Charleston is one of the most popular destinations in the world for good reason: It’s a truly charming city overflowing with history, beauty and fabulous food. These 10 fun facts will help you discover even more of Charleston’s charm.
1. Look around Charleston and you’ll see the image of pineapples everywhere—on front doors, gates, and even in the middle of the most famous places in the city, the Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park. Why? Local legend has it that when a ship captain arrived home after a long journey, he would hang the tropical fruit in the door to announce he was home and welcoming friends and neighbors to come visit.
2. The cadets at the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, hold a dress parade most Fridays during the school year. The uniformed Corps march on Summerall Field in perfect precision to the sounds of music and cannon fire. It’s really quite a sight to see. The parade is free and welcomes all visitors.
3. You can get a free taste of pralines at River Street Sweets. But fair warning: you will probably end up buying a pound of the sinfully sweet and buttery pecan candy once you try a bite.
4. The famous Blockade of Charleston by the infamous pirate Blackbeard in 1718 was not for money or gold or jewels. It was for medicine. Blackbeard and his pirates shut down the city to demand mercury, the only known treatment for syphilis at the time. It seems health really is the greatest the greatest treasure.
5. Pirates and signers of the Declaration of Independence were all kept together in the damp and squalid basement cells of the Provost Dungeon. You can visit their gloomy and dank lodgings at the Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon.
6. Charleston City Market was built in 1790s, not as a place to sell art, crafts and souvenirs but to sell beef and produce. The “Charleston eagles” (or buzzards, to non-South Carolinians) who used to circle the market to pick up the butchers’ scraps kept the city so clean that they were protected by law.
7. Catfish Row, the setting of Porgy and Bess, the first and most important opera in American musical history, was based on Cabbage Row in Charleston. The opera about African-American life in Charleston in the 1920s was written by George Gershwin during his vacation on Folly Island in 1934. You can still walk by Cabbage Row today.
8. Buildings in Charleston must be no taller than the tallest church steeple, which is Saint Matthew’s Lutheran Church. The Holy City gets its nickname from its skyline full of steeples, not necessarily the behavior of its fun-loving citizens.
10. The old “single houses” in Charleston have their narrowest side facing the street, and long, often double- or triple-decker porches or “piazzas” stretch along the long sides of the house. The front door is on the side of the house, and the house is only one room wide. It’s a really distinctive style of architecture perfectly suited for Charleston’s old tax laws and sticky climate. The piazzas face south and west to catch the coastal breezes while the narrow façade on the streetside limits the property tax burden.