Visitors to Charleston are greeted with a delightful array of sights and activities all year around. The colonial port city is famous for its horse-drawn carriage tours that take visitors over cobblestone streets through quaint colonial neighborhoods. The historic district consists of more than 2,000 preserved and restored buildings, 73 of which are pre-Revolutionary, 136 date from the 1700s, and 600 from the early 1800s.
Using guide services, boat and motorized trolley tours, or walking or bicycling with directions on audio cassettes, visitors can view Charleston's historic and stately buildings and churches. Opened in 1736, the Dock Street Theatre was one of the nation's first theaters. Later, the Planters Hotel, built around the ruins of the theater, was a gathering spot where "Planters Punch" is said to have originated; the hotel was remodeled into the Dock Street Theatre in the mid-1930s. Performances are currently given in the theater and its foyer. Completed in 1772 by Daniel Heyward, the Heyward-Washington House was the property of Thomas Heyward, delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence; the house is furnished with period furnishings, and visitors may tour the only restored eighteenth-century kitchen open to the public in Charleston. The Aiken-Rhett House, built in 1817, contains some of the finest rooms of the Greek Revival and rococo styles in the city. Built between 1767 and 1771, the Old Exchange was the site of the election of South Carolina's delegates to the first Continental Congress in 1774. Although its Provost Dungeon was used by the British to confine prisoners during the Revolution, the U.S. Constitution was ratified at the Old Exchange in 1787; the building was later used as a customs house and post office and is now open to the public. The Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture in the beautifully restored former Avery School preserves and makes public the historical and cultural heritage of South Carolina low country African Americans. The Cabbage Row section of Church St. was the inspirational setting for Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" opera.
The oldest church in the city is St. Michael's Episcopal Church, which was completed in 1761. The edifice was designed after St. Martin's-in-the-Field in London; richly ornamented, the church includes a clock and bells operating since 1764. The mother church of the province, St. Philip's Episcopal Church originally stood on the site where St. Michael's Episcopal Church stands today; the present edifice was constructed between 1835 and 1838. St. Philip's churchyard contains the graves of John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War and Vice President of the United States; Edward Rutledge, signer of the Declaration of Independence; Charles Pinckney, signer of the U.S. Constitution; and DuBose Heyward, author of the novel Porgy. Construction for the Unitarian Church was begun in 1772, but work was stopped during the Revolution and not completed until 1787; remodeled in 1852, the church is noted for its fan-tracery ceiling and striking stained-glass windows. The Circular Congregational Church was designed by Robert Mills, built in 1806, and destroyed by fire in 1861; 30 years later the original brick was used to erect the present building on the site. The First Baptist Church, also designed by Robert Mills, was completed in 1821; its original congregation founded the Anabaptist Church in 1682 in Kittery, Maine, and, fleeing persecution from the Puritans, settled in colonial Charles Towne. Congregation Beth Elohim, an imposing Greek Revival building dating from 1841, is the oldest synagogue in the United States in continuous use; this synagogue introduced a liberalized ritual using instrumental music during the service for the first time and is recognized as the birthplace of Reform Judaism in the nation.
Built before 1760, the perfectly scaled miniature of a Charleston "single house" known as the Thomas Elfe Workshop features cypress woodwork, collections of cabinetmaking tools, and excavated artifacts in a privately restored setting. The first Adam-style house in Charleston, the Joseph Manigault House, was designed by Charleston architect Gabriel Manigault; completed in 1803, the house is a parallelogram with half-moon bows at either end and features French, English, and Charleston-made furniture, as well as a restored garden. The Nathaniel Russell House, built in 1808, is noted for its astonishing flying staircase spirals, oval drawing rooms, and extensive interior detailing, as well as for its fine china, silver, and furniture. St. John's Lutheran Church, the mother church of the South Carolina Synod of the Lutheran Church in America, is noted for its wrought iron gates and fence; the first church on the site was built in 1759, and the present building dates from 1817. The French Huguenot Church was built in the 1840s; each spring a French liturgy service is held to commemorate the French Huguenots who fled religious persecution and settled in Charleston.
Visitors to Charleston will also enjoy the numerous gardens, parks, and plantations. Rainbow Row, north of the Battery along East Bay Street, is one of Charleston's most famous sections. Throughout the district are walled gardens, noted for their lavish floral displays and lacy ironwork. Charles Towne Landing is the original site of South Carolina's first permanent English settlement; this extensive park features the original colony's history at an interpretive center and reconstructed earthworks and palisade, as well as a replica of a seventeenth-century trading vessel moored in Old Towne Creek. Animals indigenous to South Carolina in 1670 roam in the Animal Forest behind concealed barriers, while the Settlers' Life Area invites visitors to participate in activities typical of early colonists' lives. Fort Sumter, where the Civil War's armed conflict began, is on a man-made island; visitors reach the island, now a National Monument, by boat from the Municipal Marina and Patriots Point. Snee Farm is a remnant of the plantation home of Charles Pinckney, a principal architect and signer of the U.S. Constitution. Boone Hall Plantation, McLeod Plantation on James Island, Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place rice plantation are other area plantations not to be missed.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center is a 643-acre park highlighting Charleston's historical, natural and cultural heritage, especially the practice of rice cultivation brought to the country by Africans. Its eight miles of trails and boardwalks meander through marshland, swamp and oak forest. A famous landmark in Charleston is the Angel Oak; estimated to be about 1,400 years old, this giant tree has a circumference of 23 feet and a limb spread of 151 feet. James Island County Park allows crabbing and fishing from floating docks along tidal creeks and lagoons, and offers bike paths, pedal boats, kayaks, picnicking, and 50-foot climbing wall. Its Splash Zone water-park is open seasonally. North Charleston Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston features family fun and a Whirlin' Waters waterpark. Other Charleston-area parks include Cypress Gardens and the Audubon Swamp Garden.
Among the tours offered to Charleston visitors is a "Ghosts of Charleston" guided walking tour of haunted sites. Other tours feature a history of the pirates of the area and the story of Charleston. Drayton Hall conducts daily walking tours of Charleston's preservation movement, architecture, and history departing from Marion Square. Carriage tours, van tours and water and harbor tours are also popular.
Arts and Culture
In 1735 Charleston's Dock Street Theatre opened as the first building in the American colonies to be used for theatrical productions. In that same year Charleston audiences saw the first opera performed in the New World, and by the 1790s the city supported a symphony orchestra. Jenny Lind, Sarah Bernhardt, Adelina Patti and other internationally known performers brought their talents to Charleston theaters in the nineteenth century. Local playwright and novelist DuBose Heyward collaborated with composer George Gershwin in the 1930s to produce the musical drama "Porgy and Bess," based on Heyward's novel Porgy.
Today the vitality of the arts in Charleston can be deduced from the tremendous success of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A., recognized as the world's most comprehensive arts festival. A version of an annual festival held in Spoleto, Italy, Charleston's Spoleto was brought to the city by Maestro Gian Carlo Menotti in 1977. For three weeks in late spring, Charleston, draped in banners and showered with fireworks, becomes a showplace for music, dance, opera, theater, and the visual arts. Internationally known performers entertain audiences in Charleston's historic churches, theaters, and plantations. Established works and performers are showcased; however, Spoleto is also an exciting opportunity for new artists and new works, and the festival generates a wide variety of activity. An imaginative spinoff to the Spoleto Festival is Piccolo Spoleto (piccolo is Italian for "small"), a festival that runs concurrently with Spoleto and features a full spectrum of artistic events, many of which are free to the public. Children and adults alike enjoy face-painting, jazz concerts, street musicians, organ and chamber music recitals, and street fairs.
Charleston is also home to two ballet companies. The Charleston Ballet Theatre presents numerous public performances each season plus matinees for school children, and the Robert Ivey Ballet is the company-in-residence at the College of Charleston. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra performs a September-through-May season and also performs masterworks, pops and children's concerts. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra, as a nonprofit organization, receives funding from the South Carolina Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the city of Charleston. World-famous musicians are brought to Charleston each year by the Charleston Concert Association. Broadway shows, Shakespeare, and eighteenth-century classics are all part of the repertoire of the Footlight Players, who offer six or more plays a season at the Footlight Players Theatre. The Charleston Stage Company is the company-in-residence at the Dock Street Theatre.
Museums and galleries in the region display a wide range of art and artifacts. The Charleston Museum, founded in 1773, is the country's oldest municipal museum; it focuses on South Carolina and the Southeast with displays on history, the arts, archaeology, and natural history, and houses a full-scale replica of the Confederate submarine Hunley. The Citadel Memorial Museum, located at the entrance to The Citadel, displays items pertaining to the history of the college and its graduates, including two of the largest flags from the Civil War; each Friday at 3:45 p.m. the Citadel Corps of Cadets conducts a dress parade. The American Military Museum displays uniforms and artifacts of soldiers from all the American wars. The Confederate Museum, housed in Market Hall, contains flags, uniforms, swords, and other Confederate memorabilia. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, two miles east of Charleston, is one of the world's largest naval and maritime museums; featured is the USS Yorktown, a retired aircraft carrier that saw service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as the nuclear merchant ship Savannah, the World War II submarine Clamagore, and the destroyer Laffey, and displays of missiles, guns, mines, and aircraft. Built in 1713, the Old Powder Magazine, Charleston's oldest public building, was used during the Revolutionary War as a powder storehouse; it now serves as a historical museum. The Karpeles Manuscript Museum showcases the world's largest private collection of historically significant manuscripts. One of four sites that comprise the African-American National Heritage Museum, the Slave Mart Museum showcases the contributions of African Americans from 1670 to the civil rights movement. The Children's Museum of the Lowcountry has hands-on exhibits appealing to children through 12 years of age.
