The City of Charleston, South Carolina, occupies a unique place in American history. As the first permanent English settlement in North America south of Virginia, Charleston was established on the frontier of contested territory—land occupied by Native Americans but coveted by Spain and France. From the arrival of the first English and West Indian settlers in 1670, Charles Town (as it was then known) was born into a hostile environment, and its inhabitants were required to live in a state of persistent vigilance. Shortly after the town was relocated from Albemarle Point, on the west bank of the Ashley River, to the present location in 1680, the early colonists began building defensive fortifications of wood, earth, brick, and stone to shield the town against potential invasion by the Spanish in St. Augustine or the French at Mobile. These fortifications waxed and waned as the population and physical dimensions of the town expanded, but for most of its first century—from the 1680s to the 1780s—the landscape of urban Charleston included such features as bastions, batteries, curtain walls, moats, drawbridges, and gates. In effect, early Charleston evolved like a European “walled city”—the only British settlement in North America of its kind.
The Mayor’s Walled City Task Force invites you to explore this website to learn more about the fortifications that once surrounded colonial Charleston. Although historians have neglected this important part of Charleston’s past for many generations, work is now underway to reconstruct the story of the colonial “walled city” and to share it with the public.
We hope you’ll visit often and keep up-to-date with the latest discoveries and Upcoming Events.
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Nic Butler, Ph.D., historian and archivist