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A Brief History of Charleston, SC – From Carriage to Car

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You don’t earn a reputation as one of America’s most historic cities by accident. As anyone who’s visited Charleston knows, you can see enough history from the streets and understand that this jewel of South Carolina goes back centuries. But how much do you really know about the founding and history of Charleston, from carriage to car? The history of Charleston is too long to tackle here, but here’s a brief overview of what makes our city so special.

The Founding of Charleston, SC

Charleston started as “Charles Town”—in honor of King Charles II of England, who was restored to the throne in 1660. Not long after, settlers founded Charles Town just a few short miles from the modern-day city. By the early 18th century, the city was written as “Charlestown,” and “Charleston” was formally adopted in 1783 when the city was finally incorporated.

Early life in Charles Town was not easy. The port became popular as a place to do commerce in the southeast. Though the city had problems with disease, some violence, and became a primary receiving spot in the slave trade, successful trade of goods led Charleston to a role as the primary hub of commerce in the southern American colonies by the time of the revolution.

The Revolutionary War and Aftermath

In addition to being one of America’s first major cities, Charleston was a hinge in the southern portion of the Revolutionary War. The British attacked Charleston several times. A failed attempt by the famed British Navy to capture a palisade at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island wasn’t enough to discourage them. After the Siege of Charleston in 1780, the British held the city.

Not soon after, Charlestown became Charleston in official spelling. A period of mostly peace until the 1860s meant that Charleston was free to flourish in the “Antebellum” age of the American south.

The Civil War

The problem of slavery came to a head in Charleston with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. The first shots turned out to be the beginning of the Civil War, and South Carolina became first state to secede from the Union. From then on, a large military presence was maintained in Charleston—and some believe it contributed to the economic growth of the city during Reconstruction and into the 20th century.

Charleston Today

Throughout the 20th century, Charleston got back in touch with its roots, with many organizations throughout the city buying up old famous houses and turning them into museums. That’s why Charleston maintains much of its authenticity to these historical periods—in many cases, Charleston is exactly how it looked back then.

One of the best ways to explore this side of Charleston is to take a carriage ride through its historic district. At Charleston Carriage Works, we offer the top-rated carriage tours, providing large groups with a comfortable and engaging horse-drawn ride through some of the most historic sites in the U.S.

Want to learn even more?

Book a carriage tour with Charleston Carriage Works today to enjoy a ride through Charleston’s famous historic district. We’ll share incredible stories and have a few laughs along the way, while you travel through the streets as guests would have over a century ago!