The South Carolina Aquarium on Charleston Harbor is Charleston's most visited attraction. Opened in May 2000, its more than 60 exhibits showcase aquatic animals from river otters and sharks to loggerhead turtles. Special traveling exhibits are changed annually. Next door to the aquarium on Aquarium Wharf is the Charleston IMAX Theatre. Also for kids of all ages is the Edisto Island Serpentarium, a reptile park open in the summer months.
Featuring a fine collection of American paintings, Japanese woodblock prints, and sculpture, the Gibbes Museum of Art also offers an excellent collection of miniature portraits. The portrait gallery in the Council Chamber of the City Hall contains portraits of important leaders, including John Trumbull's portrait of George Washington and Samuel F. B. Morse's portrait of James Monroe. The City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre exhibits the work of Charleston area artists, especially experimental and contemporary work.
Festivals and Holidays
In addition to the celebrated Spoleto Festival U.S.A., held in Charleston for three weeks in May and June (described above in Arts and Culture), the city hosts many other events throughout the year. Begun in 1984, the Moja Arts Festival is held for two weeks each October; Moja, the Swahili word meaning "the first" or "one," aptly describes this festival, which features the rich heritage of the African continent presented through dance, theater, films, lectures, and music. Charleston's International Film Festival runs each year for 10 days at the end of October and the beginning of November; at this world-class film festival, international film makers exhibit their work in restored eighteenth-century theaters and other historic buildings. For one week each mid-February Charleston hosts the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition; the largest show of its kind, the exposition brings more than 500 wildlife artists and artisans to a show of crafts, wildlife arts, and collectibles in Charleston's historic buildings. Also in February is the Bonterra Lowcountry Blues Bash, a 10-day festival featuring authentic blues music in selected clubs, hotels and restaurants.
The city's architectural heritage is showcased at various times throughout the year. Each March and April the Historic Charleston Foundation sponsors the Festival of Houses and Gardens, a series of walking tours of private homes and gardens in Charleston's historic district; in October the Preservation Society of Charleston sponsors the Fall Candlelight Tour of Homes and Gardens, 16 different walking tours featuring private houses and gardens in the historic district. Tickets for these tours, which are considered the best way to get an intimate view of the city, are highly sought after.
Other Charleston-area festivals include the Lowcountry Oyster Festival in early February; September's Scottish Games and Highland Gathering; and the Christmas in Charleston Festival, with its parade of boats, held every mid-November through mid-January. In April visitors can enjoy a little taste of Louisiana at the Charleston Lowcountry Cajun Festival at James Island County Park, featuring live Zydeco and Cajun music, authentic food, crafts, and activities for children. Also in April is the World Grits Festival in St. George. The Charleston Maritime Festival in May features tours of tall ships, shipyard tours, model ships, and family boatbuilding. Holiday Magic is a month-long celebration of the holidays downtown including special shopping days, a Christmas parade, entertainment, a parade of boats and a Taste of Charleston, celebrating the city's culinary delights. First Night Charleston features activities and entertainment throughout the city including music, dance, children's activities, and a parade, all on New Year's Eve.
Sports for the Spectator
Baseball fans can watch the Charleston RiverDogs, the San Diego Padres' minor league team, face opponents at Joe Riley Stadium. Fans of professional ice hockey enjoy the South Carolina Stingrays, while professional soccer action is the forte of the Charleston Battery at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island. Collegiate action is provided by teams fielded by the College of Charleston, The Citadel, and Charleston Southern University. Plantation Polo matches are held each Saturday in April, October, and November at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant.
Sports for the Participant
Almost any sport that can be enjoyed under the sun is found in the Charleston area with its warm sun and sea breezes. Golf, tennis, horseback riding, swimming, sailing, water skiing, snorkeling, clamming, crabbing, fishing, hunting, bird watching—all are available within minutes of the city. Many visitors to the area are attracted by the challenge of its world-famous golf courses, some of which have been designed by celebrated course designers such as Tom Fazio, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Robert Trent Jones. The area's breathtaking coastal terrain and lowcountry woodlands offer great golfing. Many of the area's courses are on Isle of Palms, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands. Charleston's Department of Recreation operates the Tennis Center, which offers lessons, drills, clinics, and league play, as well as sanctioned tournaments. Most of the numerous public and private tennis courts in and around Charleston employ resident professionals. Young people may participate in soccer, football, volleyball, basketball, indoor soccer, and tennis. Softball and soccer leagues are also popular for adults, as is running. The challenging 10K Cooper River Bridge Run is held each year in April and attracts nearly 17,000 runners. For those who prefer the less strenuous activity of walking, several lovely parks invite strolling. Many of the parks have biking trails, and bicycles may be rented at several locations.
Charleston affords ample opportunity to pursue sports near, in, or on the water. The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Department operates Beachwalker Park at the south end of Kiawah Island, Palmetto Island County Park, Folly Beach County Park, and James Island County Park, for the enjoyment of swimming, as well as bicycling and other sports. The six barrier island beaches have been called the finest in the world. The Santee-Cooper Lake beaches near Moncks Corner and St. Stephen, and the network of inlets, coves, and tidal creeks provide water skiers with seemingly endless waterways. The public has access to 20 boat landings in the area. Sailing is the most popular summer sport in Charleston. Regattas are held throughout the season, drawing sailors from the entire southeast coast. Charleston Race Week in the Charleston Harbor in April draws 100 sailboats and crews of 500 sailors to the city each year. Private marinas along the coast provide facilities for both large and small boats. Surf and pier fishing are popular pastimes, and boats heading for deep water are a common sight in Charleston Harbor. Freshwater fishing for the famous land-locked striped bass in the freshwater lakes of the Santee-Cooper is a challenge few anglers can resist, and in season crabbing and shrimping attract even novices.
The opportunity to bag quail, duck, and deer lures hunters to local hunting clubs. For those who hunt with binoculars and cameras, Bulls Island, part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, is a wintering ground for many species of migratory birds and a nesting area for sea turtles. Drum Island shelters the largest wading bird rookery in the eastern United States.
Shopping and Dining
Two of the focal points for shopping in Charleston are the Old City Market area and King Street area, home to a number of antique shops. Antiques shoppers in Charleston can choose from more than a dozen shops with items ranging from crystal, china, and English mahogany furniture to oriental rugs. Charleston Place offers 50,000 square feet of elegant shops. Specialty shops abound, stocked with imported sportswear, resort wear, perfume, fine jewelry, lingerie, housewares, candies, and other items. The Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square, open Saturdays from March through December, brims with fresh vegetables, fruit, and flowers. Juried arts and crafts are also available as are a variety of activities and amusements for children. The major malls are Citadel Mall, which contains three major anchors and more than 90 specialty shops, and Northwoods Mall, with more than 130 stores. Fountain Walk, Charleston's newest waterfront destination located at Aquarium Wharf, also has many shops and restaurants.
Eating well has long been a Southern tradition; in Charleston, however, that tradition was honored in homes, not in restaurants. The growth of tourism in the area has spurred development of new, first-rate eating establishments, and now visitors and locals alike reap the benefits: American, Southern, Chinese, Italian, French, Indian, Japanese, German, Greek, and Mexican cuisine are available. In historic Charleston the atmosphere lends a special touch to dining. Along Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, several seafood restaurants afford patrons a view of the shrimp boats moving over the water, while another establishment south of the city is actually built on piers above the ocean. Almost all restaurants, regardless of ambience, feature seafood, a South Carolina staple. The nearby waters provide millions of pounds of seafood in a harvest that includes shrimp, crabs, oysters, mussels, clams, whiting, spot, mullet, red snapper, grouper, king mackerel, flounder, and catfish. Visitors to Charleston can sample the famous she-crab soup and other low country specialties such as soft shell crab, shrimp and grits, and red rice.
Visitor Information: Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 975, Charleston, SC 29402; telephone (843)853-8000
Major Industries and Commercial Activity
The economy in the Charleston region rests upon several sturdy bases. The military has traditionally been the major industry in the area since 1901 when the Charleston Naval Shipyard was founded. Even after the Naval Base and Shipyard closed in 1996, the military has remained the largest single employer in the Charleston region. The Department of Defense has remained at installations such as the Charleston Naval Weapons Station, Naval Hospital and the SPAWAR Systems Center Charleston. The Department of the Navy employed more than 12,500 active duty and civilian personnel in the region in 2003. At the same time, Charleston Air Force Base employs more than 5,000 personnel as the home for the U.S. Air Force's 437th Airlift Wing, adding substantially to the region's economic foundation.
Oil, electronics, computers, mining, and health care are also major industries in the Charleston area. Three of the region's largest employers are in the health care industry. They are Medical University of South Carolina, Roper St. Francis Healthcare and Trident Health System, and HCA division headquarters.
