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February 2009

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Charleston 101

Defining moments that shaped our city


Compiled by Michael Coker, Harlan Greene, Stephen Hoffius, & Suzannah Smith Miles

We challenged our contributors to sift through the city’s dramatic past to identify 101 integral events (in no particular order) that created the Charleston we know today

1. City Market Opens, circa 1750
When the city is given a plot of land for public use, the area quickly develops into a center for the sale of local produce and commodities (but not slaves, as some local myths contend), and a Greek Revival building dubbed Market Hall is built on the site in 1841.

2. A System of Law and Order Outlined, 1669
Drafted in part by John Locke, the Fundamental Constitutions establish the basis for governing the colony, delineating a hierarchy of aristocracy and slavery and offering religious liberty to Jews, Huguenots, and other “heathens.”

3.Stede Bonnet Hangs, 1718
Called the “Gentleman Pirate,” Bonnet marauded the Carolina coast and even held Charleston hostage at one point. Finally captured by Col. William Rhett near Cape Fear, he is brought back to Charleston, tried, and hanged for piracy at White Point on December 10. His execution marks the beginning of the end of the reign of piracy.

4. Carolina’s First War, 1715
On April 15, the Yamassee War begins, lasting until 1718. Ninety percent of European traders in the Lowcountry are killed, and it takes nearly 10 years for the colony to reorganize as a commercially viable enterprise.

5. “Channel Five is Now Alive,” 1953
With those words, newsman Charlie Hall signs WCSC-TV on the air at its original location on East Bay Street on June 19. The first television station in the state, it is joined by WCBD in 1954 and WCIV in 1962. South Carolina was one of the last states to have its own station (the first were New York and California). A year after WCSC’s first broadcast, every state in the nation would have at least one television station.

6. Public Library Forms, 1930
As the existing libraries in Charleston are all private institutions open only to members, a group of prominent citizens meets at Ashley Hall to discuss the formation of the first free library. With the assistance of generous donations from civic organizations, its certificate of incorporation is approved on May 23. A year later, the library opens in the original Charleston Museum, with historian Laura Bragg as head librarian.

7. Charleston Becomes a Crown Colony, 1719
Dissatisfied with the rule of the Lords Proprietors, the South Carolina House of Assembly forms a convention and petitions to be brought under the governance of the King of England. Carolina as a “business experiment” ends.

8. Eliza Lucas Pinckney Grows Indigo, 1739
The 17-year-old daughter of Col. George Lucas, Eliza (1722-1793) takes over control of her father’s Lowcountry plantations. For two years, she experiments with processing indigo for international trade, helping make it one of the Lowcountry’s most valuable cash crops of the century, second only to rice in export value. After the Revolutionary War, the embittered British begin obtaining their indigo from India, effectively ending South Carolina’s production of the crop.

9. The Emancipation Proclamation Read, 1865
President Abraham Lincoln’s history-changing order is first read in Charleston on March 21 as the climax to a 2.5-mile parade and countless speeches. The proclamation was read only a month after Union troops first marched into Charleston. Fearing an uprising, the majority of white citizens of the city hid indoors.

10. Folly Beach Causeway Opens, 1920
Although the road connecting James and Folly islands is ready for cars on July 1, only owners of lots on Folly or those provided a pass are allowed to visit. In 1921, however, the island is opened to all who want to come out to the beach, and oceanfront lot prices soar to $2,000.

11. Earthquake Destroys the City, 1886
At approximately 9:50 p.m. on August 31, one of the largest earthquakes in North America (estimated between 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter Scale and larger than the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906) shakes Charleston to its very foundations. The quake and its 300 aftershocks lead to some 100 deaths and extensively damage 2,000 buildings. The earthquake caused $6 million worth of damage, whereas all the buildings in the city were only valued at approximately $24 million. Within four years, and thanks to generous donations from the rest of the country, the only evidence of the devastation that remained were cracks in buildings that hadn’t tumbled.

12. Charleston Library Society Founded, 1748
The organization, the third oldest library in the United States, is established by 17 young Charleston gentlemen with the purpose of collecting, preserving, and disseminating rare books, manuscripts, and visual materials to members. It will be 182 years before the city has a public lending library.

