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  #1  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 4:40 AM
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Charleston, SC - America's greatest might-have-been

I spent January 1, 2013 in Savannah. The next day, I went to Charleston. According to the 1790 US census, Charleston was once the 4th largest city in America. There were basically 5 big cities at the time. The others were Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Baltimore. Charleston's ranking slowly dropped throughout the early 19th Century, then plummeted after the Civil War.

Although Charleston and Savannah are close geographically and ostensibly similar, being historically large cities now considered small, that's where their similarities end. It's not just that Charleston is less a museum city than Savannah, though that's true, but also that they're simply vastly different types of cities. Savannah is a textbook planned grid. Charleston on the other hand is a medieval mess. While Savannah reminds me of Philadelphia and Montreal, Charleston is a dead ringer for a southern version of Boston, or of lower Manhattan.

Like Manhattan's Broadway, the main street in Charleston runs down the center of the peninsula that is the city. In Charleston it's called King Street. But unlike Manhattan, Charleston's is so narrow you could practically lie down across it.




















It's not all historic. There are a few tall buildings poking above here and there, and a fair amount of stuff like this:




From King Street there are 2 important perpendicular streets leading to the waterfront: Market Street and Broad Street.

Market Street is so named because - you guessed it - it's the location of the city's historic market house. The market is several blocks long, and is still used daily.










Broad Street is more of a traditional commercial street, like King Street but wider.












This is the post office, btw.




... in case you couldn't tell.




Unlike Savannah, I saw buses in Charleston!





Between Broad Street and the southern tip of the city lay some of Charleston's oldest and most interesting residential streets.










Some of them are lined with the mansion homes of Charleston's historic elite, each with a garden better than the last.










Except for along the southern tip, the waterfront itself is a mix of former industrial land and still industrial land. There are a few nice little parks in some places, but much of it is still in active use.

The bridge you see in the background is the Ravenel Bridge, opened in 2005.




Across the harbor you can see the Civil War's famous Fort Sumpter (alas, my pictures of it were even more terrible than the rest of these), and the World War II vintage USS Yorktown.




Moving down towards the tip of the city, the waterfront becomes the battery, a fortified seawall.






At the exact tip of the city is the battery park, once again just like Manhattan. Except in Charleston it's called White Point Garden.








And that's Charleston. Or rather, the tiny part of it that I saw.




Bye.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 4:49 AM
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god, i want some shrimp and grits from the charleston farmers market right now.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 5:45 AM
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I've always wanted to visit Savannah and Charleston. Both of your tours have been great and helped give me an idea of what the cities are like beyond the usual tourist photos. Thanks for posting them.
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  #4  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 6:36 AM
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wanna go back, wanna go back, wanna go back...

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  #5  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 6:37 AM
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Quote:
It's not just that Charleston is less a museum city than Savannah, though that's true, but also that they're simply vastly different types of cities.
You think Charleston is more of a museum city than Savannah? Weird that I thought the exact opposite. Charleston was more manicured, more 'historic sites,' more, well, Central Boston (every turn some monument/church/museum/slave house), than, say, a more 'organically organized' Savannah. Sure, Savannah is certainly more 'planned' than Charleston with the squares but Charleston felt more upper-crust, more 'don't touch this' than a moss-happy, almost New Orleansian Savannah. Probably due to SCAD's influence but I found Savannah far more 'real' overall than Charleston, which admittedly felt more touristy on the peninsula. Strangely, Charleston reminded me of Newport, Rhode Island than anywhere else but I totally see the Lower Manhattan/Boston thing.

Now NORTH Charleston on the other hand...
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  #6  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 6:52 AM
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Great shots. It's been a few years since I've been to Charleston but the non tourism dominated section of the urban core is roughly north of Rutledge Avenue and west of King Street, once north of US 17. If you like old industrial architecture, the old naval base is also a cool site to check out. Overall, I prefer Charleston since it's roughly twice as large as Savannah. However, I love having both of them and St. Augustine a short drive away.
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  #7  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 8:52 AM
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Cirrus, I love this quote from you;

Quote:
Although Charleston and Savannah are close geographically and ostensibly similar, being historically large cities now considered small, that's where their similarities end. It's not just that Charleston is less a museum city than Savannah, though that's true, but also that they're simply vastly different types of cities. Savannah is a textbook planned grid. Charleston on the other hand is a medieval mess.
I have a twin who attended The Citadel at the same time I attended SCAD and we had the same take on these towns back in the early 90's. We both ended up in DC for a while...
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  #8  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 11:06 AM
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Fascinating. I'm definitely glad this urban fabric didn't get plowed under for skyscrapers and parking lots.
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  #9  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 11:12 AM
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Very nice pictures, Cirrus!