Tourism is another significant factor in the area's economy. The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the nation's oldest chamber of commerce, has long been interested in promoting Charleston as a place to visit, and despite wars, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes, Charleston has preserved and restored hundreds of historic buildings that draw some four and a half million tourists per year. Visitors enjoy shopping and dining, as well as touring historic plantations, landmarks, and churches. According to research from the Chamber's Center for Business Research, Charleston visitors surveyed say that the area's greatest assets are its historic charm, historic sites and attractions, restaurants and climate. While most visitors to Charleston come from the nearby states of North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee, as well as their home state of South Carolina, about four percent of visitors are from outside the U.S. Charleston's world-famous barrier islands feature outstanding resort facilities in a semi-tropical climate, serving as powerful elements in the area's allure for tourists. The number of visitors to the Charleston region has grown steadily since 1997 when 2.5 million people visited to 4.6 million visitors in 2003. The number of accommodations in the area has also increased to keep pace with the growing demand. Tourism contributes $5.1 billion to the local economy annually.
Items and goods produced: marine products, fertilizer, rubber products, textiles, aircraft parts, paper, textiles, food products, lumber, metal components, heavy machinery, transportation equipment, furniture, instruments and chemicals
Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies
Both the State of South Carolina and the Charleston community offer a number of business incentives designed to provide measurable economic advantages and reduce the cost of start-up operations.
The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments operates a revolving loan fund offering financing for projects meeting certain criteria. Charleston County may negotiate a fee in lieu of property taxes with prospects or existing industries that commit to large new capital investment in the state. Five-year property tax abatements for new manufacturing facilities locating in the tri-county area and an exemption from the county portion of ordinary property taxes for five years on all additions to existing facilities are available under certain circumstances. The Charleston Citywide Local Development Corporation (LDC) offers financial assistance through six different loan programs for small businesses.
The following incentives and financing sources may be available to qualifying companies: Job Tax Credit for corporate income tax for job creation; displaced worker jobs tax credit; corporate headquarters tax credit; credit for hiring Family Independence Recipients; employer child care credit; job development credit; income tax credits for infrastructure construction; tax credit for the construction of water resources; income tax credit for investments in the Palmetto Seed Capital Corporation; property tax abatements; and sales tax exemptions for certain business expenditures. South Carolina's Jobs-Economic Development Authority provides funding assistance through Community Development Block Grants and through Carolina capital investment loans. South Carolina also offers Enterprise Zone incentives. There is no local tax on corporate income as well as no tax on worldwide profits.
Job training programs
The Center for Acccelerated Technology Training (CATT), a division of the State Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education, provides new and expanding companies with fully trained and productive employees. The program may include trainee recruitment and testing, instructor recruitment and training, provision of training sites, development of instructional materials, and complete program management. South Carolina administers the Job Training Partnership Program, which provides both training for new and expanding businesses, as well as customized skill training for specific employer needs. Finally, funds for retraining employees in existing industries are available from the Coordinating Council for Economic Development.
Major corridors in the city are getting a boost from the City's Streetscape program. Scheduled for completion by 2007, improvements include reconstruction of sidewalks, curbing, lighting, handicap ramps, the addition of street trees, brick crosswalks, and burial of overhead wires to the King Street commercial area and other downtown areas of the city. The South Carolina legislature has mandated additional expansion to the Port of Charleston, and by 2004 the South Carolina State Ports Authority had begun the permitting process for a sixth container terminal located at the former Charleston Naval Complex. This terminal will accommodate the expanding international container trade and the increasingly larger container ships that arrive in the port. In 2004, the Ports Authority also completed a $24 million project to deepen the Charleston channel and widen the harbor to improve navigation and accommodate larger vessels. The 2005 planned completion of a $635 million new bridge across the Port of Charleston's shipping channel will feature eight traffic lanes and improved clearance over the channel. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River and Town Creek replaces two aging truss bridges. The city has initiated work on the renovation of the Camden Tower Sheds, an historic railway property, into a cultural Arts District and Children's Museum. The Children's Museum of the Lowcountry opened to the public in 2003.
Economic Development Information: Charleston Regional Development Alliance, 5300 International Blvd., Suite 103A, North Charleston, SC 29418; telephone (843)767-9300; fax (834)760-4535
International trade is a growing sector of the regional economy and the Port of Charleston is making strides to accommodate that growth. Known as one of the most efficient ports in the world, it handles one quarter of all containers from Norfolk to Miami. The port is also ranked sixth in the country by value of cargo moved through its terminals. Containerized shipments such as textiles, chemicals, and rubber are the main commodities handled by the port. The Port of Charleston contributes greatly to the economic impact of the city in areas of employment, personal income, and tax revenues. Adding to the efficiency of shipping into and out of Charleston is the Charleston International Airport. Its air cargo facilities include a 21,000 square yard facility and a separate cargo/freight area on the airport's east side. In addition, about 100 motor freight carriers, three railroad systems, and an expansive system of interstates and U.S. highways move cargo through the region.
Labor Force and Employment Outlook
Charleston boasts a plentiful supply of skilled labor; its civilian labor force has grown 4.3 percent from 1998 to 2003. Most Charleston residents are employed in the trade, transportation and utilities sector and government sector. High school graduates account for 81.1 percent of the city's labor force and 16 percent are college graduates. Most employment opportunities can be found in the tourism industry, transportation services, health care, military installations, and manufacturing.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Charleston metropolitan area labor force, annual averages 2003.
Size of nonagricultural labor force: 260,300
Number of workers employed in . . .
construction and mining: 19,900
trade, transportation and utilities: 53,600
financial activities: 10,800
professional and business services: 33,600
educational and health services: 27,400
leisure and hospitality: 32,100
other services: 7,600
Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: Not reported
Unemployment rate: 4.6% (December 2004)
|Largest employers||Number of employees|
|Medical University of South Carolina||8,200|
|Charleston Air Force Base||5,000|
|Charleston County School District||5,000|
|Roper St. Francis Health Care||4,000|
|Berkeley County School District||3,457|
|Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. Inc.||2,447|
|HCA Carolinas division headquarters & medical centers||2,082|
|Robert Bosch Corp. (fuel injection & braking systems)||2,062|
Cost of Living
The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Charleston area.
2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $229,315
2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 97.3 (U.S. average = 100.0)
State income tax rate: Ranges from 2.5% to 7.0%
State sales tax rate: 5.0%
Local income tax rate: None
Local sales tax rate: 1.5% (Charleston County)
Property tax rate: Millage rates set annually by local government tax authorities and applied to 4.0% of fair market value. In 2003 the city's combined millage rate was 337 (tax credit factor was .000365).
Economic Information: Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, 81 Mary Street, PO Box 975; Charleston, SC 29402-0975; telephone (843)577-2510; fax (843)723-4853
The story of Charleston's literary scene during the period between 1820 and 1870 is the story of William Gilmore Simms (1806–1870), advocate for slavery, native of the city, and the South's preeminent man of letters at that time. Although Simms is best known for such historical fiction about South Carolina as Woodcraft (1854), a Revolutionary War romance, and The Cassique of Kiawah (1859), set in the colonial period, he had his hand in every aspect of literary life imaginable in Charleston, from the theater scene to the compilation of a miscellany of the writings of prominent citizens to the publication of several notable periodicals. Moreover, Simms's career serves as a reflection of important changes in the identity of Charleston as the city's attention shifted from national to sectional matters due to developments on the political scene and population shifts during the half century.
Charleston began the nineteenth century more aligned with cities in the North and even Europe than with other cities in the South. It served as one of the four major theater centers in America along with New York, Philadelphia, and Boston in the first quarter of the century, and in 1821 it was the fifth-largest city in America. The theater scene in Charleston peaked before 1825. Although citizens were still interested in attending performances after that date, the quality of management and productions suffered as the city experienced several periods of depression during the decade. While Charleston struggled to maintain its reputation as one of the dominant cultural centers in the nation, sectional issues arose with the Vesey Slave Rebellion in 1822, after a free black was accused of organizing a conspiracy to murder whites in Charleston, and the dominance of the nullification question between 1828 and 1834, with the South Carolinian and U.S. vice president John C. Calhoun (1782–1850) taking the position that states have the right to nullify laws enacted by the federal government to which they object. Moreover, population growth in Charleston began to slow around 1830 as more people moved west and other cotton states developed. The Old Charleston Theatre was sold to the Medical College of South Carolina in 1833. What followed was the low point in the city's theatrical history as pantomime, circuses, and musical performances overshadowed dramatic productions for four years before the company found a new permanent home. Despite another bout of economic depression, the New Charleston Theater opened in 1837 with William Gilmore Simms giving the dedicatory address.
Simms was a prolific playwright, but much of his involvement in the theater scene was as a spokesperson. Only one of his plays, Michael Bonham, was ever produced in Charleston. The play, which encouraged the annexation of Texas as a slave state, was performed at a benefit for Calhoun's memorial in 1855, twelve years after it was written. Simms wrote an ode to Calhoun, which was read on the occasion. Norman Maurice, often considered Simms's best play, which was written in 1851 and deals favorably with the admission of new slave states, was never performed. His dramas fit the general political movement from national to sectional interests that took place in Charleston between 1825 and the beginning of the war. Perhaps Simms's dramatic work was not readily received because it ran counter to a general decrease of the performance of political plays in the city during this period. In addition, with the exception of the years 1842–1847, when William C. Forbes managed the theater, more emphasis was placed on importing talent than performing original plays by residents. The theater continued to operate until the verge of war in 1861.
