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. 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), one of the oldest 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, took many lives and made thousands homeless; 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.