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Points of Interest in Charleston

Downtown Historic District

The National Park Service has an excellent list of historic homes and places in Charleston that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic Charleston Religious and Community Buildings.

Charleston Visitor Center
Corner of Meeting and Ann Sts. Specific information on lodging, dining, sightseeing, shopping, special events and transportation. Forever Charleston”, a 20-minute multi-media presentation, will introduce you to the city. Park your car. The Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) provides service throughout the downtown area. Have your parking ticket validated and you can park free for two hours. (Daily. Adm. for film.)

The Battery and White Point Gardens
East Bay and Murray Blvd. Pirates were hanged from the gallows here. Now the gardens provide a lovely view of the harbor and distant Fort Sumter.

Calhoun Mansion
16 Meeting Street George Walton Williams, a wealthy merchant and banker, built this Victorian Baronial Manor House following the Civil War (circa 1876). The 24,000 square-foot mansion has 14-foot ceilings, ornate plaster and wood moldings, elaborate chandeliers, a stairwell that reaches to a 75-foot domed ceiling, as well as a ballroom with a coved glass skylight that is 45 feet high. Used in the films, “Scarlett” and “North and South” and featured on A&E’s “American Castles.”

Edmondston-Alston House
21 East Battery Open Tues. – Sat. 10:00am – 4:30pm; Sun. & Mon. 1:30pm – 4:30pm. $7 all ages 6 to adult. Included in the TV series “America’s Castles”, The Edmondston – Alston House is an elegant example of 19th-century high-style architecture Greek Revival mansion and is a treasure trove of documents, furniture, silver and china. Originally built in 1825, it was rebuilt in 1838 with Greek Revival detailing by Charles Alston, a wealthy rice planter. Alston family furniture, silver and paintings are highlighted during daily guided tours.

Aiken-Rhett House
48 Elizabeth St. (1818) Few houses in the American South provide a more complete document of antebellum life than the Aiken-Rhett house, a property of Historic Charleston Foundation. Initially built by merchant John Robinson after 1817, its acquisition by William Aiken Jr. in 1833 resulted in remodeling which created one of Charleston’s most palatial residences. The intact work yard is one of the nation’s most complete and compelling survivals of African-American urban life.

Rainbow Row
83-107 East Bay Named for 14 private homes which mirror the colors of the rainbow, this section dates from 1740 and was Charleston’s waterfront district during the 18th century.

Nathaniel Russell House
51 Meeting St.Set amid spacious formal gardens, the Russell House is recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical dwellings. Completed in 1808, the house features graceful interiors with elaborate plaster work ornamentation, geometrically shaped rooms and a magnificent free-flying staircase. A property of Historic Charleston Foundation.

Joseph Manigault House
350 Meeting St.A premier example of Adam-style architecture, this c. 1803 home was designed by gentleman architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother , a wealthy Lowcountry rice planter. The outstanding collection of American, English and French furniture captures the lifestyle of a wealthy, rice-planting family. A charming gate temple enhances the garden.

Heyward-Washington House
87 Church Street This historic landmark, c. 1772, was home to Thomas Heyward, Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence. When George Washington visited Charleston in 1791, the house was rented for his use. Furnished with an extraordinary collection of Charleston-made furniture, there is also a period formal garden and restored kitchen building.

Trott Cottage
85 Cumberland Street
Owned by Judge Nicholas Trott (appointed in 1699 by the Lords Proprietors as the first Attorney General for the Southern portion of the Province of Carolina). Features extensive collection of Southern Literature, literary memorabilia, documents, prints and period furnishings.  Book, Tea and Gift Shop. Tea served in the garden. 843-722-8430

Old Powder Magazine
79 Cumberland
The Old Powder Magazine is the oldest public building c. 1713, remaining in North or South Carolina. In the late 1600’s, the construction of walls around the city and the building of harbor forts added to the defensive character of Charleston. The Powder Magazine was crucial to storage of powder for defense of the city. Although replaced by a newer magazine in 1748, it continued to serve effectively for its purpose into the period of the American Revolution. It served various uses from a printing house, storage building and livery stable, until it was acquired by the Colonial Dames in 1899 and restored as an important reminder of historic colonial Charleston. Today the Powder Magazine has been restored to its mid-nineteenth century appearance and is open as a National Historic site with an exciting exhibit on early colonial Charleston.  843-805-6730

The Old City Market
On Market between Meeting and East Bay
Built in 1841, it features small shops, restaurants and a flea market with everything from produce to antiques. The main building houses the Daughters of the Confederacy Museum. (Museum hours and days vary seasonally. Adm. 843-723-1541 before noon)

Old Slave Mart
6 Chalmers Street
One of the licensed buildings where slaves were sold at auction in Charleston.

