The Historic District of downtown Charleston is home to many smaller neighborhoods within the city center, each offering a slightly different perspective for visitors. Our previous posts in this series had us discover the iconic South of Broad neighborhood and the artistic French Quarter. Now, we will shine a light on Belmond Charleston Place’s own neighborhood, the King Street Historic District.
This diverse area downtown encompasses one of the city’s main thoroughfares and arguably its most famous, King Street. Considered the heart of Charleston’s commercial district, it has been developed into three distinct areas: Upper King Street Design and Dining District located north of Calhoun St; King Street’s Fashion District in the middle and the Lower King Street Antiques District. We will focus on the middle and lower districts as Belmond Charleston Place sits in the very center, extending along King Street from Hasell to the corner of Market Street.
If you find yourself in town during the appropriately named Second Sunday on King Street, this monthly celebration is the perfect time to stroll freely as the street is closed to vehicular traffic. Restaurants place tables outside, shops open their doors and locals and visitors alike meander to the tunes of street music and live performers.
Not included in the business district nor even within the original walls of the colonial city, King Street was primarily used as a route in and out of town until the mid 1700s. As Charleston entered the 19th century and experienced a great period of economic growth, merchants began to take up residence along King Street. With the addition of a railroad between King and Meeting Streets, the area further flourished with a variety of high-end and specialty shops, eventually becoming the thriving commercial center it is today.
Named one of the “10 Top Shopping Districts in the USA” by Forbes Travel, King Street is a shopaholics dream. While name brand stores are aplenty, make sure to stop into a few of its hidden gems, like Croghan’s Jewel Box, family owned for more than 100 years. Berlin’s for Men, located on the corner of King and Broad Streets, has been outfitting gentlemen in the Lowcountry since 1883. If your list is long, The Shops at Belmond Charleston Place likely have you covered, with more than 20 stores on the lobby level.
Places of Interest:
If window shopping is more your speed, plan to spend the afternoon exploring the Antiques District of lower King Street. More than a dozen antique stores occupy this portion of lower King Street, each specializing in a certain period offering one-of-a-kind selections. Founded in 1922, George C. Birlant & Co. is one of the largest and oldest antiques establishments in the South. After ogling 19th-century furniture and English silver, stop in for charcuterie, cheese and a glass of wine at the quaint and rustic Bin 152, which also doubles as an art gallery and antiques market.
While some of its buildings are located on King Street, the College of Charleston’s main campus is located just a block away from the Fashion District. Founded in 1770, it is the 13th oldest college in the United States and as such, features many historic buildings. The most notable, Randolph Hall, is a National Historic Landmark and overlooks a large grassy area known as the Cistern. Grab a picnic lunch from Caviar and Bananas, a gourmet market and café, before stopping into the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. This university arts center showcases emerging and established modern artists and features five to seven exhibitions per year.