Charleston, South Carolina, (population 107,337), one of America’s most historic and livable cities, was founded by English colonists in 1670 and served as the capital city of the Carolina Colony. Site of the first major naval battle of the Revolution and the opening shots of the Civil War, Charleston has become a leading tourist destination and has used its historic assets to reinvigorate the local economy. The city is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in historic preservation and cultural heritage tourism. Revitalized historic structures contribute to the housing market and retail scene, enhancing the quality of life for Charleston residents.
Charleston protects its historic and architectural legacy, an irreplaceable part of its heritage, through planning, zoning, historic district status, and an active Board of Architectural Review.
Charleston pioneered preservation planning in America, and its 1931 preservation ordinance was the first in the nation to regulate property specifically based on historic significance. Since 1953, more than 1,250 awards have been presented by the Preservation Society of Charleston for outstanding examples of exterior preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, and compatible new construction in the city.
Over the last decade, development in Charleston’s Upper Peninsula has boomed. In 2004 the city, the Historic Charlestown Foundation, and the State Historic Preservation Office undertook an extensive survey of historic architectural resources in the area with an eye towards protecting them from demolition, inappropriate alterations, and insensitive new construction as the area evolves. Community meetings were held to get input, discuss local history with residents, and build community pride in Upper Peninsula resources.
Charleston boasts many museums, archives, and other interpretive facilities, including America’s first museum, founded in 1773. An elementary school curriculum called “Heritage Education” and an extensive program of educational field trips for students and training workshops for teachers integrates Charleston’s historic and cultural resources into local education. Local colleges teach historic preservation and related crafts.
Heritage tourism efforts include walking tours in the Old and Historic District and an on-line National Register travel itinerary for the city. Charleston participates in a regional heritage tourism effort as part of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2005.