Charleston History & Culture
One of the country’s oldest cities, Charleston was first established as Charles Town, named after King Charles II, in 1670. Located on a peninsula and surrounded by rivers and barrier islands, Charleston has been shaped by its geography. The harbor city’s confluence of cultures is directly tied to its location and history, with Gullah traditions from West Africa continuing to flourish today, as well as the still visible influence of the English-Caribbean settlers on Charleston’s architecture. The distinct Charleston Single House layout—a long narrow structure with the front door on its side—was brought from Barbados, where similar residences were built to keep the interiors cool. Rainbow Row’s brightly painted exteriors are also a nod to Charleston’s Caribbean heritage, while the city’s ubiquitous “haint blue” porch ceilings are a legacy of a Gullah belief that the blue paint would discourage “haints,” or ghosts, from entering the house.