13. Slave Commandeers the CSS Planter, 1862
On May 13, after the Confederate officers have gone ashore for the night, Robert Smalls—the ship’s pilot—and the all-black crew make a run for the Union ships outside the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Picking up their relatives at a nearby wharf at dawn, they slip past Fort Sumter and turn the Planter over to the Union Navy. In honor of this daring escape, Smalls is made captain of the ship. He later serves in both the South Carolina State legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. Smalls would remain controversial throughout his life, yet continued to be honored by both blacks and whites until his death in 1915.

14. South Carolina is Mapped Out, 1706
The Church Act divides South Carolina into 10 parishes—with land set aside in each for the Church of England—which greatly helps govern the fledgling colony. Until the Revolutionary War, the parishes were the only local governments in the colony.

15. Fire Insurance Company Opens, 1735
As a result of a series of fires that wreak havoc on the peninsula, The Friendly Society for the Mutual Insuring of Houses Against Fire is founded. Ironically, the fire of 1740 bankrupts the company.

16. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum Opens, 1975
Located on the harbor in Mount Pleasant, the new facility features the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, destroyer USS Laffey, and other vessels. The Museum soon joins azaleas and beaches as one of the area’s most popular attractions. About 300,000 people visit the museum each year, pumping some $63 million into the local economy.

17. The Charleston Courier Begins Publication, 1803
The predecessor to today’s Post and Courier, the paper is followed by the Charleston Daily News in 1865 and The Evening Post in 1894. Today, it’s the oldest continuous daily newspaper in the South and the eighth oldest in the nation.

18. Jack Dobbins Murdered, 1956
Dobbins, a homosexual, is bludgeoned to death by a young soldier. The murderer is cleared of charges, ending the growing sense of openness for homosexuals in Charleston.

19. The Charleston Renaissance, 1920
With the founding of the Poetry Society on November 17 and the publication of The Dwelling Houses of Charleston, South Carolina, by Alice R.H. Smith, the Holy City resumes its place in American culture. Local artists, such as DuBose Heyward and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, produce poetry, plays, paintings, and novels, helping spark a rebirth in the arts not seen since before the Civil War. As the country wakes up to Charleston’s cultural offerings, other well-known artists of the day, such as Alfred Hutty, flock to the city, as do a wave of tourists intent on seeing a vision of the Old South.

20. She-crab Soup Created, 1909
Mayor Goodwin Rhett’s black cook William Deas adds sherry and crab roe to a simple crab bisque for visiting President William Taft, creating the iconic Lowcountry dish.

21.Fort Sumter Attacked, 1861
Before dawn on April 12, Confederate guns open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. After 34 hours of horrific and incessant bombardment, Union forces under the command of Major Robert Anderson surrender. With this battle, the Civil War has begun. Not one soldier died during the two-day bombardment, yet the four-year-long war that ensued claimed some 600,000 lives.

22. Preservation Ordinance Enacted, 1931
On October 19, the City Council passes an ordinance creating the country’s first historic district and granting power to a Board of Architectural Review (BAR) to protect historic structures. The BAR ensures “the preservation and protection of the old historic or architecturally worthy structures and quaint neighborhoods which impart distinct aspect to the City of Charleston.” The BAR continues to review all exterior alterations in Charleston’s Old and Historic districts, including new construction. It costs homeowners $30 to have the BAR approve a new paint color; $50 to approve a new awning.

23. Chamber of Commerce Born, 1773
The oldest organization of its kind in the country is established in December when the Charleston Gazette reports “a Meeting of the Gentlemen in Trade of this Town, at Mrs. Swallow’s [tavern] when it was proposed that a Chamber of Commerce be formed.” It’s the longest continuously operated municipal chamber in America. The chamber was reorganized after the Revolutionary War, hence the date of 1784 on the organization’s seal.

24. Porgy & Bess Performed in Charleston, 1970
Although DuBose Heyward’s masterpiece is first staged in 1935 in New York City, ironically it isn’t shown in his native city until 35 years later when segregation laws are lifted, allowing for the integration of performers and audiences. The occasion of the performance was so significant that 60 Minutes did a story on the event.