THE CHARLESTON BOOK
In the late 1830s a trend of anthologies from individual American cities began to emerge. Not to be outdone by Boston, New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore, the Charleston bookseller and Reform Jewish leader Samuel Hart Sr. decided in 1841 that his city needed an anthology of its own. Charleston was at a pivotal moment, concerned with sectional issues but still attempting to maintain its reputation as a dominant city on the national scene, having slipped that year to the position of sixth-largest city in the country. Despite a period of growth for the city as international markets began to rise, Charleston, still preoccupied with agricultural pursuits, struggled economically: only 2.5 percent of the population engaged in indus-try, and strife over the extension of slavery kept Charleston ideologically separate from most other major cities.
Hart chose Simms at the age of thirty-five to be the editor of his project, although his name never actually appears within its pages. As a professional writer, he did not contribute to a collection of work intended for amateurs. Participants were limited to Simms's contemporaries. They include such notables as Hugh Swinton Legaré, acting secretary of state under President Tyler; the popular playwright John Blake White; and J. D. B. De Bow, who would soon leave for New Orleans to edit the proslavery De Bow's Review. Sectional interests are most readily apparent in an essay titled "The Necessity of a Southern Literature" by Daniel K. Whitaker, from whom Simms would later take over the helm of the Southern Quarterly Review. Ultimately the anthology was not the success that Hart and Simms had hoped. With less consistent growth rates, a smaller middle class, lower literacy rates, a less densely populated area, and a general lack of accessibility when compared to other major cities, it is not surprising that Charleston's anthology failed to attract enough subscribers when it was published in 1845 to issue subsequent volumes.
Despite any disappointment that The Charleston Book may have brought, Simms pressed forward with his plans to forge a strong literary community. He began his own magazine, the Southern and Western Monthly Magazine and Review, often simply called "Simms's magazine," in January 1845. His stated plan was to explore the natural political and industrial alliance between the South and the West. The rush westward continued throughout the 1840s, and by the next decade 41 percent of South Carolinians were living out of state. Meanwhile, sectionalism continued to thrive as Charleston was outpaced by Southern and Northern rivals and citizens faced the reality that Charleston would not be considered a major American city much longer. Many of the articles in "Simms's magazine," written by Simms himself, are focused on the issue of slavery. He could not keep up the dual role of editor and primary contributor for very long, and in December 1845 the magazine merged with the Southern Literary Messenger, published in Richmond, Virginia. Although Simms had his hand in many of the periodicals emanating from Charleston during this decade, his next major venture was assuming the editorship in 1849 of the Southern Quarterly Review, which had relocated to Charleston from New Orleans shortly after its creation. The periodical was devoted to the defense of slavery and advocacy of states' rights. The 1850 crisis in the slavery debate and Simms's own proslavery convictions kept sectional issues central to the magazine. He maintained the role of editor through 1855 of what is often considered the best Southern review before the war due to its accurate portrayal of Southern beliefs and values.
Two years later Simms found himself at the center of the group of intellectuals that met regularly at John Russell's bookstore. Russell agreed to finance a publication created by the group that would bear his own name. Along with the younger poets Henry Timrod (1828–1867) and Paul Hayne (1830–1886), who would edit the periodical, Simms wrote the majority of Russell's Magazine. In many ways the publication was specific to life in Charleston and could be considered a local magazine. However, Hayne's first editorial stated the publication's aim to be the "expression of Southern thought and feeling" (Mott, p. 489). By the time the last number was issued in 1860, Charleston was twenty-second in population and eighty-fifth in manufacturing in the nation. Despite its per capita wealth of 3.5 times the Northern mean, the city was expanding at a much slower rate than Boston or New York and could no longer compete. Its intellectual population was less diverse, less cosmopolitan, and less representative of the population of the United States than it had been at the beginning of the century. However, the city had earned its title as the "Capital of Southern Civilization," and it is only fitting that the secessionist movement and the first shots of the Civil War would originate in Charleston. Russell's Magazine is considered the best of the Charleston monthlies and would have likely continued to thrive if it were not for the sectional crisis that distracted the already small reading public and diverted the attention of the contributors. It would not be until the 1910s or 1920s that such a collection of talent would assemble again in the South.
What followed in the five years after the end of Russell's Magazine was as devastating to Simms personally as it was to others in Charleston and the South. Despite having his plantation gutted, library burned, and slaves freed by the end of the Civil War, Simms set out for New York in late 1865 to salvage the only thing he had left, his literary reputation. Simms's younger friend Paul Hayne gave tribute to his mentor on his passing in 1870. Simms's death marked the end of an era in the literary history of Charleston.
Simms, William Gilmore, ed. The Charleston Book: AMiscellany in Prose and Verse. 1845. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1983.
Guilds, John Caldwell, ed. "Long Years of Neglect": The Work and Reputation of William Gilmore Simms. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.
Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1938–1968.
O'Brien, Michael, and David Moltke-Hansen, eds. Intellectual Life in Antebellum Charleston. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986.
Watson, Charles S. Antebellum Charleston Dramatists. University: University of Alabama Press, 1976.
Wimsatt, Mary Ann. "William Gilmore Simms." In The History of Southern Literature, edited by Louis D. Rubin Jr. et al., pp. 108–117. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985.
Natalie Collins Trice
Charleston's parks, museums, and music and cultural activities provide a variety of enjoyable and stimulating experiences. The state's Cultural Center at the Capitol Complex has a museum, performing arts, film and music festivals, and The Shop, which sells only West Virginia native crafts. The Capitol Complex also offers tours of the Governor's Mansion two days a week. On the State Capitol grounds is a memorial honoring Malden, West Virginia, native Booker T. Washington. Glass factories in the area provide tours to groups, and the museums at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences are a favorite of visitors. The Haddad Riverfront Park invites residents and visitors with its river views, evening concerts, and plays. The park offers paved paths for runners, walkers, and cyclists, as well as plenty of areas for picnicking, sunbathing, and relaxing.
A variety of historic homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s can be toured in Charleston. The Craik-Patton House, built in 1834 in the Greek Revival style of architecture, is open mid-April through mid-October for tours. The East End Historical District features homes in a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Victorian, Richardson Romanesque, Georgian, Italianate, and others, mainly built between 1895 and 1925. Victorian Block on Capitol Street features some of the oldest structures on Capitol Street, with homes dating back to 1887. Shrewsbury Street acknowledges sites and buildings that are prominent in West Virginia's African American history.
Formerly the Daniel Boone Hotel, 405 Capitol Street was built in 1929 at a then-extravagant cost of more than $1.2 million. Renovated in the 1990s, the building now houses business offices and is known for its unique 10-story atrium. Also afforded new life in the city is the C & O Railroad Depot, built in 1905. Refurbished in 1987, the Beaux Arts-style brick and terra cotta trimmed depot houses offices and a restaurant.
Charleston is home port to the P. A. Denny, a beautiful excursion sternwheeler available for scenic rides on the Kanawha or for rental trips for private groups. In addition, many of the forests, parks and resorts in West Virginia's excellent park system are within a half-day's drive of Kanawha Valley.
Arts and Culture
A well-respected symphony orchestra, a resident chamber-music string quartet, a youth orchestra and visiting chamber-music ensembles ensure a steady diet of live classical music in the Charleston area. The new Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences is home to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, which performs monthly concerts featuring guest artists from around the world. Municipal Auditorium hosts the Charleston Chamber Music Association, Broadway touring shows, and national recording artists. The West Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra is one of Charleston's special cultural assets, and the group performs extensively in the Kanawha County school system and in schools throughout the state. The Charleston Light Opera Guild provides musical comedy and drama each season. Many community singers, actors, and actresses, such as the Charleston Civic Chorus, have formed a close-knit group of talented performers who act, sing, and dance their way through Broadway musicals each year.
The Civic Center in Charleston contains a 13,500-seat coliseum as well as the 750-seat Little Theatre, home for most of Charleston's community theater groups. Children's Theatre of Charleston introduces many youngsters to the stage. The group produces four plays annually and conducts a performing arts school for its aspiring young actors and actresses. The Kanawha Players—the oldest continuous community theater group in West Virginia—hosts a season of drama and comedy performances each year. From experimental drama and dinner theater settings to more traditional offerings, the Kanawha Players has performed in Charleston since the 1920s and the group has been designated the official state theater of West Virginia. Using community directors and actors, the group plays to full houses season after season and performs at the workshops in Kanawha City and the Civic Center Little Theatre. Mountain Stage, a West Virginia Public Radio presentation that brings jazz, folk, blues, rock, and classical musicians from around the world to the city is broadcasted live to a national audience from the Cultural Center at the Capitol. Tickets to Sunday performances are available to the public.
Charleston is also home to the Charleston Ballet, which performs three to five ballets each season, and the West Virginia Dance theater and the Appalachian Youth Jazz Ballet.
For those with a penchant for the visual arts, the Avampato Discovery Museum at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences has a breathtaking gallery and provides art activities, programs, and workshops throughout the year.
Arts and Culture Information: Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, 200 Civic Center Drive, Charleston, WV 25301; telephone (304)344-5075; fax (304)344-1241.
Festivals and Holidays
For sheer spectacle, few festivals match Charleston's Annual Sternwheel Regatta Festival. The festival began as a small Labor Day race for sternwheel boats operating on the Kanawha River. From that modest beginning, the event expanded to an entire weekend, then a week, and finally to its current 10 days, which are scheduled each year during the days leading up to and including Labor Day. While the Regatta Festival's concerts draw the most impressive crowds, its other events are just as exciting. The Grand Feature Parade kicks off the festival and features balloon figures similar to those in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Olympia Brass Band visits each year to highlight the traditional New Orleans-style Funeral Parade, where the unusual and inventive take to the streets for a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. The Regatta Festival's Taste of Charleston is a major gourmet food event that brings a number of Charleston restaurants together under one roof to offer house specialties and other tasty dishes to regatta-goers. Other festival events include arts and craft shows, river cruises, film festivals, street fairs, and an antique car show.
