Charleston is the oldest and second-largest city in the southeastern State of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the CharlestonNorth CharlestonSummerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical midpoint of South Carolina’s coastline and is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers. Founded in 1670 as Charles Towne in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston adopted its present name in 1783. It moved to its present location on Oyster Point in 1680 from a location on the west bank of the Ashley River known as Albemarle Point. By 1690, Charles Towne was the fifth largest city in North America, and it remained among the ten largest cities in the United States through the 1840 census. With a 2010 census population of 120,080 (and a 2012 estimate of 125,583), current trends put Charleston as the fastest-growing municipality in South Carolina.
The Charleston Metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, population was counted by the 2012 estimate at 697,439 the second largest in the state and the 78th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States. Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people, Charleston has received a large number of accolades, including “America’s Most Friendly” by Travel + Leisure in 2011 and in 2013 by Cond Nast Traveler, and also “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine. After Charles II of England (16301685) was restored to the English throne following Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, he granted the chartered Province of Carolina to eight of his loyal friends, known as the Lords Proprietors, on March 24, 1663. It took seven years before the group arranged for settlement expeditions. The first of these founded Charles Towne, in 1670. The community was established under the leadership of governor William Sayle on the west bank of the Ashley River, a few miles northwest of the present day city center. It was soon predicted by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, one of the Lords Proprietors, to become a “great port towne,” a destiny the city quickly fulfilled. In 1680 the settlement was moved east of the Ashley River to the peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers. Not only was this location more defensible, but it offered access to a fine natural harbor. As the capital of the Carolina colony, Charles Towne was a center for inland expansion, but remained the southernmost point of English settlement on the American mainland until the Georgia colony was established in 1732.