Prior to the Civil War and largely built on the back of slavery, Charleston was one of the largest cities in the country. Serving as the country’s major port of entry for the slave trade, it quickly developed into an urban playhouse for successful Southern plantation owners. The nation’s tenth largest city in 1840, its days of economic bliss came to an abrupt end with the Civil War, the devastating 1886 Earthquake, the emergence of Jim Crow and the rapid growth of southern centers around important railroad junctions such as Atlanta, Jacksonville and Birmingham in the early 20th century.
In 1931, the first historic district in the United States was established in the city. After languishing economically for several decades, the city’s fortunes began to change after the 1975 mayoral election of Joseph P. Riley, Jr. With a focus on the advancement of the city’s cultural heritage, the city of 134,385 became a tourism powerhouse and doubled in population by the time Riley left office in 2016.
Here’s a photographic look at the heart of a city known for its rich history and architecture.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at firstname.lastname@example.org