25. Opera Arrives in the Colonies, 1735
Flora, or Hob in the Well, the first full-length musical play seen in Colonial America, is staged on February 18 in the city’s courtroom at Broad and Meeting streets.

26. Train Service Begins, 1830
On Christmas Day, the first steam locomotive in the U.S. to establish regularly scheduled passenger service makes its inaugural run. The following June, the train explodes, killing a railroad worker—the first fatality on an American railroad.

27. Preservation Begins, 1920
On June 26, Susan Pringle Frost founds the nation’s first preservation society (originally called Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings). Eleven years later, with the help of Dorothy Porcher Legge, she begins the restoration of a row of 18th-century buildings on East Bay Street, marking the first time historic Charleston structures are renovated from slums and beginning an era of gentrification. Frost and Legge purchase and renovate the buildings with their own funds, paint them in Caribbean pastels, and name the block “Rainbow Row.”

28. A Theater Opens, 1735
Located on the corner of Dock and Church streets, the Dock Street Theatre stages The Recruiting Officer. It is the first building solely designed for theatrical use in America and remains an active playhouse today. One month after the theatre opened, the name of Dock Street was changed to Queen Street.

29. Public Museum Formed, 1773
South Carolina Governor William Bull II selects a committee and charges its members with the task of collecting historical, cultural, botanical, and zoological artifacts for what will be the first public museum in the country. The Charleston Museum still holds in its collections artifacts first acquired in 1773.

30. College of Charleston Chartered, 1785
The college opens on July 3, but classes don’t begin until 1790. When the city assumes responsibility for support in 1837, CofC becomes the first municipal college in the U.S. The school admits its first female students in 1935 and its first African American students in 1967. Three years later, the administration is transferred to the state. Three founders of the college—Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge—were signers of the Declaration of Independence.

31. Denmark Vesey Plans Revolt, 1822
In the summer, rumors circulate that a violent slave rebellion is being planned; its reputed leader, a free person of color named Denmark Vesey, and 34 others are hanged on July 2. As a result, communications between slaves and free blacks are more closely regulated.

32. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Organizes, 1749
A group of Charleston Jews meets on June 3 with the purpose of forming a local congregation, one of the first five in America. During the early part of 1800, the city’s Jewish community outranks any other in the country in wealth and size. In 1841, KKBE becomes the first Reform Jewish congregation in the country.

33. Pest House Built, 1707
The brick building on Sullivan’s Island is used to quarantine incoming enslaved Africans and other visitors to Charleston to stay the spread of infectious diseases. The island becomes a gateway for slavery, with an estimated 40 percent of captives passing through. The pest house doesn’t close until the late 19th century.  

34. Historic Charleston Foundation Established, 1947
This organization, headed by Frances R. Edmunds for nearly 40 years, has set the pace for national preservation strategies. In addition to shaping policies at the local, state, and national levels, the foundation’s groundbreaking initiatives include the protection of Charleston’s architectural, historical, and cultural heritage; the rehabilitation of the Ansonborough, Radcliffeborough, and Elliotborough neighborhoods, as well as Drayton Hall, Mulberry Plantation, the Nathaniel Russell House; and the establishment of the Lowcountry Open Land Trust.

35. Coastal Conservation League Opens, 1989
The organization establishes its first office, on King Street, with a staff of three. For the first time, citizens of the Lowcountry begin to organize in order to challenge pollution and urban sprawl and fight for our natural resources. The CCL now has four offices throughout the state and more than 4,000 members.

36. Rice Arrives in Charleston, 1680
Captain James Thurber, sailing into Charleston for ship repairs, presents a small bag of Madagascar rice seed to Dr. Henry Woodward. He and others begin cultivating the crop. With the importation of slaves to work the fields and process the grain, rice becomes the Lowcountry’s major export in a few short decades and brings incredible wealth to planters.

37. Jonathan Lucas Invents the Rice Mill, 1787
A shipwreck accidentally brings the English millwright to Peachtree Plantation on the Santee River. Witnessing the laborious method slaves employ to clean the rice by hand, Lucas invents a water-driven rice mill. His mills are soon found throughout the region, revolutionizing the rice industry and bringing even greater riches to Charleston planters and the Lowcountry as a whole.

