Downtown Charleston Architecture: A Self-Guided Tour with Map
There's so much to do in Charleston, but you can't do Charleston right without strolling around downtown and oogling the incredible architecture. This city is one of the oldest cities in America and thanks to its early adoption of historic preservation on of the most well preserved. There are countless house museum tours and walking tours you can take when visiting the city. If you're planning a trip to Charleston for the first time, I'd highly recommend the Historic Charleston Foundation tours. They own several house museums with guided tours and host an antique show and home and garden tour. Their museums and tours provide a really good overview of history in Charleston while exploring some truly outstanding homes and perusing their antiques. There are also a bunch of guided walking tours of the historic district like this 1 hour carriage tour and this 2-hour walking tour of downtown.
The good news is, you can tour Charleston on foot and on your own. My favorite way to see the city is at sunrise. If you get up early, you can beat the crowds and head to downtown while most of the city is still sleeping. It's almost eerie in a way to see King Street totally deserted, but it is so much easier to take photographs when you're not dodging pedicabs and tourists. These are a few stunners on King and Meeting Streets.
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Chase Furniture Co. Upper King St.
Chase Furniture Company, designed by Augustus Constantine, is one of my favorites on King Street. The clean lines, monochromatic colors and large reflective windows, make it a standout among the colorful facades on the street. The building, constructed in 1946, housed Chase Furniture until 2005. In 2007, the Charleston Law School began a lease and remains there today. (Via)
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William Aiken House
The William Aiken House was constructed in 1807 by James Mackie in the Adam tradition. The house is in pristine condition, decorated with beautiful period antiques with a charming courtyard in downtown Charleston. I've always loved this entry to the courtyard; just look at that fanlight and coffered ceiling in this breezeway. The house is now a special event space so if you have your heart set on a fabulous destination wedding or just want to throw a fancy party, you should check it out. Fun fact - The wedding dress scene in The Notebook, was shot in one of the rooms here.
309 Meeting St.
This Richardsonian Revival stunner was originally built as a mortuary in 1894. It was rehabbed into condos in the mid 1980s (Via). How gorgeous are the colors and textures of this building?! If any readers know anything about this one, let me know in the comments.
363 King St.
The Victorian stunner at 363 King Street was built in 1891 by Architect W.B.W. Howe for Christopher Poppenheim a hardware merchant. The facade is of Philadelphia pressed brick trimmed with terra cotta. The building has been rebuilt behind the original facade. (Via)
371 King St.
The Garden Theater, an old vaudeville theater turned movie house, was built in 1918 at 371 King Street. It survived as a theater until 197os and was restored in 1977. The city of Charleston used the space until 2003 when it turned into a retail space. The detail in recessed porch entry ceiling is stunning. (Via)
Unitarian Church, Archdale St
Charleston architecture is dominated by historic churches throughout the city giving it its nickname, the Holy City. The Unitarian church is the oldest in the South and the second oldest church in downtown Charleston. Its construction began in 1772 when the congregation decided it needed more space than its Meeting Street location could provide. It was nearly complete in 1776 when the Revolutionary War began, finally being repaired and officially dedicated in 1787. The church was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973. The entrance for the church is on Archdale Street, but there are two brick and iron gates leading into the picturesque cemetery from King Street. It is a literal hidden gem right on King Street. You can read more about the first time I wandered into their churchyard here.
253 King St.
The Liberty & Citizens' Bank building at 253 King Street was built in 1914 by John Darlington Newcomer. He was known as the "dean of Charleston architects" for his extensive work in Charleston during the turn of the twentieth century. In 1980 the building became home to M.P. Demetre Jewelers. (Via)
St. Michael's Episcopal Church
If you've been to Charleston, I know you've seen this church. It's hard to miss the 186 foot steeple from just about any vantage point. St. Michael's was built in 1752 and the oldest church in Charleston. The architect is unknown but this structure is legendary. Make sure you go inside to check out the interior featuring colorful stained glass, cedar pews, the original pulpit and an English chandelier c. 1803 (Via).
There are so many beautiful buildings you can see just by wandering the streets downtown; this post just scratches the surface on Charleston's architecture. Want more Charleston? Check out my favorite restaurants and shops here.