Courtesy Wentworth Mansion

One of America’s earliest cities, Charleston remains among its most elegant. Live oaks line cobblestoned streets, which are still plied by horse-drawn carriages. Settled in 1680 by King Charles II who named the town after himself, the city grew into a bustling seaport bringing goods from Europe, Asia and the Caribbean and exporting cotton, rice, tea and indigo. This trade brought great wealth to the planters and merchants and through the 1800s, Charleston could compete with New York, Boston and Philadelphia as one of America’s most fashionable and advanced cities. Today, Charleston encompasses the best of two disparate but equally engaging cultures: the aged hush of cobblestoned European hamlets and the welcoming hospitality of the American South. The city remains a living museum of early American urban planning, architecture, social customs and the decorative arts, while hosting young creatives with innovative endeavors. It is a place where horse-drawn carriages rival pedicabs for transportation.

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Lay of the Land

Charleston is located on a peninsula bordered by two rivers: the Cooper and Ashley. In its early years, wealthy inhabitants considered only the areas south of Broad Street acceptable neighborhoods. Subsequently, this invisible boundary marker moved north to Calhoun Street, creating the town’s current center around Market and Queen Streets. As the town continues to outgrow its geographical restrictions, north Charleston is beginning to open up and today boasts fun restaurants and shops, especially on Upper King.

Plantations, a source of great wealth to the area, are dotted around South Carolina, but were quite often the home to malaria-ridden mosquitoes. Wealthy planters built houses in town to escape the deadly disease, and to be closer to cultural happenings.

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