Retiring to Charleston
By William Schemmel
Charleston is an
American original. Founded in 1670, the South Carolina
seaport has survived the Revolutionary War, General
William T. Sherman’s Civil War revenge, fires,
hurricanes and earthquakes. Non-Charlestonians are
surprised to “learn” that the Atlantic Ocean is formed
by the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, which
flank Charleston’s peninsula. Such wishful thinking
underlies the pride Charlestonians have in their
venerable 336-year-old city.
More about Charleston:
Location: On the
South Carolina Atlantic coast, at the junction of I-26
and 526 and US 17 and 78, midway between Myrtle Beach,
SC, and Savannah, GA.
Elevation: 118 feet above sea
Land area: 97 square
City population: 100,125
population: 330,455; metro population, including
Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, 600,000
Nearby cities: Charlotte, NC; Columbia, SC;
Nearby small towns: Summerville, North
Charleston, Folly Beach and Goose Creek, SC
January temperature average, 49.2; July, 82.4.
Average annual rainfall, 50.6 inches.
value in 2000: $139,700
Area parks and recreation:
More than 50 public parks, many private clubs
Airport: Charleston International
Secours-St. Francis Xavier; Charleston Memorial; Medical
Colleges and universities: The
College of Charleston, Citadel Military College;
Charleston Southern University; Medical University of
Retirees can see right away why the city’s 100,000
residents (more than 600,000 in the metro area) feel so
passionately about their city. They needn’t take
residents’ word for it. Conde Nast Traveler magazine
rates Charleston third among its Top 10 domestic
destinations and in the Top 20 for international travel.
For more than a dozen years, etiquette arbiter
Marjabelle Young Stewart has named Charleston,
“America’s Most Mannerly City.”
Thanks to an ongoing
preservation movement, the peninsular city’s downtown
historic district is a treasure trove of architectural
riches, which attract leisure travelers and a growing
number of active retirees.
The city’s seafood restaurants annually capture
national and international awards. Cultural life is
highlighted by the Spoleto Festival, an international
multi-arts celebration, now in its 30th season and
always held in late May and early June. The
Distinctively Charleston Food + Wine Festival, held in
March, pairs indigenous cuisine with fine wines from
around the world and features nationally known chefs,
authors and lectures. Year-round, the city’s arts
calendar is filled by a professional symphony orchestra,
dance and theater troupes, touring shows and scores of
artist studios and galleries.
The most prestigious
residential area is on the peninsula, south of Broad
Street, where homes dating from the mid-18th to mid-19th
centuries usually sell for $1-million and more. Daniel
Island is a 4,000-acre all-inclusive island town within
the city limits of Charleston featuring a broad mix of
home styles and prices, schools, medical centers, shops
and restaurants, offices, a church, and a supermarket,
plus world-class golf, tennis and soccer. Golf Magazine
Living has named Daniel Island one of America’s “50 Best
Golf Communities.” Neighborhoods east of the Cooper
River, including Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and
Isle of Palms, are among the Carolinas’ fastest growing.
Mount Pleasant is a rapidly-developing bedroom
community, with a variety of old and new homes, starting
at around $225,000.
With more than two dozen golf courses, numerous
tennis facilities, boating and fishing, miles of
Atlantic beaches, and a moderate sub-tropical climate,
the Charleston area is a recreational mecca year-round.
Many newcomers choose to live close to the outdoors
on nearby Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island. About a
half-hour from downtown, the Atlantic barrier islands
offer retirees a wide choice of residential options,
including villas and condo townhouses in the
$250,000-$350,000 range and single family homes in the
$1-million plus range.
William Schemmel writes
from Atlanta, GA.