38. Battle of Fort Sullivan, 1776
On June 28, a British fleet under General Henry Clinton launches a full-scale bombardment against the patriots under William Moultrie at the small Fort Sullivan (later Fort Moultrie), hastily erected of sand and palmetto logs. The dense, spongy nature of the trees repel enemy cannonballs. Despite being vastly outmanned and outgunned, the Americans pour heavy fire into the British, eventually sinking several ships. After 10 hours, the enemy retreats, giving the patriots a stunning victory in this first major Southern battle of the Revolutionary War. The palmetto tree on the South Carolina state flag represents the 1776 defense of Fort Sullivan from British attack.

39. Joe Riley Elected Mayor, 1975
Joseph P. Riley Jr., a 32-year-old former state representative, becomes mayor on December 9. Riley, who is currently serving his ninth term, is Charleston longest serving mayor and has overseen more changes in his native city—including improvements to landmarks such as Waterfront Park, involvement of African Americans in city government, and expansion of the arts and public housing—than any other mayor in local history. Riley is also one of the longest-serving mayors in the United States.

40. Democratic Convention Collapses, 1860
From April 23 to May 3, the Democratic National Convention convenes at South Carolina Institute Hall and battles over the issue of slavery. Southern delegates march out in protest, making a quorum to nominate a presidential candidate impossible, and the Civil War draws a step closer. The Democratic Convention has never returned to Charleston.

41. C.S.S. Hunley Lost, 1864
With a crew of eight and a 135-pound torpedo attached to a spar at her bow, the Confederate submarine C.S.S. Horace L. Hunley leaves Breach Inlet on the bone-chilling night of February 17 and successfully rams the U.S.S. Housatonic anchored offshore, planting the torpedo into the warship. Five sailors on board die, and the Housatonic sinks almost immediately. The Hunley also mysteriously sinks, killing the entire crew, but her actions mark the first time in history a submarine sinks an enemy ship.

42. C.S.S. Hunley Found, 2000
After resting on the ocean floor for 137 years, on August 8, the submarine, found by a team of underwater archaeologists led by novelist Clive Cussler and the state of South Carolina, is raised. The remains of the ship’s eight crew members are buried with fully military honors at Magnolia Cemetery in April 2004. Now, the South Carolina Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley are piecing together the puzzle of why the sub never came home.

43. Charleston’s Own Tea Party, 1773
British ships carrying tea arrive in Charleston Harbor, expecting local merchants to pay a newly levied tax on the drink. Patriots spend weeks debating whether to attack, boycott, or continue with business as usual, while in Boston, the crisis comes to a head. To avoid mob action here, the customs collector moves the cargo to the basement of the Exchange. Of the four ports to which the East India Company shipped tea, Charleston is the only one in which the cargo makes landfall.

44. Charleston Responds to War on Mexico, 1846
When the United States declares war on Mexico in May, Charleston Company F of the Palmetto Regiment is one of the first to answer the call for volunteers. The unit fights valiantly throughout the two-year conflict, and its flag is the first to fly over Mexico City. The engagement serves as a proving ground for many Charlestonians who would later become officers during the Civil War.

45. Gibbes Museum of Art Opens, 1905
A Beaux Arts gallery (top) opens at 135 Meeting Street on April 11, after Charleston businessman James Shoolbred Gibbes (above) bequeaths $100,000 to the city to build a permanent home for the Carolina Art Association’s collection. For more than a century, the Gibbes has continued to be a center of Southern arts and culture. The museum’s current collection of some 400 miniature portraits ranks as one of the most comprehensive in the country.

46. The Balance Tips, 1708
African Americans outnumber Europeans in South Carolina, making it the first English colony with a black majority, a trend that continues until the 1940s.

47. President Washington Visits, 1791
As the country’s first president, George Washington visits each of the new states. During his stay in Charleston from May 2 to 9, Washington sleeps at the Thomas Heyward House, dining and dancing with citizens at public celebrations in the Exchange Building. His Southern tour confirms “the happy effects of the general government upon our agriculture, commerce, and industry,” reaffirming states’ decision to ratify the Constitution three years earlier. During his visit, Washington patronized McCrady’s Restaurant, dining in the grand Long Room.From 1909 to 1911, the city worked to fill in 47 acres of marsh along the seawall from the west end of White Point Gardens to the west end of Tradd Street.

