Charleston may well be the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen after decades of travel around the world. I try to convey some of that here.
I just returned from my first visit to Charleston, South Carolina, and I have to say that I’m in love. I have traveled through most of Europe, whether western, northern, southern or central; wandered around the Baltic and the North Sea; dipped into North Africa; traversed the British Isles; spent time in Israel; and visited sizable parts of Southeast Asia; and even spent time traveling around here in the U.S., but I have to say that I’ve never seen a more beautiful city than Charleston. Whether the buildings are from the 18th century, the 19th century, or the early 20th century, they are just breathtaking. The erupting spring foliage is breathtaking. The harbor is breathtaking. And of course the history is fascinating.
Here’s a very quick history of this place. The city was founded in 1670 thanks to a land grant that King Charles II of England gave to eight lords proprietor to run as a corporation — hence the original name of Charles Town. Thanks to its large harbor, and thanks to its rice, indigo, wood, Native American supplied deer skins, naval supplies, and (sadly) slave trades, it quickly became one of the richest cities in America.
Although most people think of Boston, Philadelphia, and Virginia as the major players in the Revolutionary War, more battles were fought in South Carolina than in any other colony. One of the first major battles protected Charleston from a British sea-borne invasion. A few years later, though, the British wised up and attacked the peninsula from the land side while blockading the harbor. Eventually, the Charleston citizens opted to surrender rather than have their city completely destroyed.
Within three years of war’s end, Charleston was right back to trading with England as if the war had never happened. The indigo trade, which Britain had originally subsidized, was over, but with the addition of cotton and other supplies in the mix, Charleston was a money machine again. More gorgeous buildings went up. [Read more…]