Ah, Broad Street. So vast. So…broad. We could spend all day lingering in front of its historic buildings or rolling around in its grassy parks. Before you head for this picturesque part of South Carolina, here’s what you need to know about the Broad Street segment of a historic Charleston tour.
While Charleston has enjoyed its present name since 1783, it was founded as Charles Town in 1670, after Charles II of England, the party-loving “Merry Monarch” of the era. Today, Broad Street is largely recognized for its extraordinary architecture, much of which dates from the 1700s. These buildings have been impeccably maintained, and many of them are still utilized as residences and businesses instead of relegated to museum duty.
That does, unfortunately, mean you can’t go wandering into some of these buildings unannounced (at least, don’t call us for bail money if you do), but you can have a wonderful time walking or driving down Broad Street and seeing American history pass before your eyes.
One of the oldest buildings in the city, St. Michael’s first opened its doors in 1761. The church has changed little in the ensuing years; there was a sacristy added in the 1880s, but aside from that, you’re looking at genuine 18th-century architecture. The steeple stretches nearly 190 feet above the ground, which was a pretty eye-popping height at the time. The steeple still stands out over the Broad Street skyline and has played a prominent role in history. Ships entering Charleston Harbor used it as a landmark to keep from running aground, and landlubbers used it as a lookout tower during various wars.
If you’ve ever looked at your life and thought, “Man, I need to be around more obelisks,” then you need to find your way to Washington Square. Located right across the street from St. Michael’s, this park has a striking obelisk dedicated to the Washington Light Infantry. Other monuments are scattered throughout the green space, which opened in 1818. It’s a lovely place to walk around, reflect, and think about the place giant pillars have in society.
The east side of Broad Street is home to most of the commercial buildings—yes, guys, this is where you’re going to find food and drink, and do a little shopping if that’s your thing. Most of the west side is residential, so leave the good people to their daily lives and focus your attention on getting some grub. Snag a drink and a meal at the Blind Tiger Pub, housed in a building from 1803 that looks like something straight out of the Revolution. Buy a shiny souvenir at The Silver Puffin, a local boutique, or extend your trip by booking a stay in one of the bed and breakfasts lining the Charleston historic district. Don’t worry; most of these buildings look like they belong in a period film, but they’ve all been upgraded with modern plumbing and Wi-Fi. No outhouses or dial-up for you!
Remember when we said you couldn’t just stroll into certain houses? This is one of them. No Charleston historic walk or drive is complete without a jaunt past the Miles Brewton House, located on King Street, about 2 blocks south of Broad Street. It’s actually inhabited, but you can still admire its gorgeous exterior. Built in the 1760s in the Palladian style, its red brick sides and solemn white columns make it look like classical-era Athens and Federal-era Boston had a tryst resulting in a stately love child.
And there you have it. Charleston, SC is a historical treasure trove just waiting to be explored, whether you’re hoofing it like they did in the old days or enjoying the perks of progress from your climate-controlled rental car. Keep your camera at the ready, and enjoy the show.