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church St.
The first building in America designed solely for theatrical use, built on the site of one of America’s first playhouses, it is a combination of the reconstruction of an early Georgian playhouse and the preservation of the old Planters Hotel (c. 1809). On February 12, 1936, the New Theatre in Dock Street opened. Today, in the reconstructed theatre, performances are given throughout the year by the Charleston Stage Company, the theatre company in residence. Monday-Friday noon-6 pm.  843-720-3968 or 843-577-5967

Magnolia Cemetery
70 Cunnington Ave.
The oldest cemetery in Charleston, founded in 1849 on the banks of the Cooper River, is inhabited by generations of southern leaders. On the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors are welcome. 8:00 am-5:00 pm. Free.  843-722-8638

Museums

Gibbes Museum of Art
135 Meeting St. Outstanding collections of American art and portraits relating to Southern history. The collection of miniatures is one of the world’s finest. (Tues-Sa; Su & M p.m. Adm. 843-722-2706

The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
122 East Bay at Broad No other Charleston attraction presents so much of our American history as does the Old Exchange. Built by the British as the Exchange and Customs House between 1767 and 1771, American Patriots were held prisoner in the Provost during the Revolutionary War. S.C. delegates to the First Continental Congress were elected here in 1774. Visitors see the Half-Moon Battery portion of the Charles Towne Sea Wall built to defend the colony from pirates in the late 1600’s. The Old Exchange stands as one of the three most historically significant buildings of colonial America. Pirate and George Washington Scavenger Hunts, available in our gift shop, are great activities to entertain children while exploring historic downtown Charleston.  Adults: $6.00, age 7-12: $3.50, 6& under: free. 843-727-2165

Charleston Museum
360 Meeting St. America’s first and oldest museum interprets the story and natural history of the Lowcountry through artifacts, treasures and exhibits. For children, the “Discover Me” room. (M-Sa 9-5, Su 1-5 $7, $4 3-12.  843-722-2996)

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
68 Spring StreetDedicated to the preservation of original handwritten documents of the men and women who have shaped history. Free. 843-853-4651

Charleston City Hall
Meeting and Broad Sts. Built c. 1801, the City Council Chamber contains valuable works of art including the John Trumbull portrait of George Washington, dated 1791. (M-F. Free)

The Citadel
Charleston. Follow Ashley Ave to Hampton Park, Moultrie St. leads to the grounds. Established in 1842, has an excellent museum of military artifacts and equipment. (Museum: Su-F 2-5; Sa 12-5. Free. 843-953-5006)

The College of Charleston
St. Philip and George Streets Founded in 1770, it was the first municipal college in America, built on land that was set aside for educational purposes in 1724. The present main building was built in 1828 after a design by William Strickland, an eminent Philadelphia architect, and paid for by voluntary subscription by the people of Charleston. The portico and wings were added in 1850 by Edward Brickell White, a South Carolinian.  843-953-5507

Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture
College of Charleston, 125 Bull St Beautifully restored facility, Houses permanent and visiting exhibits and archives relating to the history of the sea islands and the “Gullah” culture. This was the site of the Avery Normal Institute (c. 1865), one of the most prestigious African-American private schools in the country.  Research Center’s purpose is to document, preserve, and make public the unique historical and cultural heritage of South Carolina Lowcountry African-Americans. Tour of building includes exhibits and archives. Reading room and archives open 12:00 – 5:00 pm Monday-Saturday. Walk in tours open Monday-Friday 2:00-4:00 pm and Saturday 12:00-5:00 pm. Group Tours by appointment. (1990 Carolopolis Award).  843-727-2009

