Charleston, South Carolina was founded by English settlers in the 1670s, giving it a long-running and incredibly interesting history. Because of the southern settlement's bustling harbor, Charleston was one of the most important cities to the early American colonists.
It's even home to Fort Sumter: the site of the attack that prompted the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861. What's most amazing about Charleston, though, is that its remarkable history is well-preserved in some of the oldest buildings in the country.
Here are a few of the historic homes and buildings you don't want to miss in Charleston:
The beautifully preserved Edmondston-Alston House sits on a piazza overlooking Charleston Harbor. In fact, the house's view of the harbor and Fort Sumter made it the perfect place for Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard to view the attack that began the Civil War. General Robert E. Lee for one night during the war. The house, which was built in 1825, is still filled with antique belongings of the Alston family that teach visitors about Charleston and American history.
Along with Philadelphia's Town Hall and Boston's Faneuil Hall, the Old Exchange is well-known as one of the most historically important buildings in colonial American history. Built in 1771, the building containing the Provost Dungeon was used to hold more than 100 Americans captive during the Revolutionary War.
One of the most glamorous historical homes in Charleston, the Nathaniel Russell House was built in 1808 by one of the city's richest merchants.
Nathaniel Russell and his family lived in the home until 1857, after which it was used as a school. In 1955, the Historic Charleston Foundation began restoring the home, and its grandeur is now preserved as a museum.
The building, which was built in 1859, was a common place to buy and sell slaves for a short time before the Civil War ended, after which it was converted to tenement housing and finally to a museum in 1938.
Visitors can still tour the museum to learn more about Charleston and African-American history.
Another one of the many historic homes preserved by the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Aiken-Rhett House was built in 1820 as a home for John Robinson and his family.
After the house was sold to William Aiken, Aiken's son and his wife began making updates to the house in 1833, and ended up creating one of the most spectacular private homes in the city.
In its heyday, the house was tended to by several slaves, who lived in outbuildings on the vast property that still stand to this day.
Drayton Hall is one of Charleston's oldest historic homes, built circa 1738. Once called a "palace" by the South Carolina Gazette, the plantation home and surrounding gardens and property were once owned by John Drayton, one of the wealthiest plantation owners in American history.
In fact, at one point Drayton owned nearly 76,000 acres of plantations– 350 of which surround Drayton Hall. The home was never restored, and is still basically in its original condition, allowing visitors to see exactly what it looked like when Drayton lived there.
Along with the house, visitors can also visit one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in the country, which is located on the plantation.