Charleston is the oldest and second-largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville 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, or, as is locally expressed, "where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean." Charleston had an estimated population of 132,609 in 2015. The population of the Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester Counties, was counted by the 2015 estimate at 727,689—the third-largest in the state—and the 78th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States.
Charleston was founded as Charles Town—honoring King Charles II of England—in 1670. Its initial location at Albemarle Point on the west bank of the Ashley River (now Charles Towne Landing) was abandoned in 1680 for its present site, which became the 5th-largest city in North America within 10 years. Despite its size, it remained unincorporated throughout the colonial period; its government was handled directly by the state legislature and by its Anglican parish wardens and vestries. It adopted its present spelling with its incorporation as a city in 1783 at the close of the Revolutionary War. Endemic bouts of yellow fever and malaria influenced the removal of the state government to Columbia in 1788, although the port remained among the 10 largest cities in the United States through the 1840 census. The only major American city to have a majority-enslaved population, Antebellum Charleston was controlled by a militarized oligarchy of white planters and merchants who successfully forced the federal government to revise its 1828 and 1832 tariffs during the Nullification Crisis and unsuccessfully launched the Civil War by seizing the Arsenal, Castle Pinckney, and Fort Sumter from their federal garrisons. The Confederates burned the town prior to its evacuation but continued demand for the area's cotton and rice, along with growing industry and a large military presence, saw it through Reconstruction.
Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people, Charleston is a popular tourist destination and has received a large number of accolades, including "America's Most Friendly [City]" by Travel + Leisure in 2011 and in 2013 and 2014 by Condé Nast Traveler, and also "the most polite and hospitable city in America" by Southern Living magazine.
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