examples of African-American
urban life. Original outbuildings include the kitchens, slave
quarters, stables, privies and cattle sheds.
This beautifully restored site of Avery School
(c.1865) is now a research center to document and preserve
the history and cultural heritage of Lowcountry African-Americans.
Nearly 100 manuscripts and photograph collections are archived
here, and the center sponsors lectures, films and exhibits
related to African culture, civil rights and African-American
history. A restored c. 19th-century classroom provides a look
at African-American education from 1865 to 1954.
House & Marker
Born into slavery in the Virgin Islands, Vesey
purchased his freedom from his Charleston slave holder and
settled into life as a carpenter on Bull Street. In 1821 Vesey
home was the meeting place to organize what is considered the
most extensive black insurrection in American history, involving
thousands of free and enslaved blacks in the Charleston area.
Set for July 12, 1822, word of the plot leaked out and Vesey
and 36 others were hanged for their roles. The house is a National
The first theatre in the colonies, Dock Street
opened in 1736 and was lost in the fire of 1740. The Planters
Hotel opened on the site in 1809 and thrived until the 1860s,
when it was damaged during the war and left derelict. The preservation
of the hotel in the mid 1930s included a reconstructed theatre.
The theatre has been in constant use since 1937 and is a major
venue for Spoleto Festival USA each spring. Pre-booked tours
are arranged when possible. Charleston Stage Company is South
Carolina's largest professional theatre company and resides
at the historic Dock Street Theatre. Charleston Stage offers
popular Broadway musicals, award winning dramas and world premiere
original works. Find out more about Charleston Stage at www.charlestonstage.com.
Many other production companies perform at the Dock Street
This 19th-century two-family Freedman's cabin
is on the grounds of Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark
and a carefully preserved 18th-century plantation. The plantation
includes America's oldest landscaped gardens and a Colonial
period stableyard, which are open for tours.
Charleston Foundation Preservation
Shop features a film and exhibits that showcase
Charleston's architectural history. A gift shop contains an
extensive selection of books on Charleston culture, architecture
and history. A separate shop with 18th- and 19th-century Charleston
reproduction furniture and gifts is at 105 Broad St..
The only public building remaining in North
or South Carolina from the period of the Lord Proprietors and
the old public building (c. 1713) in the city of Charleston.
The building was used to store munitions for the city's defense
against repeated onslaughts from marauding Spanish naval vessels
based in St. Augustine. Although replaced by a newer magazine
in 1748, it continued to serve its purpose into the American
Revolution. Restored to its mid-19th century appearance, the
magazine is open as a National Historic Landmark with exhibits
on early Colonial Charleston. The historic Charleston Foundation
offers an exciting audio tour of this historic property.
Point Naval and Maritime Museum
Located on historic Charleston Harbor, Patriots
Point is home to USS YORKTOWN, the Fighting Lady. The first
USS YORKTOWN sank at the battle of Midway on June 7, 1942.
Onboard the decks of this famous World War II aircraft carrier,
you can relive a momentous time in America's history. The Fighting
Lady contains all the evidence of her past; one can see, touch,
feel and smell the past, where young Americans fought and died
to turn the fortunes of war in the Pacific.
Moored next to her is USS LAFFEY, a World
War II destroyer. LAFFEY survived the onslaught of Japanese
kamikaze attacks while off Okinawa as Radar Picket Station
#1 on April 16, 1945. She became known as "the ship that
Also moored alongside are the United States
Coast Guard cutter INGHAM, which fought in the convoy battles
of the North Atlantic and sank a German U-boat; and the diesel
attack submarine USS CLAMAGORE.
Onboard YORKTOWN are dozens of displays devoted
to maritime and naval history, the Congressional
Medal of Honor Society's museum and headquarters,
and more than two dozen historic military aircraft are on exhibit.
Ashore is a full-size Navy Advance Tactical Support
Base from the Vietnam era, and our gift shop.
The Old Slave Mart, located on one of Charleston’s
few remaining cobblestone street, is the only known building
used as a slave auction gallery. The last auctions at this
market were in 1863. Presentations here narrate the African-American
experience in Charleston and the SC Lowcountry from their arrival
in 1670 to the modern Civil Rights movement. Permanent exhibits
explore the African sources from which African American culture
emerged, the middle passage, Caribbean influences on America,
slavery, emancipation, reconstruction, arts, cuisine and the
movement towards civil rights.
In the Aquarium visitors can explore Southern
aquatic life in an attraction filled with thousands of creatures
and plants in astonishing habitats. The brand new attraction
is a 93,000-square-foot aquarium featuring a two-story Great
Ocean Tank Exhibition. Contained within are some 800 animals,
including sharks, sea turtles and stingrays. Every afternoon
the aquarium offers a dolphin program, where bottle-nosed dolphins
can be viewed from an open-air terrace. An interesting exhibit
is the replicate of a blackwater swamp, with atmospheric fog,
a spongy floor, and twinkling lights.
Johannes Lutheran Church
Built in 1841, this church is known for its
simplistic beauty and stained glass. It's been called an architectural
gem in the heart of Ansonborough. Well known Charleston architect
E. B. White designed the Greek Revival sanctuary. In 1872,
the congregation of mostly German speaking people moved to
the present sanctuary of St. Matthews Lutheran Church on Marion
Square, but many returned to the Ansonborough location to found
St. Johannes in 1878. German was the language of the congregation
Mary's Roman Catholic Church & Graveyard
It was established in 1789, the oldest Roman
Catholic church in South Carolina. Also it is the mother church
of the dioceses of South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
The church ceiling was hand-painted by Caesare Porte in Rome,
Italy. The present building, replacing an earlier one which
was destroyed by fire in 1838, was completed in 1839. The graveyard
contains names that are predominantly Irish, French, Spanish
and Scot. Among the more famous names is the Marquis de Grasse,
a French naval commander who engaged British forces at Yorktown
during the American Revolution.
Buried here are revolutionaries, politicians,
confederates and artists. Among them are Col. William Rhett,
known as the "Scourge of the Pirates," charged with
bringing the murderous Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet to justice.
Gen. Moultrie, the great defender of Charleston against the
British, is here. Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration
of Independence, Charles Pinckney, a signer of the Constitution,
and John C. Calhoun, a US senator and vice president of the
US also are interred here.
This pre-Revolutionary War period Georgian-style
single house is a Charleston treasure that, for the past several
years, has been open to the public. It was built by Thomas
Elfe, one of America’s most prolific and acclaimed cabinetmakers.
The quality of the woodwork is rare. China cabinets and closets
are artfully worked into each chimney alcove. Finely cut cornice
moldings encircle each room with beautiful simplicity. While
this is still a private home, the fact that its first owner
was a major contributor to the art and lifestyle of Colonial
Charleston keeps it interesting today. It is a showplace for
18th- and 19th-century furnishings.
Thomas Miller was the first president
of South Carolina State University. He served in both houses
of the state legislature and in the US Congress. He successfully
petitioned for a law prohibiting white teachers in black
schools. His home was built in 1860.