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Historic Charleston, SC

While John J. Tecklenburg was recently elected mayor, former Mayor Joe Riley shepherded the city since the 1970’s. The city of Charleston, also known as Charleston Proper, Historic Charleston and the Holy City, benefited immeasurably from Riley’s visionary leadership. Charleston began in 1670 in the West Ashley area as Charles Towne. It was moved across the Ashley River to the peninsula (then known as Oyster Point) in 1680. In just 10 years, Charles Towne was the fifth largest North American city. For a time, it was also the capital of South Carolina. The College of Charleston, the oldest college in the state, was founded in 1770. The Citadel Military College began here in 1842. The Civil War and a number of natural disasters shook the port city’s foundations, but again and again the city rebuilt, seemingly strengthened by each blow. The early decades of the 20th century were difficult for Charleston, but with the coming of World War II, also came a huge investment in the area by the military — and a bolstered economy.

On former Mayor Riley’s watch, the city experienced what is often termed a “modern-day renaissance.” Emphasis has been placed on historic preservation and economic development. Riley was instrumental in the redevelopment of Charleston and the luring of Boeing and Google to the area. While tourism and the port industries anchor the city, other big Charleston peninsula jobs providers include numerous high-tech businesses, banks, law offices, the Medical University of South Carolina and other educational institutions and healthcare facilities.

Today, Charleston Proper includes two zip codes, covering about 7.2 square miles in total: downtown Charleston’s 29401, the historic tip of the peninsula, and uptown Charleston’s 29403, the also-historic area that runs above Calhoun Street up to the neck of the peninsula. The city’s population in 2009 was just under 50,000. Interstate 95 connects with Interstate 26, whose eastern terminus runs right into the heart of uptown Charleston.

Besides the Charleston’s well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets, main historic attractions include the High Battery, White Point Gardens and Waterfront Park, all overlooking the Charleston Harbor; also worth visiting are the old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon, the City Market, Dock Street Theatre, historic churches and numerous museums. Cultural attractions include multiple art galleries, music venues and theaters, the Spoleto Festival USA and the South Carolina Aquarium. The dining (choose from upscale, casual, quirky, local, French, Italian, Asian and Southern, just to name a few) and shopping in Charleston are world-renown, and the city is often frequented by famous visitors for this reason. Marion Square hosts a weekly farmers’ market stocked with fresh produce from the county’s surrounding farms, and the Maritime Center features a deepwater marina and event space.

The housing options in Charleston are diverse, from the multimillion-dollar mansions that line lower King and Meeting Streets and the area south of Broad Street (the renovated nine-bedroom, 13-bathroom c. 1808 Sword Gate House on Legare Street listed for $23 million in 2011), to the rapidly redeveloping areas of upper Rutledge Avenue and around Hampton Park, the city has homes to fit most any price points. Homes in Charleston’s 29401 zip code mainly date to the 1700s and 1800s, and many have meticulously maintained gated gardens and yards. The historic properties near the College of Charleston and the Medical University often provide rental housing to students. The 29403 zip code features a mix of classic Charleston singles built in the mid- to late 1800s and bungalow-style homes built in the 1930s and 1940s. Home prices in redevelopment areas start out in the mid-$300,000s for move-in-ready restored homes. Closer to the heart of downtown above Calhoun Street, larger homes can climb to the $800,000 to $1-million range. I hope you enjoy walking through the neighborhoods with me and Carey Nikonchuk in the DOWNTOWN SERIES!

Owner of THE BRENNAMAN GROUP, Bob Brennaman and agent with THE BRENNAMAN GROUP, Carey Nikonchuck, take the viewer on a guided tour of different areas of downtown Charleston. In this first of a series, Bob and Carey visit Radcliffeborough. Both Bob and Carey are graduates of the College of Charleston and Carey went on to receive a Master’s Degree at the University of Charleston. Bob has lived in Charleston for 26 years and Carey grew up on the Isle of Palms, just outside of Charleston.

Radcliffeborough is bordered by Calhoun Street, King Street, Radcliffe Street and all the way over to Smith Street. Radcliffeborough was originally farm land and it became a neighborhood in the early 19th century. Thomas Radcliffe purchased the property and had it surveyed in the late 18th century and they set up the property into blocks or lots. Radcliffe passed away in 1806 and his wife, Lucretia Radcliffe took over and continued the development of Radcliffeborough. One of the largest land donations she gave was for the property that is today, The Cathedral of St. Luke-St. Paul which was erected in 1618. It was originally known as the 3rd Episcopal of Charleston and it had a nickname, THE PLANTER’S CHURCH, because many of the planters who came to Charleston had homes here and used this as their home church when they were in town for long periods of time.

Next on the tour is 135 Cummings Street. It was built in 1830 by a silversmith or jeweler, named William Whiteman who constructed it as an investment. It was built as a tenement home, basically rental property. Today it’s actually a single family home.

Continuing the tour of Radcliffeborough, Ashley Hall is an all-girls’ school on the very edge of the neighborhood. It was founded in 1909 by Mary Vardrine McBee, who headed the institution for many years. It is the only girls’ college preparatory school in the state. Originally accepting boarding students, Ashley Hall transitioned to a day school in 1974.

Nearby is 89 Warren Street which was built in 1823. The gentleman who lived here was Chancellor Benjamin Duncan and after the War Between the States, he was the Chief Justice of South Carolina and what is really interesting is that this home overlooked what was then Cummings Creek that actually ran through this area of Radcliffeborough.

Warren Street may have been named for Sir Peter Warren, who was a young British Admiral who lived there for a time but interestingly, Lucretia Radcliffe’s maiden name was Warren, so it’s probable that Warren Street was named after Lucretia Warren Radcliffe. In buildings along the streets of Radcliffeborough, one can see stucco that has worn through the years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, brick was considered a ‘poor man’s’ material. There was no access to stone in the Lowcountry, so brick was used for construction, but was made to look like stone by covering the brick with stucco and scoring it. There are also large metal bolts in some of the buildings. Charleston had a major earthquake in 1886 and buildings were repaired and then large rods were run through the floor boards from one end of the structure to the other and bolted. Slowly, over time, the bolts were tightened to literally pull the homes back together. Some of the bolts are just basic, but there are beautifully designed bolts throughout the Holy City.

Next on the tour is the oldest Methodist structure and the 3rd oldest church structure still standing in Charleston. The church is an architectural reminder of the significant relationship between African Americans and the Methodist Church in Charleston.

The home at 220 Calhoun Street was originally built as a single family home, but today has been subdivided into apartments. This home is near the College of Charleston and many like this are being used to house students.

214 Calhoun Street was built in 1835 by the carpenter, Frederick Shaffer, for his own use. This home is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture.

Marion Square is a six acre park currently used for the FARMER’S MARKET on weekends. Originally Marion Square was the parade ground for the military arsenal (1842-1922) that was built in Charleston. The aresenal is now known as the Military College of the South, THE CITADEL, and the college was moved in 1922 to a different location on the Charleston Peninsula.

On Upper King Street are lots of great restaurants and shopping. One of the extraordinary restaurants is HALLS CHOP HOUSE, that you must try when you’re in Charleston. One of the favorite neighborhood spots in Radcliffeborough is CLOSED FOR BUSINESS where Bob and Carey visit with Ben Lucas, and wrap up their tour with lunch. For more of the Downtown Series Tour, please check us out at THEBRENNAMANGROUP.COM. You can contact Bob Brennaman at (843) 345-6074 or bob@charlestonproperty.net.


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