Although an insignificant thoroughfare throughout the 1700s, King Street became Charles Towne’s mercantile mecca by the Antebellum Period. As the city grew, the focus of expansion shifted from east-west to north-south, a trend we see exemplified by the retail-rich King Street. In this photograph, taken on Christmas Eve 1937, pedestrians are beckoned by lower King’s window displays; we may surmise that these last-minute shoppers were headed to Walgreens Drugs, located at 270 King, for a hot meal or malted milkshake at the soda counter. After refueling, they may have walked half a block to the Kress “five-and-dime” store at 281-283 King for stocking stuffers, or to the Wilbur-Rogers Clothing Store at 273 King for a single-breasted suit or Panama hat. Today, Charlestonians may follow the same route as their metropolitan forebearers, visiting, respectively, River Street Sweets, H & M, and Lucky Brand. While the soda counter is unfortunately no more, beleaguered shoppers may end their night with a meal at Sermet’s Downtown, located at 276 King Street, which served as a home for the South Carolina Power Company nearly 80 years ago.
Photograph by Morton Brailsford Paine, courtesy of The Charleston Museum