PLANTATIONS

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
3550 Ashley River Road, S.C. Scenic Hwy. 61, about 10 miles past U.S. 17 Magnolia Plantation and Gardens has been in the same family since the arrival of Thomas Drayton from Barbados in 1671. This 17th century estate, acquired by the Drayton family (whose heirs still own it) features the year-round bloom of America’s oldest gardens (c.1680), boasting one of the largest collections of azaleas and camellias in the country. Highlights include the Pre-Revolutionary War Plantation House with museum-quality Early American antiques, Biblical Garden, antebellum cabin, horticultural maze, Nature Train, Nature Boat, wildlife observation tower, gift shop, Gallery of Nature and Wildlife Artists, snack shop, canoe and bike rentals. Bird walks Saturday a.m. Leashed pets welcome. Open daily 8 a.m. until dusk; ticket sales end at 5 p.m. EST or 5:30 p.m. DST. Call for Nov.-Feb. hours.  843-571-1266 or 800 -367-3517

Drayton Hall
Ashley River Road, Highway 61, 9 miles northwest of Charleston. Owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the State of SC Built 1738 Completed in 1742, the historic house stands majestically on a 125-acre site. It is the only plantation house remaining on the Ashley River that survived the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. This masterpiece of Georgian Palladian architecture is filled not with furniture, but with original 18th century craftsmanship. A National Trust Historic Site. Admission includes guided tour of the house, self-guided nature walks, and an African-American Focus Program. Adults: $10.00 Mar., Apr., Sept., Oct.; $8.00 remainder of year. Open daily 9:30am – 3pm: Nov-Feb; 9:30am – 4pm: March-Oct; closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  843-766-0188

Middleton Place
4300 Ashley River Rd., (Hwy. 61). 14 miles NW of Charleston. A National Historic Landmark. Surrounded by America’s oldest landscaped Gardens and adjacent to the Plantation Stable yards, today’s Middleton Place House Museum interprets the Middleton’s role (1741-1865) in America’s history with family portraits, furniture, silver, china and documents belonging to Middletons who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Ordinance of Secession.  18th century elegance in America’s oldest landscaped gardens. Grand terraces, vast plantings and the famous Butterfly Lakes. The plantation stable yard features livestock artifacts and craft exhibits of the 18th and 19th centuries. Open daily 9:00am – 5:00pm. $15 Gardens & Stable yards, $7 Gardens & Stables – children, $7 House Museum (all ages) 6 to adult.  843-556-6020 or 800-782-3608

Boone Hall Plantation
1235 Long Point Rd., Highway 17, 8 miles north of Charleston, Mt. Pleasant Dating from 1681, the current mansion is on the site of original house, originally a cotton plantation of over 17,000 acres, has one of the most majestic avenues of moss-draped live oaks in the South, planted in 1743 by Captain Thomas Boone. Original plantation buildings include nine 18th century slave cabins, built of brick made on the plantation, and the Gin House, used for processing cotton. Visitors receive a guided tour of the first floor of the plantation mansion.  April 1-Labor Day: Mon.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.- 6:30 p.m., Sun 1-5 p.m.; Labor Day – March 31: Mon-Sat:9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun: 1-4 p.m.. Adults: $12.50, Children , 6-12: $6.00, under 6 free. Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas.  843-884-4371

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
Long Point Rd. (opposite Boone Hall Plantation), Mt. Pleasant, SC This is the last protected remnant of Snee Farm, the country estate of Charles Pinckney (1754-1824). Pinckney was a statesman, revolutionary war officer and principal framer of the US Constitution who served four terms as Governor of South Carolina and in the State Assembly. He also served in the US Senate, House of Representatives and as President Jefferson’s Minister to Spain. Today, 28 acres are preserved, including archeological remains of brick foundations and an unfurnished 1820s tidewater cottage. The site also interprets African-American life during the colonial era. No admission fee; self-guided tours of the grounds and house. Open daily 9 am – 5 pm (open until 6 pm Memorial Day through Labor Day).  843-881-5516

HISTORIC FORTS AND MILITARY INSTALLATIONS

Fort Sumter
Construction of the fort on this man-made island began in 1829 and was still not completed on December 26,1860, when, under cover of darkness, Major Robert Anderson moved his troops from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces at Fort Johnson fired the first shot of the Civil War at Union-occupied Fort Sumter. After a 34 hour bombardment, Major Anderson surrendered and Confederate troops occupied the fort. Fort Sumter then became a symbol of Southern resistance. Union forces on Morris Island bombarded Fort Sumter from 1863 to 1865 in one of the longest sieges in warfare. By February 17, 1865, when the Confederates evacuated the fort, it was little more than a heap of rubble. The fort may be visited by private boat or by Fort Sumter Tour Boat. Mon. – Sun. 9 am – 5 pm. 843-883-312

H. L. Hunley Submarine
First submarine to sink and enemy ship is being preserved and is open to the public for tours.  Please visit the link above to obtain information.