"Symphony Sunday," held each year in the spring, features an outdoor concert on the campus of the University of Charleston. Another annual event that has become a favorite of West Virginians and thousands of out-of-state visitors is May's Vandalia Festival. For this event, crowds flock to the Cultural Center and its grounds to see magnificent quilts, traditional folk dancers, and demonstrations of blacksmithing and toy making and to taste treats like corn roasted over open fires. But it is the traditional music that lures most spectators. Banjo pickers, fiddlers, and dulcimer players compete in good-natured contests, and "jam sessions" seem to be going on everywhere. The first Sunday of June the State Capital Complex features artisans, food, and music at the Rhododendron Art & Craft Show. The Capital City Art and Craft Show at the Civic Center, held the week prior to Thanksgiving, brings together craftspeople and music and craft events for an exhibition with a holiday theme.
Sports for the Spectator
Charleston has the West Virginia Power, a single A South Atlantic League farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers, who play baseball at Appalachian Power Park. For fans of dog racing, the Tri-State Greyhound Park in Cross Lanes operates six days a week all year long.
Sports for the Participant
In Charleston, recreation can be as simple as a riverside stroll down Kanawha Boulevard when the dogwoods are in bloom or chipping a golf ball around one of the four private or five public golf courses in the area. Cyclists, hikers, and runners appreciate the miles of wooded trails and paved paths available in nearby parks, and the paved riverfront path at Kanawha Boulevard downtown. The city and county support numerous recreational centers, parks, ballfields, and golf and tennis facilities. These—along with a number of private country clubs and sports and fitness facilities—can accommodate many recreational interests.
Charleston annually hosts the Charleston Distance Run, one of the oldest and rated one of the 10 best road runs in the United States. This rigorous course—set along 4 miles on the hills and 11 miles on the flatlands—has tested the mettle of world champions.
The Kanawha Parks and Recreation Commission operates seven recreational facilities in Kanawha County. The largest, Coonskin Park, has 1,200 wooded acres near Yeager Airport and offers picnic areas, shelters, tennis, swimming, golf, hiking, a modern amphitheater, soccer stadium, and wedding garden. Sandy Brae Golf Course, 20 minutes north of Charleston off Interstate 79, is an 18-hole championship course. Big Bend is a 6,000-yard golf course along the beautiful Coal River at Tornado.
Kanawha State Forest, adjacent to Charleston, is a sprawling, 9,300 acre unspoiled area ideal for picnicking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking and camping, and cross-country skiing in the winter. Some of the best whitewater rafting in the country is available just a short distance from Charleston on the Gauley and New rivers; the area attracts more than 100,000 rafters and kayakers each year.
Shopping and Dining
Opportunities for pleasant shopping and dining experiences are abundant in Charleston. The Charleston Village District features specialty shops for clothing, books, photography, and other unique items in an architecturally interesting setting. The Village District also offers fine dining experiences. Town Center Mall has more than 130 shops and specialties, in addition to its three main anchor stores. Kanawha Mall, 10 minutes from downtown, features 40 stores and unique eateries. A number of hand production glass factories are in the area, where one may observe skilled craftspersons at work and purchase their wares. Quilts and furniture, handcrafted in West Virginia, are available at local specialty stores. Diners in Charleston will find options for casual and fine dining as well as ethnic flavors of Chinese, Greek, Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean, Italian, and Mexican specialties.
Visitor Information: Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, 200 Civic Center Drive, Charleston, WV 25301; telephone (304)344-5075; fax (304)344-1241.
Settlement Named for British King
In April 1670, the first English colonists sailed into Charleston harbor. This band of some 150 men and women soon established themselves on what they called Albemarle Point on the Ashley River. Ten years later, the colony was moved to Oyster Point, a peninsula of land between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, the present site of Charleston. The settlement was named Charles Towne in honor of King Charles II of England, who had granted the land for colonization. The colony began to grow as people arrived first from England and the Caribbean islands. They were followed by Huguenots and Quakers who, along with Scottish, Irish, and Belgian colonists settled the area. The thriving port became known as one of the most religiously tolerant of the colonies. About 5,000 people inhabited the town by 1700, and friendly relations with the area's tribal natives had been established.
City Incorporated Following Revolution
By this time, the town was protected by a formidable wall; situated along the river bluff, it stood five feet thick and was made of brick on a base of palmetto logs and wood planks; on the land side, the wall was made of earth and bordered by a moat. The mere sight of it turned back a frontal attack on the settlement from a combined French-Spanish fleet in 1706. Ships sailed out of the harbor carrying corn, pork, lumber, deerskins, and rice, conveying goods to England and the West Indies. But shipping was threatened when, following a devastating 1713 hurricane and renewed tribal hostility, pirates became bold enough to attack the sea trade. Notable among the pirates was Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard. He seized several ships carrying Charles Towne residents and demanded, and received, ransom. Teach was eventually captured and executed, but residents of Charles Towne had become dissatisfied with the administration of the colony, especially in regard to the protection of the populace. England's Privy Council took over responsibility for the government of South Carolina and appointed the first royal governor in 1720. With the threat of hostile native and pirate attacks effectively quelled by the new administration, Charles Towne residents took down most of the city walls, opened and extended the streets, and built spacious homes with well-tended grounds. The shoreline was developed, and shipping activity was brisk. Left standing was the Battery, a large retaining wall that today overlooks the harbor and Fort Sumter.
Beginning with the Stamp Act of 1765, Charles Towne was seriously torn over conflicts between loyalty to England and resistance to England's imposition of unjust taxes on the colonies. Residents protested the tea tax at a mass meeting held in 1773 and set up the formal governmental structure of South Carolina in July 1774. In September 1775, the last royal governor left the colony and took refuge aboard a British ship in the harbor. Then on June 28, 1776, a British fleet attempted to sail into the harbor at Charles Towne and was repulsed by revolutionary patriots. This victory persuaded the South Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress to sign the Declaration of Independence. Following the Revolution, Charles Towne remained politically troubled. Violence was directed against suspected British sympathizers, and various factions of the town faced each other with open animosity. Finally, in an attempt to restore order, the city was incorporated under the name of Charleston in 1783. Three years later, the South Carolina General Assembly voted to move the state capital from Charleston to the new city of Columbia.
The Citadel Founded to Quell Uprisings
Several innovations improved Charleston's economy in the 1790s. The invention of the cotton gin made the cotton business profitable. A method of using tidal force to irrigate rice plantings expanded the possibilities for rice cultivation. New and more efficient rice mills were built. Meanwhile, the shipping industry, no longer forced to comply with British mercantile laws, found new markets for American goods; wagon trade expanded, rolling cotton and other produce into Charleston's King Street for sale. When other regions began to draw trade away from Charleston, the city began construction of the South Carolina Railroad. By 1833, rail service began out of Charleston, but while the railroad did improve the economy, Charleston never again regained its dynamic growth pattern.
In 1822, just as Charleston was beginning to feel economic woes, it also experienced an attempted slave rebellion led by a former slave from the West Indies, Denmark Vesey, a dynamic, well-educated leader. Vesey had laid plans for obtaining weapons and had determined which buildings would be attacked when he was betrayed by two house servants and arrested. After a trial during which he engaged counsel and expertly examined witnesses himself, he was condemned to be hanged along with 36 of his co-conspirators. Others involved in the rebellion were deported. Following this attempted uprising, the Old Citadel was built as an arsenal and staffed by federal troops, and stricter laws governing slaves and their activities were adopted. The Citadel was later staffed by state troops, and in 1843 by a 20-man force that became the first Corps of Cadets of The Citadel.
"Cradle of Secession" Surrenders to Yankees
Unresolved economic and philosophical conflicts between northern and southern states reached a crisis on December 20, 1860, when the South Carolina Secession Convention unanimously voted to adopt the Ordinance of Secession, leading other southern states in an attempt to leave the Union and form their own Confederacy. On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries fired on Union forces occupying Fort Sumter, an installation off Charleston's coast. The Union forces on the island surrendered, Confederate forces occupied the fort, and one week later President Abraham Lincoln ordered all southern ports blockaded. While preparing for Union attack, Charleston was ravaged by a fire that destroyed 540 acres. Blockade runners were able to slip some supplies past the Union's blockade of Charleston harbor, but as the war continued it brought shortages of all vital supplies, including meat, sugar, and salt. Charleston, the "Cradle of Secession," withstood Union attacks until February 17, 1865, when, with the Confederacy crumbling, hundreds of fires swept through the city. After four years of siege, Charleston succumbed to Union forces, and two months later the Confederacy surrendered.
Navy Yard Helps Stabilize Economy
Following the Civil War, Charleston was powerless. The city lay in ruins, railroads were destroyed, banking capital was depleted, and private capital was scarce. An industry eventually developed around phosphate deposits mined from local rivers and land sites and by 1880 was the most profitable industry in the state. Other commercial concerns recovered or developed, such as lumber mills, locomotive engine manufacturing, cotton presses and mills, breweries, and grist and flour mills. Port trade thrived, and the cotton business revived. Charleston recovered from an 1885 hurricane and an 1886 earthquake only to battle political trade obstacles, industrial competition from other regions, and insect destruction of the cotton industry. By the turn of the century, the city had to look to new industries and new developments for new hope.