I like your pics of this historical city. It must be a very good place to visit o to live in. I like its architecture, and of course the trees in its parks. I´d like to visit Charleston.

Congrats and greetings from Madrid, Spain!
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  #10  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 12:13 PM
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"Charleston Dandy"
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  #11  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 2:46 PM
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Nice photos. I did the same last May (Savannah and then Charleston).

Overall I preferred Charleston and it did seem to have more going on. Although while Savannah is a bit of a museum city, there is apparently a pretty vibrant arts and design scene (I didn't experience personally). And while Charleston is more dynamic, the whole southern tip is basically older retirees at this point.

Oh, and that City Market was a hub of activity in May.
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Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 2:49 PM
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Nice.
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  #13  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 2:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColDayMan
Charleston was more manicured, more 'historic sites,' every turn some monument/church/museum/slave house, than more 'organically organized' Savannah. Charleston felt more upper-crust, more 'don't touch this' than a moss-happy Savannah. Probably due to SCAD's influence but I found Savannah far more 'real' overall than Charleston, which admittedly felt more touristy on the peninsula.
I think maybe we have different definitions of "museum city". Charleston is clearly wealthier than Savannah, but it also has more of an economy besides tourism. It sounds like you're focusing on the former while I'm focusing on the latter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lakelander
I love having both of them and St. Augustine a short drive away.
If we'd have had a few more hours, we'd have stopped in St. Augustine too. Alas, it will have to wait for our next trip. My wife's mother lives in Tampa, so every once in a while we find ourselves driving there, and stopping somewhere in between.
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  #14  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 3:10 PM
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Maybe it's the northerner in me, but I felt more at home in the hustle-bustle and narrow streets of Charleston. Savannah is a gem, but I believe I would rather live in Charleston (the southern part if I had the bucks). I did explore a bit of the northern part and saw how the non-touristy section looked. Some serious grit, but I believe gentrification is creeping that way (last time I visited). Thanks for the pics Cirrus, and I'll echo LSyd - wanna go back.
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  #15  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 3:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
I think maybe we have different definitions of "museum city". Charleston is clearly wealthier than Savannah, but it also has more of an economy besides tourism. It sounds like you're focusing on the former while I'm focusing on the latter.
If you're talking about economy, both mirror each other and there was no general difference I felt overall. Generally speaking, Savannah has the ports, the military, and tourism. Charleston has the ports, the military, and tourism. I found it a wash overall in terms of being towns for tourism with Charleston catering towards more affluent folks (King Street alone) and Savannah with more 'everyday' folks. Two three-trick ponies. Thus, when you said 'Museum City,' I thought you meant visually (planned grid vs. fort) and attractions.

But whatever. Both are fantastic cities that destroy 99% of the US.
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Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 4:46 PM
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Very urban there! I guess thinking of "urban" and "South Carolina" has never come together for me.
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  #17  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 5:47 PM
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^ yes, all of the south is nothing but rural backwater

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lakelander View Post
Great shots. It's been a few years since I've been to Charleston but the non tourism dominated section of the urban core is roughly north of Rutledge Avenue and west of King Street, once north of US 17. If you like old industrial architecture, the old naval base is also a cool site to check out. Overall, I prefer Charleston since it's roughly twice as large as Savannah. However, I love having both of them and St. Augustine a short drive away.
some pics of the old naval base/non-touristy areas in this thread

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  #18  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 5:53 PM
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I need to go here
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  #19  
Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 6:10 PM
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Wow magnificent photos... yeah Charleston has been on my list for a while now. Gotta make it happen!!
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Old Posted Jan 15, 2013, 6:14 PM
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Originally Posted by ColDayMan View Post
If you're talking about economy, both mirror each other and there was no general difference I felt overall. Generally speaking, Savannah has the ports, the military, and tourism. Charleston has the ports, the military, and tourism. I found it a wash overall in terms of being towns for tourism with Charleston catering towards more affluent folks (King Street alone) and Savannah with more 'everyday' folks. Two three-trick ponies. Thus, when you said 'Museum City,' I thought you meant visually (planned grid vs. fort) and attractions.

But whatever. Both are fantastic cities that destroy 99% of the US.
Savannah actually punches way above its weight economically, especially concerning the Port. Savannah is now the 3rd largest port on the east coast, more than twice the size of Charleston. More heavy industry and manufacturing are located in SAV. There are massive distribution centers for Target, Home Depot, IKEA, etc. Savannah is also the HQ's of General Dynamics Gulfstream division, with several thousand more employees than Boeing has in Charleston. They are pretty much equals in the Military area.

But, you're right - both are gems that are absolute treasures to experience and enjoy.

Great thread, Cirrus.
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