The New International Encyclopædia/Charleston (South Carolina)
CHARLESTON. A port of entry and an important commercial centre, the largest city in South Carolina and the county-seat of Charleston County (Map: South Carolina, D 4). It is seven miles from the ocean, on a low peninsula formed by the Ashley and Cooper rivers, which unite in a broad bay affording an excellent harbor, 130 miles by rail from the State capital, Columbia, and 82 miles northeast of Savannah, Ga.
Charleston is a city of great historic and scenic interest, with picturesque houses surrounded by pleasant gardens, and with some irregular and narrow streets. In the southern part of the city are White Point Garden, a finely wooded park, containing the Jasper Monument and a bust of William Gilmore Sims, and the Battery, a popular promenade commanding a view of the harbor. The corner of Broad and Meeting streets is the site of the court-house, post-office, and city hall, the last containing a collection of historic relics and portraits. Other prominent buildings are Saint Michael's Church, opened for worship in 1761, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Saint Philip's Church (Protestant Episcopal), the custom-house of white marble, the Memminger Normal School, and the Thomson Auditorium. The city has a valuable library of 20,000 volumes (subscription) dating from the year 1748; and a number of charitable institutions, the more notable of which are the city hospital, Charleston Orphan House, Euston Home, and Home for Mothers, Widows, and Daughters of Confederate Soldiers. As an educational centre, Charleston is the seat of the College of Charleston, founded in 1785; South Carolina Medical College; South Carolina Military Academy, which became known for the part its students played in 1861 in the Civil War; Porter Military Academy; and Avery Normal Institute for colored students. The city maintains a well-equipped system of public schools, dating from 1810, and comprising primary and grammar schools, and a girls' high or normal school, in which are enrolled over 5000 pupils. About $60,000 is devoted annually to the educational department. Monuments of William Pitt and John C. Calhoun, and a bust of Henry Timrod, the poet, are among the objects of interest. Outside of the city are found several resorts attractive on account of popular amusements and for natural beauties: Chicora Park, four miles beyond the city limits on the Cooper River; Isle of Palms, north of Sullivan's Island, and directly on the ocean; Magnolia Gardens, 12 miles distant on the Ashley; and Sullivan's Island, with a fine beach for surf bathing. Magnolia Cemetery, three miles north of the City Hall, is a beautiful spot, with fine trees, shrubs, and flowering plants.
The harbor, landlocked and one of the safest on the coast, has been so improved since the construction of jetties as to admit large vessels, the depth of water on the bar at mean high water being over 29 feet. West of the channel is a lighthouse with a flashing light at an elevation of 133 feet. The harbor defenses include Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island—where the Federal Government, at an expenditure of over $500,000, is making extensive improvements designed to render the artillery post at that point one of the most completely equipped in the United States—and Fort Sumter. The other forts, well known in history, are now abandoned. The United States Navy Department has decided to transfer the naval station at Port Royal, S. C., to Charleston. An admirable site on the Cooper River, about seven miles from the city, has been secured, and plans requiring an outlay of several millions of dollars have been adopted for the construction of an extensive and well-appointed navy-yard.
The city has about nine miles of water-front, most of the wharves lying on the Cooper River. Good transportation facilities, by rail and water, form a feature of its equipment as a commercial centre. The Clyde Line connects Charleston with New York, Boston, and Jacksonville, and freight-steamers go to important foreign and domestic ports; the Atlantic Coast Line, Southern, and Plant System railways afford railroad communication.
In the early years of the Nineteenth Century Charleston was the chief cotton port in the United States, and down to 1860 it held third place among the cotton-receiving ports. Since the Civil War, however, the Charleston trade has developed but slowly, and during recent years the export trade has been declining. In 1901 the total exports amounted to $7,084,215, and imports to $1,477,719. Besides cotton exports (value in 1901, $6,728,665) there are large exports of rice, phosphates, fertilizers, lumber, and naval stores. The import trade has been slowly advancing and there is an important wholesale and jobbing trade with cities of the interior. Large quantities of fruit and early vegetables are shipped to Northern cities. Charleston, though known rather as a commercial centre, is the seat of considerable industrial interests, the principal of which are the manufacture of fertilizers, and cotton-compressing. There are also extensive rice-mills, carriage-factories, sash and blind factories, and manufactures of bagging, baskets, barrels, flour, lead, refined oil, beer, ice, etc.
The government is administered, under the charter of 1836, by a mayor who holds office for four years, and a city council, the members of which are elected one-half by wards, and one-half at large. The executive controls appointments to the board of health and, with the consent of the council, nominates commissioners of the city hospital, board of fire masters, commissioners of the Colonial Common, and park commissioners. All other administrative officials are elected by the municipal council. The annual expenditures of the city amount to about $600,000. the main items of expense being $30,000 for street lighting, $50,000 for the fire department, $60,000 for charitable institutions, and $75,000 for the police department.
Population, in 1790, 16,359; in 1850, 42,985; in 1860, 40,522; in 1870, 48,956; in 1890, 54,955; in 1900, 55,807, including 31,500 persons of negro descent and 2600 of foreign birth.
History.—In 1670 an English colony under Governor William Sayle came to Albemarle Point, on the west hank of the Ashley River, three miles from the present city, and founded Charles Town (named in honor of Charles II.), the first permanent settlement in Carolina. In 1680 the public offices were removed to the present site of Charleston, where a number of families had previously settled. The population was increased, in 1685-86, by a company of Huguenot refugees, in 1755 by 1200 Acadian exiles, and in 1793 by 500 French refugees from Santo Domingo. In 1775 Charleston was one of the chief cities and the third seaport in importance in America, and it was the first Southern city to join the revolutionary movement. In March, 1776, a South Carolina convention met in Charleston and adopted the first independent State Constitution. On June 28, 1776, the garrison on Sullivan's Island, under Colonel Moultrie (see Fort Moultrie), repulsed an attack by the British fleet, and in 1779 the city was again successfully defended, this time against General Prevost; but on May 12, 1780, with its garrison of 7000 under General Lincoln, it was captured after a siege of six weeks by a British force of 10,000 under Sir Henry Clinton, its loss being regarded as one of the greatest disasters of the Revolutionary War. On December 14, 1782, the British evacuated the city, and the Americans again took possession of it. Charleston was incorporated in 1783, and until 1790 was the capital of the State. In 1784 the first bale of cotton exported from America to Europe was shipped from this port. Charleston was the centre of the nullification movement of 1832, and in 1860 the Democratic convention, being afterwards adjourned to Baltimore, met here, as did also the State convention which, on December 20, passed the first ordinance of secession. On April 12-13, 1861, the Civil War was opened by the Confederate bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter (q.v.) in Charleston Harbor. In 1863 a Federal fleet under Admiral Dupont unsuccessfully attacked the fortifications of the harbor, and, though closely besieged, and frequently bombarded, the city remained in possession of the Confederates until February 17, 1865, when it was evacuated, and all the public buildings, stores, cotton-warehouses, and shipping were burned by order of General Hardee, the Confederate commander. On the following day the Union forces under General Sherman took possession. On August 31, 1886, Charleston suffered terribly from an earthquake shock, the severest in the history of the United States. Seven-eighths of the houses were rendered unfit for habitation, many persons were killed, and property valued at over $8,000,000 was destroyed. The damage, however, was quickly repaired. The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition (q.v.) opened here December 2, 1901.
Consult: McCrady, South Carolina Under the Proprietary Government (New York, 1897); South Carolina Under the Royal Government (New York, 1899); and South Carolina in the Revolution (New York, 1901); also Powell, Historic Towns of the Southern States (New York, 1900).