In a move that proved to be the single most important gesture affecting the city's economy in the twentieth century, the United States Navy Yard was located at Charleston in 1901. Although other industries established themselves in the area, the military facility fueled the city's economy through two world wars and provided the stability that enabled Charleston to solidify its identity. In the 1920s and 1930s, although the rest of the country was mired in the Great Depression, efforts to preserve and capitalize on Charleston's historic buildings began. Leading the way were wealthy people with well-known names like Doubleday, du Pont, and Whitney, who used Charleston's abandoned rice fields as quail- and duck-hunting preserves, and also began the task of restoring the city's beautiful old mansions. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo, one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever have struck the U.S. mainland, inflicted more than $5 billion in property damage on the region. Citizens quickly repaired the damage, restoring the city to the pristine freshness that still beguiles its four and a half million annual visitors. Although the U.S. Naval Base in Charleston closed in 1996, a significant U.S. Naval and Air Force presence remains.
Today's Charleston is considered a "living museum" with a rich, 300 year history. Its blend of history with a diverse economic mix, favorable climate, and true southern charm not only attracts visitors and new residents but businesses as well. Charleston's future, fueled in part by a multi-billion dollar tourism business, is bright.
Historical Information: South Carolina Historical Society Library, Fireproof Building, 100 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC; telephone (803)723-3225. College of Charleston, Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture–Library, 125 Bull Street, Charleston, SC 29424; telephone (803)727-2009
Major Industries and Commercial Activity
The Kanawha Valley owes much of its past and future prosperity to its reputation as a transportation and distribution hub. From river port to interstate hub, the sophisticated transportation routes have lured and kept industry in the region when other parts of West Virginia were troubled with the same economic doldrums that affected much of the nation. Insulated from the boom-or-bust coal industry, the Kanawha Valley has relied on its diversity of natural resources and its importance in the eastern and central states' waterways system, moving goods to the Gulf of Mexico via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Three interstate highways converging in downtown Charleston provide the extra transportation links that the rivers cannot provide. Moreover, the highways bring Charleston within 500 miles of more than 50 percent of the nation's major market areas and 50 percent of its entire population.
The valley's market proximity and transportation advantages are responsible for the economic diversity and health of the area. Further, the abundance of natural resources and the residents' ingenuity in using them have established the region as the state's center of finance, retail trade, government, industry, arts and culture, and health care. In recent years, growth in health services and the state banking industry has outpaced that of other sectors.
Since 1929, the chemical industry has been an economic force in the valley, providing a large, stable employment base for many years. Union Carbide Corporation, Monsanto, E. I. du Pont de Nemours, Clearon Corp., and FMC are among the companies with chemical-connected facilities in the Charleston area. Union Carbide also has its headquarters for research and development in the Tech Center complex in South Charleston. Valley residents have been very supportive of the chemical industry, acknowledging that the indus-try's first priority has always been safety. Likewise, local governments have been involved and have participated in safety and emergency planning. Other Kanawha Valley industries include heavy steel fabricating, glass manufacturing, and energy development. Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation, headquartered in Charleston, employs almost one-third of its workforce in the Charleston headquarters.
Today, Charleston enjoys a diverse economy. An abundant and well-educated workforce is employed in thriving chemical, automotive, telecommunications, healthcare, and professional services sectors. Retail trade and tourism are also thriving economic sectors.
Items and goods produced: chemicals, telecommunications products, publishing, mining equipment, fabricated metal products, automobile parts
Incentive Programs — New and Existing Companies
The Business and Industrial Development Corporation (BIDCO) is a non-profit economic development corporation serving Metropolitan Charleston. BIDCO offers a range of services to companies considering the area for new or expanded operations. Assistance is offered in worker training and education, financing, site selection, and with buildings. Both professional economic development and engineering services are free and confidential.
Charleston participates in a state-wide program presided over by the West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA) that provides low-interest financing for land, building, and equipment. In addition to its direct loan program, WVEDA offers a Capital Access Program and Loan Insurance Program. West Virginia has one of the nation's most liberal tax incentive programs, permitting significant recapture of principal taxes as well as capital investment. Additional credits are available for corporate headquarters relocation, research and development, and veterans employment.
Job training programs
The Governor's Guaranteed Work Force Program provides companies creating at least 10 new jobs $2,000 per employee, or the actual cost of training, whichever is less. Three vocational-technical schools and one adult career center offer industry and occupation-specific courses and degree programs designed to produce graduates who meet the demands of a global marketplace.
The $80 million, 240,000 square foot Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences opened in 2003 and houses a variety of performing and visual arts and science facilities. The Clay Center's Maier Foundation Performance Hall is a 1,883 seat theater; the Walker Theater seats up to 200 people; the Avampato Discovery Museum offers science, art, and theater; the Juliet Museum of Art presents permanent and visiting collections; the ElectricSky Theater offers planetarium and laser shows; and a café and gift shop round out the center's offerings.
As part of a collaboration among the City of Charleston, the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and several other organizations, Charleston is making itself more visitor friendly with new, colorful signs pointing out specific destinations, sights, and tourist information spots. The $55,000 project was 8 years in development and began in September 2004. Once finished in 2005, there will be 200 signs pointing visitors to malls, parking, visitor info, and area tourist destinations.
Economic Development Information: BIDCO, 1116 Smith Street, Charleston, WV 25301; telephone (304)340-4253; fax (304)340-4275
The Kanawha Valley's transportation systems may be the region's biggest economic asset, since Charleston is the region's hub for air service, river commerce, and highways. The city is an important distribution center because of its extremely sophisticated transportation routes. Charleston was designated a port of entry by the U.S. Customs Office in 1973, and the business and industrial sectors take advantage of direct shipments from foreign countries. The customs office at Yeager Airport inspects air, barge, rail, and other freight shipments received at locations throughout the region. A fixed-base operator with complete maintenance shop and 24-hour service is located at Yeager.
West Virginia's two railway systems transport chemicals, minerals, ores, primary metals, coal, petroleum, stone, or glass. The state has 3,931 miles of track, most of it linking the Atlantic Coast to the Midwest.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a navigation channel 200 feet wide and nine feet deep in the Kanawha River—from the mouth at Point Pleasant on the West Virginia-Ohio border to a point 91 miles east at Deepwater, about 40 miles up river from Charleston. Waterborne commerce has tripled on the Kanawha River since the early 1950s. Charleston is served by more than 40 motor freight carriers.
Labor Force and Employment Outlook
Due to the strong manufacturing base of Charleston's economy, the city boasts a workforce that is familiar with the machinery, equipment, and processes involved in technologically complex operations. But as the mining and manufacturing sectors shrink in response to national economic trends, services and retail trade are continuing to show significant growth. The area's extensive transportation network, stable workforce, and diverse economy combine to enable companies in the chemical, automotive, healthcare, telecommunications, and professional services sectors to thrive. Charleston and the surrounding region has seen steady economic growth with total employment increasing 21 percent over the past 10 years. Unemployment in the area is similar to the national average.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Charleston metropolitan area labor force, 2003 annual averages.
Size of nonagricultural labor force: 133,100
Number of workers employed in . . .
construction and mining: 8,800
trade, transportation and utilities: 26,500
financial activities: 8,000
professional and business services: 13,500
education and health services: 18,500
leisure and hospitality: 11,600
other services: 10,400
Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.05
Unemployment rate: 4.3% (December 2004)
|Largest employers||Number of employees|
|Charleston Area Medical Center||5,000|
|Kanawha County Schools||5,000|
|Verizon West Virginia||1,500|
Cost of Living
The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Charleston area.
2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $224,900
2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 92.4 (U.S. average = 100.0)
State income tax rate: Ranges from 3.0% to 6.5%
State sales tax rate: 6.0%
Local income tax rate: None
Local sales tax rate: None
Property tax rate: $8.20 per $1.000 of assessed valuation; (assessed valuation = approximately 60% of market value)
Economic Information: Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce & Development, 1116 Smith Street, Charleston, WV 25301-2610; telephone (304)340-4253
CHARLESTON , city in South Carolina and home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the United States. Jews began to settle in Charleston in 1695, 25 years after the English founded Carolina. Governor John Archdale, in a descriptive report on the colony, mentioned having a Spanish-speaking Jew as an interpreter in his dealing with captive Florida Indians. The early Jews were mostly Sephardim who came to Charleston from England by way of the Caribbean islands for the commercial opportunities available in a growing Atlantic seaport, and the religious freedom and personal rights offered and tolerated by the colony's Lord Proprietors. They helped build the city's colonial prosperity largely as shopkeepers, traders, and merchants. Among them was Moses *Lindo, who helped develop the important indigo trade and was made "Surveyor and Inspector-General of Indigo" for the provinces.
