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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 5:42 PM
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Why aren't Charleston & Savannah the Boston & Philly of the south?

i was just in charleston over the weekend for the 1st time. what a wonderful city! i've also visited savannah in the past, another wonderful small southern colonial city with charm and history pouring out of its ass.

they are probably the two best and most important colonial cities of the south (along with new orleans, which is a different beast). why didn't they grow into major seaport metropolises like the the old colonial port cities in the north did, such as boston and philly?

why are atlanta and charlotte such big deals? the urban bones of charleston and savannah are on another level. i mean, what if boston had a metro population today of 600,000 and albany was a metropolis of 6,000,000 people? or if philly was now home to 300,000 and state college was a burgeoning city of 3,000,000? wouldn't that seem really fucking weird? why was the script flipped in the south?
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 5:54 PM
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My first guess would be because most of their growth occurred after WWII and the invention of air conditioning after we destroyed our cities with highways and bad regulations.
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 6:07 PM
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The ports certainly grew, even if the cities didn't. Why I'm not certain.

Also one problem that Charleston will likely have going forward is that apparently any building that is 75 years old or older is automatically given landmark status. I remember being told this on a carriage tour I took a few years back, and the guide pointed out a group of buildings that were built to house servicemen during WWII that had since been turned into housing projects were about to hit the 75 year mark.
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 6:25 PM
Buckeye Native 001 Buckeye Native 001 is offline
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Weather, possibly? I loved Charleston when I visited in 2012 but there's some residual PTSD among long-time residents from when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.
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  #5  
Old Posted Feb 14, 2017, 7:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckeye Native 001 View Post
Weather, possibly? I loved Charleston when I visited in 2012 but there's some residual PTSD among long-time residents from when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.
My bad.
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  #6  
Old Posted Feb 15, 2017, 10:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
New Orleans was the second or third largest city in the U.S. in 1840. Really only NYC was considerably bigger.
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Originally Posted by Centropolis View Post
i am suprised to see that new orleans was larger than philadelphia (proper) in 1840. philly hadnt annexed northern liberties yet, though. still an impressive stat for both a southern AND "western" city at the time.
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Yeah, Philly, by current standards, was likely bigger than New Orleans, but by city limits New Orleans was #2 or #3. Pretty impressive for what was still a raw frontier city, far from established centers.
New York and Philadelphia were far and away the largest cities in the US back then. Philadelphia was much larger than New Orleans at that time -- likely double the size of New Orleans. Northern Liberties/Kensington/Spring Garden, and Southwark/Moymensing were all urban industrial neighborhoods immediately contiguous with "Philadelphia proper" back then. They were basically part of the city, even though they were technically their own townships "separated" from Philadelphia only by former estate boundaries. For all practical purposes, they were Philadelphia neighborhoods... and they also happened to be among the largest "cities" in the US at the time.

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Originally Posted by xzmattzx View Post
Some of it has been mentioned before, but almost all of it has to do with the Industrial Revolution.

Charleston and Savannah are not on the Fall Line. Philadelphia and Boston are, or are close enough, and so in the mid-1800s, these cities took off as finished goods from the mills were sent to the big city and then shipped off around the world. Charleston and Savannah didn't have many mills close enough to provide for more than the surrounding region.

There is one Southern city near the coast that is on the Fall Line and was comparatively big back then. Richmond is on the Fall Line and had many factories, similar to how Philadelphia and Boston did back then. Richmond was important enough to become the capital of the Confederacy.

In addition to that, there was a network of canals and railroads that provided links to Boston and Philadelphia, particularly Philadelphia. And of course, New York City outgrew Philadelphia because of the Erie Canal, which linked it up with a very large area providing raw materials to the factories in the NYC area.

What happened in the 20th century, with highways and all, is irrelevant because the groundwork had already been laid in the past several decades. Similarly, the highways didn't create Houston or Los Angeles, which grew in the 20th century; the highways were built to accommodate demand, because other factors were driving the local economy at the time.

The bottom line is that Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston, and Savannah all had what cities needed in the 1700s, but Boston and Philadelphia had what cities needed in the 1800s. From there, Boston and Philadelphia stayed ahead.
Yes, this was basically along the lines of my response.

And in even broader terms... in the mid-19th century, the North was industrial with many cities, the South was agricultural with few cities. Factories developed around nodes of materials and transportation networks. This brought the demand for workers... immigration. 5 million Irish alone came to the US in the mid 1800s before the Civil War... and most of them settled in Northern industrial cities. And the accelerator was only pushed down from there.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2017, 10:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckeye Native 001 View Post
Weather, possibly? I loved Charleston when I visited in 2012 but there's some residual PTSD among long-time residents from when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.
Oops.

My bad.
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  #8  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 6:30 PM
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The northeast cities also had heavy industry and more developed economies than their southern counterparts. The south really didn't grow until after WW2 and by then, ports were not that essential as they were in the past.
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 6:41 PM
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Atlanta was always going to boom. It's all about location. Atlanta sits in arguably the best spot in the entire southeast when it comes to logistics and transportation especially considering 3 major highways(which goes in all directions) intersect right in the city center.

Also the South simply didn't have a huge industrial base prior to WWII. Most of the new immigrants completely ignored the South and went straight to the Northeast or Midwest which had more advanced economies and weren't as provincial. You have to remember...the South was still mostly a slave/agriculture economy including Charleston and Savannah and by the time slavery ended, the South was too busy rebuilding and trying to implement Jim Crown laws while the Northeast/Midwest were far more welcoming to immigrants and blacks which is why the cities went kaboom between 1860-1940.
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  #10  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 7:08 PM
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A mix of two things

1 - slow to urbanize until after WWII, meaning as Boston, Philly, and NYC industrialized and became behemoths, Charleston and Savannah weren't and the South was still predominantly agrarian until air conditioning became commonplace.

