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Walking the Historic Streets of Charleston

Historic walking streets of Charleston

Walking the historic streets of the Charleston peninsula is one of the great pleasures of living here. The city began as a small walled fortress that started at what is now East Bay Street and only went back as far as what is now Church Street. As you walk from South to North or East to West, look closely and you can see the city change. Here’s the history of some of the Holy City’s most interesting neighborhoods and streets:

1.  South Battery

Originally named Fort Street, later  South Bay, now South Battery is no longer the five-block carriage lane, but rather one of the the most stunning residential streets in Charleston. South Battery was once a small lane that was part of the original city plan in the 17th century. Pass Broad Street and the famous Rainbow Row, and arrive at White Point Gardens (where pirate gallows once stood) to see stunning examples of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century architecture along the way. 


2. Upper South Battery 

Take a stroll here and enjoy some of the best examples of residential architecture from the Neoclassical Revival Period of the early twentieth century. Completed in 1911 when the city filled in approximately fifty acres of marshland along the Ashley River, Murray Boulevard was named the new thoroughfare for Charleston businessman Andrew Buist Murray. Houses along South Battery that once fronted on the marshes and river are now one block inland. The houses on South Battery and Murray Blvd demonstrates residential architecture that spans three centuries. 


3. Upper Tradd Street  

Upper Tradd also known as the Charlestowne neighborhood, named after the first child of European descent born in Charleston. Tradd Street architecture offers examples of residences built from Federal period to the early 20th century. The Federal style is an interpretation of ancient Greek architecture that was fashionable when archaeologists unearthed Pompeii. This discovery inspired buildings with plain surfaces, murals and friezes and muted architectural details. 


4. Legare Street 

Legare Street (pronounced “LeGREE”) is named for Solomon Legare, a prosperous Huguenot silversmith, who owned the area of land at the intersection of Legare and Tradd Streets. Walk these streets and take in some of Charleston’s most significant houses built in the early 19th century. Charming Charleston single houses, servants quarters, kitchen and carriage houses have been preserved to maintain the character and significance of the city’s historic architecture, but most have renovated interiors for our modern lifestyles. 


5. Meeting Street 

One of the largest streets designed in 1680, Meeting Street is named for the White Meeting House of the Independents. Originally named Meeting House Street it was shortened to Meeting Street in 1765. Many of the architecturally significant homes along this street date from the 18th and 19th centuries. This residential section of Meeting Street stretches south from the historic Four Corners of Law to White Point Gardens and the Ashley River. Meeting street is also home to Charleston’s Museum Mile, and the Calhoun Mansion, one of the most outstanding examples of Italianate architecture in the nation. Tree covered, here is a wonderful area to call home.


6. East Battery & Lower Tradd St. 

Panoramic views of Charleston Harbor make this one of the grandest streets in Charleston. Most houses on this walk belonged to successful maritime merchants who had shops and offices on the first floor and private residences above. Lower Tradd Street, which contains some of the city’s oldest architecture, is part of the “Grand Modell” city plan that was created in 1680.


7. Queen Street 

Charleston charm doesn’t get much more picture-perfect than Queen Street. In 1770, John Harleston subdivided the Coming family tract in this neighborhood but the new homes weren’t to last: In 1861, the Great Fire ravaged this neighborhood. It was rebuilt largely between 1870 and 1890. In many cases, the German merchants favored Queen Anne and Italianate styles with the addition of the double-tiered piazzas.

8. Church Street & Broad Street 

Church Street is a delightful mix of Colonial and Georgian homes, lush pocket gardens, historic churchyards and quaint shops. Many consider this to be one of the most picturesque streets in America.  Named after the “new” St. Philip’s Episcopal Church constructed in 1835, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful streets in America. Church Street features Colonial and Georgian Period dwellings in the heart of the historic district.

One of the most well-known streets in the city, Broad Street includes a thriving business district on the east end and a stately residential neighborhood on the west end. Many of the houses on this tour were built after the great fire of 1861 and the War Between the States. Architectural styles reflect the late Greek Revival and Victorian Periods. North of Broad Street you’ll find Charleston’s energetic business district, while South of Broad is arguably the most beautiful residential neighborhood in the country. Many of the houses here were built after the great fire of 1861. Notice beautifully preserved examples of Greek Revival and Victorian architecture.


9. King Street 

King Street is named for King George I of England. The road was previously called “The Broad Path,” the “High Way,” and also the “Broad Road.” Known for its business and retail establishments, the southern end of King Street is also one of the most charming residential streets in the city. King Street above Broad is Charleston’s shopping mecca. South of Broad, this street has many wonderfully restored Charleston Single houses. 


10. Rutledge Avenue 

Rutledge Avenue is named for John Rutledge, South Carolina Governor and delegate to both the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention.Rutledge Avenue runs through quiet, quaint Harleston Village. Walk these streets and watch the architecture evolve through the early 19th century. Many of the grand homes have been divided into condominiums and are student occupied, but there are still a few intact ones throughout.


11. Montagu Street & Pitt Street

Architecture on this street reflects the tastes of the wealthy planters, intellectuals, and merchants who built homes here. Lots are large and accommodated popular Greek, Italianate and Gothic Revival styles of the period. Former residents are the who’s who of Charleston history, including William Pitt, the defender of American Rights in the Stamp Act crisis. and Sir Charles Greville Montagu, Royal Colonial Governor of South Carolina.


12. Radcliffeborough

Thomas Radcliffe originally owned the land now known as Radcliffeborough. Elegant Radcliffebourough features historic homes from the mid-19th-century; including narrow Charleston single houses, popular with planters who wanted to escape summer heat and humidity on the plantations. 


13. Anson Street 

Ansonbourough homes were largely built after the fire of 1838. These homes feature Greek revival and Regency architecture that mimicked details from imperial Rome. Street is named for the British Naval Officer, Lord Admiral George Anson. In 1746, he subdivided the property that became the city’s first suburb, Ansonborough.


14. Charlotte Street 

During the 18th century, the Mazyck and Wragg families owned the land that makes up the present day Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood. Charlotte Street was named after the daughter of Joseph Wragg. This street runs through the Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood. Many homes here were built in the Federal and Greek Revival periods.

If you’d like to get a better look inside Charleston’s distinctive architecture, history and culture – don’t miss the Preservation Society of Charleston’s Annual Fall Tours of Homes and Gardens.

Historic Garden in Charleston
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