Charleston Jewish community life began in 1749 when Jews were numerous enough to organize a formal congregation called Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God). Influenced by Sephardi congregation Bevis Marks in London, Beth Elohim adopted its strict Sephardi ritual and governance. Its founding fathers were Joseph To-bias, president; Michael Lazarus, secretary; Moses Cohen, rabbi; and Isaac Da Costa, ḥazzan. The congregation, in 1764, purchased Isaac Da Costa's family burial ground, established in 1754, as a congregational graveyard, now known as the Coming Street Cemetery, the South's oldest surviving Jewish cemetery. The congregation was incorporated in 1791 and, in 1794, dedicated a new synagogue with a capacity of 500 people. The Hebrew Benevolent Society, founded in 1784, and the Hebrew Orphan Society, chartered in 1802, handled charitable activities. (Both are still active.) During the first decades of the 1800s, Charleston, with more than 700 Jews, had "the largest, most cultured, and wealthiest Jewish community in America," but it began a long decline in importance soon thereafter.
The Jews of Charleston became acculturated and were well received by the general community, which to them became "this happy land." They viewed themselves and were recognized as "a portion of the people." During the American Revolution, more than a score of Charleston Jews served in the patriot forces, several as officers. Francis *Salvador, a delegate to the revolutionary Provincial Congresses, which established independence from Great Britain in South Carolina (1775–1776), was the first Jew to hold elective public office in the New World. Killed and scalped by Tory-led Indians on August 1, 1776, he was the first Jew to die for American independence. In 1790, Beth Elohim wrote congratulations to George Washington on becoming the first president of the United States; Washington replied, "May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me, rest upon your Congregation."
Charleston Jews fought in every other war in which the United States was involved. In the Civil War, even though ambivalent about secession, they joined their South Carolina neighbors in the Confederate cause. The war left Charleston and its Jews decimated and impoverished. Noticeable recovery did not occur until mid-20th century.
Jews were well integrated in the Charleston community. Jews were active Masons; Isaac Da Costa was a member of the first Masonic lodge in South Carolina and four others were among the 11 founders of the Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Masonry (1802). Isaac Harby and Jacob N. Cardozo were newspaper editors; Penina Moise was a regular contributor of poems to Charleston newspapers; Joshua Lazarus headed the utility company, which introduced gas lighting to the city; Mordecai Cohen, a peddler, became at one time the second richest man in South Carolina and was noted for his philanthropies.
Seeking to make their religion more compatible with the open American environment, petitioners sought reforms in the rituals and observances of Beth Elohim. Unsuccessful, they formed the Reformed Society of Israelites (1824–33), the first attempt at reform of Judaism in the United States. Its leaders were Isaac Harby, Abraham Moïse, and David N. Carvalho. This effort failed, but Beth Elohim did become the first Reform congregation in the United States under the Reverend Gustavus Poznanski. When a new synagogue was dedicated in 1841, the congregation installed an organ and other reforms. (The Orthodox members withdrew and formed Congregation Shearit Israel; they merged with Beth Elohim in 1866.) On that occasion Poznanski said, "This synagogue is our Temple, this city our Jerusalem, this happy land our Palestine, and as our fathers defended that temple, that city and that land, so will our sons defend this temple, this city, this land." The synagogue, now a National Historic Landmark, is the second oldest in the United States, and the oldest surviving Reform synagogue in the world.
In 1854, the Ashkenazi congregation Berith Shalome was formed, one of the oldest in continuous existence in the United States; it merged in 1954 with Congregation Beth Israel (1911) to form present-day Brith Sholom Beth Israel. These congregations benefited from an influx of East European immigrants (1881–1920).
After World War ii, industrial growth and port development, along with expansion of military facilities, brought a new prosperity to Charleston, in which its Jewish citizens shared. Accompanying this was the growth of educational and medical institutions and tourism. Demographically, the Jewish population of metropolitan Charleston grew from about 2,000 in 1948, in a general population of about 175,000, to about 5,500 in 2004, in a general population of about 570,000. This resulted from the influx of Jews from other parts of the United States attracted by economic opportunities, mild climate, and a good quality of life. Jewish population, once contained entirely in peninsular Charleston, now spread over annexed suburbs and newly developed municipalities around the city. Jews were prominent in the area's business, professional, and cultural life, but retail trade gave way to the professions – doctors, lawyers, educators, and many other occupations. Jews were active in civic clubs and charitable organizations and were often elected to public office.
There were three congregations with a combined membership of about 1,450 family units. Emanu-El Synagogue (1947), Conservative, and K.K. Beth Elohim, Reform, were the largest, each with about 550 units. Brith Shalom Beth Israel conducted a Hebrew day school, Addlestone Academy. There were six Jewish cemeteries, three of them still active, maintained by the congregations. The Charleston Jewish Federation, established as the United Jewish Appeal in 1949, raised money for local, national, and overseas causes, dealt with community relations, and published a monthly periodical. There was a Jewish Community Center and active local chapters of most national Jewish organizations. The College of Charleston's Yaschik-Arnold Jewish Studies Program provided Jewish educational opportunities to the community, and the college's Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library housed the Jewish Heritage Collection, preserving records of the Charleston Jewish community and its people.
[Sol Breibart (2nd ed.)]
B.A. Elzas, Jews of South Carolina (1905); Charles Reznikoff and Uriah Z. Englelman, The Jews of Charleston (1950); J.W. Hagy, This Happy Land: the Jews of Colonial and Antebellum Charleston (1993); Gary P. Zola, Isaac Harby of Charleston 1788–1828 (1994); Theodore and Dale Rosengarten (eds), A Portion of the People (2002); Robert N. Rosen, A Short History of Charleston (1982); Robert N. Rosen, The Jewish Confederates (2000). websites: Charleston Jewish Community – www.JewishCharleston.com; Jewish Heritage Collection – www.CofC.educ./~JHC/.
Founded in 1670, Charleston—spelled Charles Town in the colonial era—was the only major city south of Philadelphia during the colonial period. Ideally situated upon the Atlantic coast at the mouths of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Charleston grew steadily, achieving a population of approximately six thousand by 1740. This population had doubled by the early 1770s, making Charleston the fourth-largest city in British North America.
More impressive than the population growth was the demographic and economic rise of the city. Originally settled by the English, Charleston's economic opportunities and tolerant religious and political policies attracted significant numbers of French, Scots, Irish, Germans, Catholics, and Jews, establishing it as the most cosmopolitan city in British America. Crucially, the most important source of population was Africa, as black Charlestonians—slave and free—always represented a significant proportion of the population and were a majority by 1750.
By 1770 Charleston was arguably the wealthiest city in British America. Benefiting from British policies and bounties, rice and indigo production made fortunes for the planters who produced the crops and for the Charleston merchants who marketed them. The institution of slavery provided a major cornerstone of this wealth and the leading Charleston merchants and planters were among the wealthiest men in the colonies. Charleston was the critical entry point in the North American slave trade, as hundreds of thousands of Africans landed there before being sold to the interior plantations, where they contributed their expertise and labor to rice, indigo, and, later, cotton cultivation.
Despite the economic benefits of the British connection, Charlestonians were generally supportive of the Revolutionary movement and, led by Christopher Gadsden and John and Edward Rutledge, were active in opposition to British policy from the time of the Stamp Act of 1765. Indeed, a major American victory was recorded at Charleston on 28 June 1776, when a combined British expedition under Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Sir Peter Parker was defeated before the defenses of Sullivan's Island. Charleston, however, would later be the site of the greatest American defeat of the war, when on 12 May 1780, General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered the city and over 5,500 men to Clinton to conclude a forty-two day siege. Charleston suffered under British occupation for the next two and one-half years, before the British evacuated the city on 14 December 1782.
Charleston's joy at American independence and the end of the occupation was tempered by a series of new and difficult problems. Devastated by a vicious civil war, South Carolina prepared to rebuild without the labor of the approximately twenty-five thousand slaves whom the retiring British had carried off. Additionally, during the occupation, the mercantile leadership of the city had swung to Loyalists and British merchants, as the British had allowed only those who took the oath of loyalty to engage in trade. That these merchants now stood to monopolize the windfall profits from reconstruction caused serious rioting in the city. Finally, the collapse of the price of indigo, which had relied upon British bounties, now withdrawn, for its profitability, contributed considerably to the postwar depression of the 1780s.
With indigo in decline, planters turned their attention to the production of cotton. The development of the cotton gin in 1793 allowed the mass production of cotton and the revival of the fortunes of mercantile Charleston, bringing to the city a prosperity which surpassed even that of the earlier rice and indigo boom. Unfortunately, however, the cotton boom also contributed to future problems. As cotton production became "king" in the Deep South, the need for a cheap and unskilled labor force made slavery "queen." White Charlestonians had always been concerned by the large numbers of black residents who had dwelt among them. Nevertheless, from 1803 to 1808 the city was the main port of entry for the African slave trade, and approximately 40,000 slaves were imported during this brief period. Now, as the slave proportion of the population continued to grow and as the northern states abolished slavery and grew increasingly critical of the institution, Charlestonians grew more suspicious of the black population, particularly the free black seamen who visited from the North and regaled black Charlestonians with stories of their lives in the northern seaports. Thus, the hysterical reaction to the Denmark Vesey conspiracy of 1822 is more easily understandable, as is the transformation of Charleston from the most open and tolerant to the most closed and intolerant of American cities.
As Charleston found itself increasingly upon a collision course with the developing northern commercial interests after 1820, it also witnessed its own decline as a major port. Geographically, Charleston was not well situated to control the cotton trade as the plantations expanded westward. Increasingly closed-minded and suspicious of outsiders, Charleston lagged in the development and utilization of new opportunities and technologies in business and trade. For example, Charleston built a railroad line to the interior in 1830, yet instead of running the railroad directly to the wharves, the line was built only to the city limits, necessitating an expensive transfer to wagon transport to the docks. With the advantage of rail transport negated, Charleston soon saw itself eclipsed by New Orleans, Mobile, and Savannah in the export trade.