48. Murray Blvd. Completed, 1911
Philanthropist Andrew B. Murray donates $60,000 to help fund a project reclaiming 47 acres of marsh along the Ashley River and creating his namesake boulevard. The subsequent development of a seawall from 1917 to 1920 connects Murray Boulevard to East Battery, forming the landmark promenade and forever changing the face of the lower peninsula.

49. Charleston Hosts Interstate & West Indian Expo, 1901
The expo is created to stimulate trade through the city’s port to the Caribbean and Latin America. Though it was attended by such luminaries as President Theodore Roosevelt, poor weather and a shortage of funds leads to its early closing on June 20, 1902. Of the magnificent edifices erected at Hampton Park for the event, none remain.

50. South Carolina Historical Society Founded, 1855
A group of the state’s most distinguished citizens gathers to organize the South Carolina Historical Society, in order to preserve South Carolina’s rich historical legacy for posterity. Headquartered in the 1822 Fireproof Building on Meeting and Chalmers streets, SCHS is the now the oldest and largest private repository of South Carolina books, letters, journals, maps, drawings, and photographs in the state.

51. The People’s National Bank fails on January 1, 1932, taking the city’s payroll with it—the single worst hit to the Charleston economy during the Great Depression. Paper script is issued to employees instead of currency.

52. Grace Memorial Bridge Connects East Cooper,1929
The first automobile crosses the majestic three-mile, two-lane bridge spanning the Cooper River on August 8, and for the first time, Charleston is linked to East Cooper by roadway. Touted as a modern masterpiece and named in honor of former mayor John P. Grace (below, right), the cantilever bridge is higher than the Brooklyn Bridge, making it the fifth largest in the world, and opens the way for the urbanization of Mount Pleasant. In 1964, it’s joined by the Silas N. Pearman Bridge.

53. Ashley River Bridge Erected, 1808
In the face of an industrial boom, the city builds a wooden bridge over the Ashley River. Rice, tobacco, and lumber produced on inland plantations can now be transported by road to downtown wharves for export. During the Civil War, Confederate trains used the crossing to transport troops into the city. When forced to leave in 1865, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard ordered the bridge burned in an attempt to slow Sherman’s forces.

54. Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge Opens, 2005
Named for the prominent businessman and politician who helped secure funding for its nearly $700 million construction, the new Cooper River Bridge opens July 16 and becomes the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Its eight lanes satisfy the increased traffic of Highway 17, and its pedestrian path swiftly becomes another major attraction.

55. Hospital Workers Strike, 1969
A 100-day strike by African American hospital workers begins in July, headed by civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy and joined by Coretta Scott King (above, center). The strike was precipitated by inequity in wages and a lack of formal grievance procedures for black workers. Intervention by the National Guard and serious violence are avoided with swift action by federal mediators and a citizens committee. The Medical College Hospital rehires all strikers and establishes grievance protocols. The strike represents an important victory for advocates of nonviolent activism and focuses attention on the labor disparity.

56. Francis Cardozo Founds Avery Institute, 1867
Avery Institute opens May 7 on Bull Street with a mission to educate recently freed slaves. Until it closes in 1954, it produces locally, regionally, and nationally important business, religious, educational, and civil rights leaders. The building continues its legacy as the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, whose mission is to “evaluate, acquire, organize, preserve, and make available research materials that document the African American experience in South Carolina.”

57.William D. Crum Appointed Collector of Customs, 1902
Upon the recommendation of Booker T. Washington, President Theodore Roosevelt nominates William Crum—an African American physician, hospital administrator, and chairman of the Charleston County Republican Party—as collector of customs for the Port of Charleston. The racially charged appointment sets off a national furor. Even Northern newspapers, including The New York Times, denounce the president’s appointment as unnecessarily incendiary. Crum serves the post until 1909, when President Taft names him minister to Liberia.

58. Clyburn Elected Majority Whip, 2006
U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, who in 1992 became the state’s first African American congressman since 1897, is unanimously elected majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 16. He is the second African American to reach the third-highest-ranking position in the U.S. House.