Fort Moultrie
Sullivan’s Island The current structure was completed in 1809 and is the third fort on this site. The original palmetto log fort was started in 1776 and was only half completed when attacked by a British fleet on June 28, 1776. Colonel William Moultrie’s South Carolinians repelled this assault in one of the first decisive patriot victories of the Revolution. This battle began a tradition of seacoast defense on Sullivan’s Island which did not end until 1947. The National Park Service administers Fort Moultrie as part of the Fort Sumter National Monument. The interior of the fort has been restored to reflect the story of American seacoast defense, and a visitor center is located opposite the fort. 20-minute film on the hour and 1/2 hour. West Middle St. on Sullivan’s Island, 10 miles east of Charleston, SC. Daily, 9 am – 5 pm. Adults $2, children under 16 $1; $5 per family maximum admission fee. 843-883-3123 Fort Dorchester
SC Highway 1642. Dorchester was settled in 1696 by a small group of Congregationalists on a high bluff on the east bank of the Ashley River. Today, the ruins of Fort Dorchester, old St. George’s Church, and interesting archaeological excavations mark the site of Dorchester. 20 miles northwest of Charleston. Open daily 9 am-6 pm. Admission $1.50; under 15 free. 843-873-1740

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
North on U.S. 17 out of Charleston40 Patriots Point Rd., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Home of the famous WWII aircraft carrier YORKTOWN. It houses exhibits of bomber and fighter planes on the hangar bay and showcases letters and mementoes of the crew. Also, submarine CLAMAGORE, destroyer LAFFEY, Coast Guard cutter INGHAM, and the Medal of Honor Museum. Vintage military aircraft and weapons on display, a re-creation of a Viet Nam naval support base, living and working areas of ships open for tour. Gift shop. Located on Charleston Harbor in Mt. Pleasant (at foot of Cooper River Bridges). Open daily, 9 am – 5 pm, winter; 9 am – 6 pm; summer. Adults, $11, Children, 6-11 $5.50, under 6 free. Discounts Available.  843-884-2727

OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
1500 Old Towne Rd., Off S.C. 171 about 3 mi. N.W. of downtown Charleston Here, over 300 years ago, colonists established the first permanent English settlement in the Carolinas. This protected historic site and nature preserve highlights archaeological investigation, living history, a reproduction 17th Century sailing vessel, natural habitat zoo, and beautiful Lowcountry vistas. Explore seven miles of pathways through beautiful English park gardens, walk through the enclosed pathways of the animal forest, and view the Settlers’ Life Area where 17th-century herbs and plants are grown.  Open 7 days a week 8:30 – 5:00. Admission: 15 yrs. & over: $5.00, 6-14 yrs.: $2.50, senior citizens: $2.50. 843-852-4200

Angel Oak
Bohicket and Maybank Roads, Angel Oak Rd. (off of Bohicket Rd.), Johns Island Owned and operated by the City of Charleston Department of Parks. The Angel Oak is a Live Oak tree, reputed to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi it is estimated to be 1,400 years old. Live oaks are not particularly tall, but have wide spreading canopies. Only in the very oldest of specimens do you find massive limbs resting on the ground, as do the limbs of the Angel Oak. It stands 65ft. high and provides a 17,000 square foot area of shade. Open daily 9am – 5pm. No admission charge. 843-559-3496

Cypress Gardens
24 miles north of Charleston on Cooper River between Goose Creek and Moncks Corner off Hwy 52175 acres park includes beautiful swamp and gardens, walk through the Butterfly House, Cypress Gardens Aquarium, 3.5 miles walking paths and boat rides through the gardens. Tours are self guided. Admission is charged. 843-553-0515

