Historic Charleston

One of the oldest cities in the country, Charleston is often described as a living museum with its numerous historic sites. Explore the city’s rich past at these historic locations.

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Dock Street Theatre

Opened in 1735, this working performance arts theatre has a long history of surviving fires, earthquakes, moves and renovations. Most recently remodeled in 2010, Dock Street Theatre remains the heart of Charleston’s arts scene with its performances by the Charleston Stage Company, concert series and Spoleto Arts festivals performances throughout the year.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

Visit the home of “the forgotten founder,” Charles Pinckney, an author and signer of the U.S. Constitution. Take the half-mile tour of the Snee Farm just outside Charleston to learn about his life and the slaves that lived and worked on his lowcountry coastal plantation.

Fort Sumter

While visiting Charleston, don’t miss seeing the location of the official start of the Civil War. Fort Sumter, built after the War of 1812, was the site of the opening Civil War battle on April 12, 1861. Located on an island in Charleston Harbor and only accessible by boat, this national monument is run today by the National Park Service and is open for visitors.

Powder Magazine

South Carolina’s oldest public building, the Powder Magazine was built in 1713 and used as storage for gunpowder during the colonial days and the American Revolution. Today, the historic landmark is a museum showcasing Charleston’s combative history.

Aiken-Rhett House

Located in downtown Charleston, Aiken-Rhett House and Museum was built in 1820 and remains the most well-preserved antebellum house in Charleston. Visitors can tour the grand house that William Aiken Jr., governor of South Carolina and one of its wealthiest citizens, lived in and then later left to his wife, daughter and son-in-law.

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon

This historic treasure in Charleston played many roles in the city’s past -- it was the site of 18th-century assemblies, a prison during the American Revolution, a place where President George Washington greeted locals, and a spot where the Declaration of Independence was read.

Magnolia Cemetery

This historic cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Charleston. Founded in 1849, Magnolia Cemetery is located on the banks of Cooper River and is the final resting place for famous Southerners, like politician William Aiken, Jr., author John Bennett and over 2,200 Civil War soldiers.

Old Slave Mart Museum

Delve into Charleston’s historic role in the inter-state slave trade at the site where the slave auctions occurred.  After the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1780 to include a ban on the importation of African slaves, the demand for domestic slaves increased. The museum not only tells the history of the city’s slave trade, but also the stories and the cultural legacies of the African-Americans who passed through Charleston.

Fort Moultrie

Located on Sullivan’s Island, this series of citadels protected the city of Charleston during the Revolutionary War and almost a century later during the Civil War. The original fort, constructed of palmetto logs, inspired the South Carolina flag and state nickname, “The Palmetto State.”

City Market

Charleston's City Market has a long history dating back to the 1790s after Charles Picnkey donated a strip of his land for the establishment of a public market. Today it’s a popular destination for tourists and locals alike with four city blocks full of food, southern seafood specialties, clothing, artwork and the famous lowcountry sweetgrass baskets, perfect for souvenirs.

Old City Jail

In the heart of the historic district lies the Old City Jail, a remembrance of Charleston’s tumultuous and dark past. The jail housed the city’s most notorious criminals, pirates and Civil War prisoners, and it was the site of the first U.S. female serial killer’s public execution. Not surprisingly, there’s no shortage of ghost stories about this supposedly haunted historic landmark.

H.L. Hunley Submarine

H.L. Hunley earned its place in undersea warfare history as the first submarine to sink a warship. In 1864, the Confederate submarine torpedoed and sank the Union Navy’s largest warship, the Housatonic, and then sank to bottom of the ocean in the Charleston Harbor. Now you can tour the wreck, only recently discovered in the harbor in 1995.

Next Up

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Immerse yourself in Charleston's rich culture, and visit a few historic destinations, including Fort Sumter, the H.L. Hunley Submarine and the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

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