2 - the major rail lines (and later highways) by-passed Charleston and Savannah, going for cities like Atlanta and Raleigh, which was crucial in the air conditioned age, when the South began to urbanized (and suburbanize).
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  #11  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 9:06 PM
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Massachusetts colony's importance is well known, and boston was a great deep-water port that much closer to England. Philly of course was the lynchpin of another major colony and enjoyed a stint as US capital. NYC similar, and grew very quickly with access to interior waterways that cemented its importance.

as stated, the South was poorer and more rural in general at the time those cities exploded. Stayed rural and yes, no air conditioning limited growth. Chiefly southern port cities were cotton exporters to England, mostly. Georgia was infamously first a prison colony of sorts.
Charleston even dealt with piracy in the 1700s, and was a bit out of the way to serve most of the US population anyway
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  #12  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 9:57 PM
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Atlanta overtook Savannah in population in the 1870s and Charleston in the 1880s. By the time the government was trying to decide how to build the highway network, Atlanta was already significantly larger than those two cities, not to mention more centrally located, so it's no surprised that they decide to build multiple highways to connect Atlanta.

New York City and the other NE coastal cities were also already much larger than Charleston and Savannah in the 19th century.

So any explanation has to look at why Charleston and Savannah didn't grow much in the 19th century and why growth was already shifting towards inland southern cities in the 19th century.

Once the cities of the inland South had established a lead over the coastal South, there was little reason for the population to shift back towards the coast since ports weren't as important to city economies in the 20th century as in the 19th.

Charleston was actually not much smaller than the big NE cities during the 1700s, barely smaller than Boston, bigger than Baltimore, and only 3 times smaller than NYC in 1790. However, the NE cities grew much faster than the SE ports between 1790 and 1860, so that by 1860 Charleston was already far behind and NYC was now 30x more populous.

So at least some of the causes were already set in motion before the Civil War.
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  #13  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 10:11 PM
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One thing to notice is that already in 1790-1800, the census shows that most of the counties of the coastal South were fairly sparsely populated compared to the counties of the coastal North. Even the counties of the coastal North without any big cities like Plymouth (MA) or Monmouth (NJ) were about 3-5x denser than most counties of the coastal South. Only Chatham (Savannah) and Charleston county were comparably dense.

In fact, already then, the inland Piedmont region was more densely populated than the coastal counties.

So what was going on there?
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  #14  
Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 9:54 PM
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It would be cool if Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans had become the Southern analogues to the Acela Corridor cities. Population wasn't even an excuse, since Virginia had by far the largest population of any state for a very long time. I guess it all comes down to the plantation slavery economy, and how that retarded economic development in the South for the longest time.

When the railroads were built in the South, they weren't built to link urban centers, but to service the plantations? So they linked minor interior cities that became big as a result?
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Old Posted Feb 7, 2017, 10:31 PM
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Charlotte, which is west of the real piedmont, was originally a cotton town and then became a textile town before it's much more recent shift to major banking. Atlanta sprung up at the crossroads of several rail lines, hence it's original name Terminus

I think most of them just developed later. The Southern port exception is really New Orleans, but it was tied to the Northeast economy and Chicago by water
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Old Posted Feb 8, 2017, 12:31 AM
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Plus, the South just didn't receive the immigration levels the Northeast did. From the end of the Civil War to the end of WWI, Massachusetts received almost 3 million Europeans of largely Irish, Italian, and Portuguese origin. South Carolina didn't even hit 3 million state-wide residents until 1979.

Charleston is gorgeous though!
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  #17  
Old Posted Feb 8, 2017, 12:48 AM
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How many large port cities can the east coast really support? I don't think the coastal location of Charleston and Savannah really gives them any economic advantage over their inland cousins. Maybe the civil war and the Charleston earthquake also helped to slow their growth.
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Old Posted Feb 8, 2017, 5:07 AM
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The Boll Weevil (and some of the other stuff mentioned).

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  #19  
Old Posted Feb 8, 2017, 1:59 PM
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Just visited Charleston for the first time two weeks ago - lovely city.

Charleston is locked in by water on three sides, and the city can't annex any more area due to North Charleston boxing it in. Everything is deemed historic and protected, which has preserved most of the city while also turning it into a "living museum." Homes in downtown Charleston run 1+ million to 6 million along the battery. It's like a celebrity retirement home than a functioning city, where the working class have to live up in North Charleston.

For comparison, look at a city like Charlotte. Charlotte's population in 1920 was 46,338. The Charleston population in 1920 was 67,957.

Now in 2015 Charlotte's population is 827,097 and Charleston is 132,609.

This is largely due to the fact that Charlotte had plenty of cheap land to sprawl into in post-WWII era, and plenty of space for mills and manufacturing, plus a willingness to raze any and everything in it's downtown for developers.
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  #20  
Old Posted Feb 8, 2017, 2:32 PM
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I haven't been to Savannah, but have been to Charleston several times. It is a shocker because I always viewed southern cities as ho hum sprawlville USA up until that point. Charleston turns that viewpoint completely on its head. It's just such a damn charming place, you feel like you're in a dream walking around there. Kinda gives you a sense of how Boston, New York, or Philly probably looked (albeit different architecture) in their early years before industrialization kicked them into hypergrowth mode.

Regarding Steely's question I have often wondered the same and it looks like that question was adequately answered here.
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