Caw Caw Interpretive Center
5200 Savannah Highway (Hwy 17 South), Ravenel, SC. This 643 acre park site showcases Charleston’s natural, historical and cultural heritage. Caw Caw offers the opportunity to highlight the significance of successful rice cultivation due to the technology brought to this country by Africans. Caw Caw has environmental education classrooms with laboratory facilities, an exhibit area, a nature oriented gift shop, and restroom facilities. In addition, park visitors may enjoy eight miles of nature trails and boardwalks through the cypress swamp, oak forest, and salt and fresh water marsh. Interpretive signage enhances the natural and historical.  (843) 889-8898 or 762-2172

RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES

South Carolina Aquarium
End of Calhoun Street 330,000 gallon ocean tank, lots of sharks; river otters, sea horses, jellyfish, moray eels, alligators, a 200 lb Loggerhead turtle, horseshoe crabs, and more. Aug 16-Jun 14, 9-5; Jun 15-Aug 15, 9-6; closed Christmas Day. 843-720-1990

Edisto Beach State Park, Edisto Island
U.S. 17 South to Hwy. 174 to Edisto Island Three miles of beach with cabins by the marsh and campsites by the ocean.

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
Off U.S. 17 North, 20 miles north of Charleston. 60,000 acre refuge of barrier islands and salt marsh wildlife refuges. A boat leaves several times a week from Moore’s Landing for a day trip to Bulls Island. 843-928-3411 for reservations and information. Fee for boat trip.

Audubon Sanctuary and & Center; Francis Beidler Forest
35 miles N.W. of Charleston. Take 1-26 W. to exit 187; S. on S.C. 27 to U.S. 78; W. to U.S. 178 and follow signs. The 11,000-acre sanctuary for plant and animal life is located in Four Holes Swamp and contains the largest remaining virgin stand of bald cypress and tupelo trees in the world. A mile-and-one-half (6,500-ft.) boardwalk begins at the Visitor’s Center and sweeps past portions of majestic Four Holes Swamp, where ancient trees, migrating birds, and colorful wildflowers can be quietly observed. 35 miles NW of Charleston, Exit 187-SC 187 off I-26, 9:00 am-5:00 pm, Tues.-Sun. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Adults/$5.00, 6-18 years/$2.00, Children under 6/free.  843-462-2150

Givhans Ferry State Park
16 miles west of Summerville on S.C. 6 Cabins and camping along the high bluffs overlooking the black waters of the Edisto River.

Francis Marion National Forest
A 250-thousand-acre forest located in the Coastal Plains north of Charleston. The forest offers wide variety of recreation activities including picnicking & camping sites, boat ramps, fishing ponds, rifle ranges, hiking, horse & motorcycle trails. For more information write: District Ranger, Witherbee Ranger District, HCR 69, Box 1532, Moncks Corner, SC 29461 or write: District Ranger, Wambaw Ranger District, PO Box 106, McClellanville, SC 29458. 843-336-3248 or 843-887-3257Hampton Plantation State Park
8 miles north of McClellanville off U.S. 17 The ancestral home, c. 1735, of Archibald Rutledge, Poet Laureate of South Carolina until his death.  The plantation house (c. 1750) and outbuildings are a National Historic Landmark. The park contains several endangered animal species. Extensive educational programs relating to cultural and natural resources are offered for both children and adults. The plantation house is open from 1:00 pm-4:00 pm daily except Tues. and Wed. Grounds are open daily. Free admission. 843-546-9361

Old Dorchester State Park
S.C. 642 about six miles south of Summerville
Congregationalists from Massachusetts settled here overlooking the Ashley River in 1696, but abandoned the community after the Revolution. Picnic near the ruins of the 18th century town and the tabby walls of the old fort. Archaeological relics on display. (Thur-M. Free. 843-873-1740)

Santee Coastal Reserve
Off U.S. 17 just south of the Santee RiverThis 24,000-acre area, including an 11-mile stretch of beach, is a haven for waterfowl, wading birds, alligators, snakes, raccoons and deer. Endangered sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Nature trails, a canoe trail and a bike trail are provided. Beach is accessible only by boat. (M-Sa.; Su. p.m. Closed Nov. 1-Jan. 31. Feb., p.m. only. Free. 843-546-8665)