59. Red Summer Begins, 1919
A fight between two white sailors and a black Charlestonian escalates on May 10 after the local man is killed. For more than a day, whites assault blacks throughout the city, leaving three dead and 17 seriously injured. The incident sparks nationwide race riots, leaving 43 black men lynched and eight burned at the stake, but it also witnesses the first modern-day instance in which African Americans organize to resist oppression.

60. Tobacco Workers Strike, 1945
A group of primarily black tobacco workers walks out of the segregated Cigar Factory, crippling one of the city’s most prosperous industries. The strike grinds on for five months, mostly during a brutally cold, wet winter. However, its eventual success lays the groundwork for the civil rights movement two decades later and elevates the song “We Shall Overcome” as the movement’s anthem.

61. Educator Septima Clark Fired, 1956
In the spring of 1956, local schoolteacher Septima P. Clark is dsimissed by the Charleston County School System when she refuses to resign her membership in the NAACP in accordance with state law. Clark founds Citizenship Schools throughout the South for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, helping African Americans gain the skills necessary to vote.

62. Charles Towne Settled, 1670
Three ships carrying the first colonists settle in what is now Charles Towne Landing but remove to the peninsula within 10 years.

63. City of Charleston Annexes West Ashley, 1960
Due to the tireless efforts of Mayor J. Palmer Gaillard (above), West Ashley voters agree to annexation by the City of Charleston, adding to the city’s population and coffers.

64. Private Gardens Open to Public, 1950s
Magnolia, Middleton, Drayton, and Boone Hall plantations and Cypress Gardens open their gates to visitors, initiating a wave of tourism to the area and introducing scores to previously insular plantation life, architecture, and culture.

65. State Capitol Moves, 1786
Columbia replaces Charleston as capital, making the seat of state government more centralized and easing tension between the Lowcountry and the Upstate.

66. Huguenots Settle the Lowcountry, 1685
France revokes the Edict of Nantes, outlawing Calvinism, which ushers an influx of Huguenots to Charleston, adding to our cultural gumbo (and phonics-defying street names).

67. Charleston Air Force Base, 1941
The U.S. Army Air Corps requisitions the original Charleston Municipal Airport on December 11. Eleven years later, the U.S. Air Force begins using the facility, creating thousands of civilian jobs and spurring growth in the North Area.

68. Johnson & Wales Opens, 1984
Renowned cooking school Johnson & Wales University opens its Charleston branch in a rented space in Port City Center. By 2002, more than 100 students are enrolled in the school’s comprehensive culinary and hospitality programs. Due to expansion issues, the institution, which helped spur Charleston’s culinary emergence, moves to Charlotte in May 2006. Trident Technical College’s Culinary Institute of Charleston and The International Culinary School of the Art Institute of Charleston fill the void left by Johnson & Wales’ exit.  

69. WPA Puts People to Work, 1933
The WPA (Works Progress Administration), FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Agency), and other New Deal programs employ hundreds to improve streets, save historic records, attend college, landscape the city, restore the Dock Street Theatre, and erect buildings on the College of Charleston and Citadel campuses. The WPA program also includes the Federal Writers Project, sending Lowcountry authors far and wide to interview and record the life histories of everyday people, many of whom had been alive during slavery. These invaluable oral histories are now accessible through the Library of Congress.

70. Phosphate Mining Emerges, 1867
Entrepreneurs begin phosphate mining, helping the city recover from the financial hardship of the war and diversifying the agriculturally dominated economy.

71. White Point Gardens Created, 1837
White Point Gardens is designated a public park, becoming one of Charleston’s most iconic locales. The tip of the peninsula has traditionally functioned as public space: whereas once condemned criminals were hanged there, now law-abiding citizens and tourist simply hang out.

72. Carolina Charter Issued, March 24, 1663
King Charleston II grants a charter to eight Lords Proprietors, serving as a blueprint for the colonization of Carolina.

73. Reconstruction Ends in South Carolina, 1877
On April 3, newly elected President Rutherford B. Hayes orders the withdraw of Federal troops from South Carolina, effectively ending the bitterly controversial period of Reconstruction in the state. Conditions for blacks, however, become largely status quo ante bellum.