Fraser, Walter J., Jr. Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989.
Rogers, George C., Jr. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.
Walsh, Richard. Charleston's Sons of Liberty: A Study of the Artisans, 1763–1789. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1959.
Charleston (cities, United States)
Charleston:1 City (1990 pop. 20,398), seat of Coles co., E Ill.; inc. 1835. Charleston is an industrial, rail, and trade center located in an agricultural area; shoes are also made. Eastern Illinois Univ. is there. A Lincoln-Douglas debate was held in Charleston on Sept. 8, 1858. Local attractions include an enormous statue of Lincoln and nearby Lincoln Log Cabin State Park and Fox Ridge State Park.
2 City (1990 pop. 80,414), seat of Charleston co., SE S.C.; founded 1680, inc. 1783. The oldest city in the state and one of the chief ports of entry in the SE United States, Charleston lies on a low, narrow peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers at the head of the bay formed by their confluence. In the bay or bordering it are Patriots Point, with the Yorktown and other warship museums; Sullivans Island, site of Fort Moultrie; James Island; Morris Island, with a lighthouse; Fort Sumter; and Castle Pinckney, on Shutes Folly. Many transportation routes converge at Charleston, and through its almost landlocked harbor extensive coastal and foreign trade is carried on; the city also is a cruise port. Until 1996, Charleston was headquarters for the 6th U.S. naval district and for the U.S. air force defense command. The extensive facilities included a submarine base and a huge navy yard (est. 1901) in North Charleston, which still houses a large naval electronics facility and has been redeveloped for private industry. Among the city's varied manufactures are chemicals, steel, motor vehicle parts, pulp and paper, textiles, and clothing.
The city's old homes and winding streets, historic sites, and charm, together with its mild climate and nearby beaches and gardens (including Middleton Place, Magnolia Gardens, and Cypress Gardens), attract tourists. Many colonial buildings survive, among them St. Michael's Episcopal Church (begun 1752), noted for its chimes, and the Miles Brewton house (1765–69). Also here are the Powder Magazine (c.1713); the Gibbes Museum of Art; the Charleston Museum (1773) and the City Market (1804–41), each among the oldest of their kind in the country; and Fort Sumter National Monument. The waterfront, especially the Battery, and the Grace Memorial Bridge over the Cooper River, are famous Charleston landmarks; the South Carolina Aquarium is on a wharf in the harbor. Cabbage Row surrounds a court that was the "Catfish Row" of DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy. The annual azalea festival is a popular event, and the Spoleto U.S.A. music and arts festival (see Spoleto Festival) has been held in the city since 1977. Charleston is the seat of the Citadel, the Medical Univ. of South Carolina, Charleston Southern Univ., and the College of Charleston (1790), which in 1837 became the first municipal college in the United States. Noted resorts lie east and west of the city.
The English settled (1670) at Albemarle Point, on the western bank of the Ashley River, c.7 mi (11 km) from modern Charleston. They moved in 1680 to Oyster Point, where their capital, Charles Town, had been laid out. The city became the most important seaport, and the center of wealth and culture, in the southern colonies. Non-English immigrants, among whom French Huguenots were prominent, added a cosmopolitan touch. Charleston was an early theatrical center; the Dock Street Theatre (opened 1736) was one of the first established in the country. In the American Revolution, after being successfully defended (1776, 1779) by William Moultrie, Charleston was surrendered (May 12, 1780) by Benjamin Lincoln to the British under Sir Henry Clinton, who held it until Dec. 14, 1782. The capital was moved to Columbia in 1790, but Charleston remained the region's social and economic center.
The South Carolina ordinance of secession (Dec., 1860) was passed in Charleston, and the city was the scene of the act precipitating the Civil War—the firing on Fort Sumter (Apr. 12, 1861). With its harbor blockaded and the city under virtual siege by Union forces (1863–65), Charleston suffered partial destruction but did not fall until Feb., 1865, after it had been isolated by Sherman's army. A violent earthquake on Aug. 31, 1886, with an estimated magnitude of 7.3., took many lives and made thousands homeless; it was the most powerful earthquake on the E coast of the United States in historic times. Periodic storms, such as Hurricane Hugo (1989), have also caused great damage. The city's port experienced signficant growth during the late 20th cent.
See L. Sellers, Charleston Business on the Eve of the American Revolution (1934, repr. 1970); R. N. Rosen, A Short History of Charleston (1982); Q. Bell et al., Charleston (1988); S. R. Wise, Gates of Hell (1994).
3 City (1990 pop. 57,287), state capital and seat of Kanawha co., W central W.Va., on the Kanawha River where it is joined by the Elk River; inc. 1794. Charleston is an important transportation and trading center for the highly industrialized Kanawha valley and a producer of chemicals, fabricated pipe and sheet metal, machinery, food and beverages, concrete, and railroad ties. Salt, coal, natural gas, clay, sand, timber, and oil are found in the region. The city grew around the site of Fort Lee (1788). Daniel Boone lived there from 1788 to 1795. The capital was transferred there from Wheeling in 1870, then back to Wheeling in 1875, and finally to Charleston in 1885. The state capitol (completed 1932) has a dome higher than that of the U.S. capitol, and the cultural center around it contains an art gallery, museum, planetarium, and notable gardens. The city is the seat of the Univ. of Charleston, and West Virginia State College is nearby.
Fort Leads to Founding of City
Centuries before the first white frontiersmen explored the area that is now Charleston, the Adena, a Native American tribe, inhabited the Kanawha Valley. The Adenas were mound builders, and one of West Virginia's largest examples of their unique earthworks is located in downtown South Charleston.
The influx of traders and land surveyors—most of whom were Virginians—into the Kanawha Valley region began in the mid-1760s. In 1773, Colonel Thomas Bullitt and a group of surveyors on their way to Kentucky briefly established a camp there. Bullitt again visited the valley in 1775 and, in return for his military service during the French and Indian War, he was allowed to stake a claim of more than 1,000 acres. Upon his death the claim went to his brother, Cuthbert Bullitt, who in turn sold the land to Colonel George Clendenin in 1787.
Just a few weeks after the deal was finalized, the governor of Virginia instructed Clendenin to organize a company of soldiers to protect the Kanawha Valley from native raiding parties. In 1788, the colonel erected a fort on a portion of his land that ran along the river. The completion of this stockade—known officially as Fort Lee but often referred to as Clendenin's Settlement—and the security it represented attracted a number of pioneers to the area in just a few years. So many people had settled there by 1794 that some of the other Clendenin land holdings were divided into lots, and the Virginia Assembly authorized the creation of a town, named Charles Town in honor of George Clendenin's father. (Common usage eventually shortened this to Charleston, the name of record on January 19, 1818, the day the town was officially established.) Drawn by reports of abundant game in the valley, Daniel Boone and his family were among Charleston's early residents, but the region grew so quickly that they soon left for the Kentucky wilderness.
Economy Grows Around Natural Resources
Salt manufacturing was the first industry to gain a foothold in Charleston. In 1797, a salt furnace was constructed in nearby Malden, and by the mid-1800s Kanawha Valley salt was being shipped from Charleston to all parts of the country. Throughout the first half of the century the city also grew in importance as a transportation center, primarily as a point of transfer for east-west travelers who arrived by wagon or on horseback and continued their journey by boat.
The Civil War divided Charleston. Some citizens fought for the Confederacy, but most sided with the Union. The conflict also hastened the decline of the salt trade (which had already reached its peak around 1856) and forced the development of alternative industries, particularly those involving coal, oil, and gas. The city grew rapidly after the war, aided in part by the relocation of West Virginia's capital from Wheeling to Charleston in 1870. The coming of the railroad in 1873 and improved navigation on the Kanawha River opened up coal mining on an even larger scale, and Charleston prospered as a market and wholesale center.
Between 1885 and the beginning of World War I, Charleston grew slowly but steadily, its economy bolstered by increasing demand for the natural resources it processed and sold throughout the country. Around 1913, however, a new era in the city's development began when the first chemical company was established. Others soon followed and were eventually joined by glass manufacturers. With America's entry into the war, some of these new factories switched over to producing munitions, but coal and chemicals continued to attract the most foreign capital and new residents.
In the years since World War I, Charleston has come to rely more and more on the manufacture of synthetic materials as the basis of its industrial economy; during World War II, for example, the Kanawha Valley was a center for synthetic rubber production. Thus, as has been the case since its earliest days as a frontier town, the fortunes of the city are inextricably linked with the demand for the natural resources it has in such abundance.
Charleston, as well as most of West Virginia, was affected by recession in the early 1980s. Moderate growth followed, and between 1985 and 1990 personal income grew due to Charleston's industrial growth. According to former Mayor Jay Goldman: "The year 2000 marks a period of potential growth and rebirth for Charleston. Downtown revitalization has brought pride and enthusiasm back to those who live and work [in] Charleston while maintaining our small-town ambience." Today's Charleston prides itself on its friendliness to visitors. The city's commitment to revitalization is evident throughout beautification and quality of life projects throughout the early years of the 21st century.
Historical Information: West Virginia (State) Department of Education and the Arts, Division of Culture and History, Archives and History Library, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, WV 25305; telephone (304)558-0230