74. Naval Base Construction Begins, 1901
The U.S. government begins developing a new naval base in North Charleston by buying the first parcels of what was formerly plantation land.

75. Base Closing Announced, 1995
With nearly a century of U.S. Naval presence on the harbor, it’s announced that the Charleston Navy Base, the area’s largest employer, will be decommissioned. Some 25,000 jobs are lost, setting the local economy temporarily back. Currently, the City of North Charleston is partnering with the Noisette Company in redeveloping the 1,400-acre site into a residential, commercial, retail, restaurant, and office development.   

76. Charleston Place Hotel Unveiled, September 2, 1986
Charleston Place opens at the corner of Market and King streets after a decade-long battle with preservationists. The opening marks the beginning of a downtown renaissance after decades of urban decay.

77. Charleston Falls to British, 1779
After a long siege, Gen. Benjamin Lincoln surrenders the city to Sir Henry Clinton on May 12. Charleston remains occupied until December 14, 1782.

78. New State Constitution Adopted, 1868
The new South Carolina Constitution is adopted at a convention in Charleston. Two-thirds of the delegates are African Americans, some of whom were enslaved less than five years earlier. This first document, which provides for public education and abolishes property ownership as a qualification for holding office, will be voided by the end of Reconstruction.

79. Ordinance of Secession, 1860
Five days before Christmas, delegates meeting in Charleston vote to make South Carolina the first of 11 Southern states to leave the Union. The event precipitates the deadliest war in American history.

80. North Charleston Incorporates, 1972
The North Area officially incorporates on June 12 after concerned citizens, unhappy with the way the area is developing, vote for their community to chart its own course.

81. Store Fire Turns Deadly, June 18, 2007
Firefighters Mike Benke, William Hutchinson, Brandon Thompson, Melvin Champaign, Louis Mulkey, Mark Kelsey, Michael French, Bradford Baity, and James Drayton lose their lives while battling a fierce blaze at the Sofa Super Store in West Ashley. The loss of the “Charleston 9” draws national focus on building codes and fire-fighting practices.

82. City Orphanage Chartered, 1790
The Charleston Orphan House becomes the first such municipal institution in the country. Although the original building is later demolished, the organization continues to serve the city as the Charleston Youth Development Center.

83. Spoleto Begins, 1977
The opening ceremonies for first Spoleto Festival U.S.A. take place on May 26. For more than three decades, it has offered an eclectic blend of world-class performances, drawing tens of thousands of art aficionados to Charleston and earning the city international cultural acclaim.

84. Jetties Built, 1878
The Charleston jetties—man-made rock barriers forming the main shipping channel into Charleston Harbor—take 17 years to complete. They solve the problem of safely bringing deep-draft vessels to the harbor, making Charleston a major international port. They also redirect ocean currents, causing extensive erosion on islands to the south, particularly Folly and Morris, which are now one third their original sizes.

85. Newspaper Editor Shot Dead, 1889
Francis W. Dawson, first editor of the News and Courier, is murdered on March 12 by a neighbor accused of making advances toward the governess of Dawson’s children. The state loses one of its leading voices for racial equality, social reform, and economic diversity.

86. Medical College Founded, 1823
The Medical College of South Carolina (later MUSC) is established. In 1955, President Kenneth M. Lynch Sr. oversees completion of the Medical College Hospital. Today, U.S. News & World Report ranks several disciplines at the hospital among the nation’s best: kidney disease; gastrointestinal disorders; rheumatology; and pediatric heart and heart surgery.

87. Bridge Run Inaugurated, 1978
On April 2, some 600 entrants join the first Cooper River Bridge Run. Today, approximately 35,000 runners and walkers enter the annual event. The Bridge Run is the first and only competition sanctioned by USA Track and Field as an elite event.

88. Citadel Founded, December 20,1842
In response to fears of a slave uprising, the Military College of South Carolina is founded on December 20. Twenty cadets report for its first class a year later at its original campus on Citadel Square (now Marion Square).

89. Corps Goes Coed, 1995
Thirty-odd years after The Citadel becomes racially integrated, Shannon Faulkner becomes the first woman admitted to the Corps of Cadets on August 15 after a bitter legal battle.

90. Fire Consumes City, 1861
A fire breaks out at East Bay and Hasell streets on December 11 and, carried by the wind, spreads to Council Street at the Ashley River. The most damaging conflagration in the city’s history, it destroys “property valued at $7,000,000,” according to Harper’s Weekly, December 28, 1861.

91. British Execute Isaac Hayne, 1781
On August 4, a loyal colonel of the Continental forces is hanged without a trial, outraging South Carolinians who flock to support the patriot cause in the South.

92. Ben Tillman Becomes Governor, 1890
Positioning himself as the champion of the small farmer, Upstate Democrat and outspoken white supremacist “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman fights to disempower the black majority in the state and strengthen brutal Jim Crow laws. He also directly opposes the Lowcountry aristocrats who, he says, “worship the past...but who boldly assume to govern us by divine right.”

93. Lowcountry Slaves Revolt, 1739
On September 9, some 60 Stono River plantation slaves seize weapons from a local store and begin killing whites and marauding plantations. Twenty-one whites and 44 blacks are slain before the insurrection is quelled. After the rebellion, efforts to curtail the activities of slaves and free blacks are instituted, and limitations are set on the number of slaves that can be imported to Charleston as a means of stemming the growth of the black population.

94. John C. Calhoun Buried—Again, 1850
In April, the former U.S. senator, vice president, and ardent defender of Southern rights is buried in Charleston during a funeral that draws thousands of mourners, including pallbearer and future Confederate president Jefferson Davis. One historian called it “perhaps the most elaborate ceremony of its kind the city ever witnessed.” Calhoun was buried four times: once in Washington, D.C., and three times in Charleston.

95. State Dispensary Established, 1892
Created to counter an effort to impose prohibition throughout South Carolina, the system gives the state a monopoly on the sale of liquor. It fails, creating widespread political corruption and fostering bootlegging, especially in the Lowcountry, where rival gangs fight for control of the industry. The state dismantles the system in 1907.

96. 54th Massachusetts Assaults Battery Wagner, 1863
The black volunteer infantry leads an attack against Confederate troops on Morris Island on June 18. Though they suffer nearly 50 percent casualties, they prove the mettle of African American soldiers. “The 54th did well and nobly...and with their enthusiasm they deserved a better fate,” writes New York Tribune correspondent Edward L. Pierce to Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew on July 22, 1863.

97. James Island Connected, 1993
After decades of debate and five years of construction at a cost of nearly $125 million, the 2.9-mile expressway to Charleston finally opens, easing the morning commute for those living West of the Ashley and increasing development on the island.

98. I-526 opens, 1992
Interstate 526, a 19.26-mile roadway connecting North Charleston to Mount Pleasant, opens to traffic on June 21. Perhaps the most dramatic result is the development of once-rural Daniel Island into a 4,000-acre high-end residential community.

99. I-26 Connects the State, 1964
The major east-west corridor is completed and becomes the first route to provide rapid access from Charleston to the Upstate. Humorously dubbed “The Camel Trail” for its long stretches between rest stops, I-26 helped promote the building boom in Berkeley and Dorchester counties and, as the major freight traffic route between the port of Charleston and the Greenville-Spartanburg industrial center, continues to support the shipping industry.

100. “The Charleston” Sweeps the Nation, 1920s
Who would have thought that the rescue of four homeless African American boys huddled on a Charleston street in 1891 would lead to the “cat’s pajamas” dance craze nearly 30 years later? But that’s exactly what happens after the Rev. Daniel Joseph Jenkins establishes the Jenkins Orphanage. Within four years, it houses 500 children, and a band is created to raise money for institution. By 1920, there are five Orphanage Bands touring the United States. Their exceptional musical talent and intriguing movements help define early jazz and introduce “The Charleston” dance to the nation.

101. Hugo Hits, 1989
The Category 4 hurricane slams into the Lowcountry before dawn on September 22, destroying many area houses, as well as untold boats and trees. Mayor Riley and police chief Reuben Greenberg stand firm and help the city recover. The catastrophic storm kills 107 people and causes $10 billion in damage. Charlestonians’ time lines are forever altered to “Before Hugo” and “After Hugo.”




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