Charleston is a city in Charleston county in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It is the largest city and county seat of Charleston County. The city was founded as Charlestown or Charles Towne, Carolina in 1670, and moved to its present location (Oyster Point) from a location on the west bank of the Ashley River in 1680; it adopted its present name in 1783. In 1690, Charleston was the fifth largest city in North America, and remained among the ten largest cities in the United States through the 1840 census.
Charleston is known as The Holy City due to the prominence of churches on the low-rise cityscape, particularly the numerous steeples which dot the city’s skyline, and for the fact that it was one of the few cities in the original thirteen colonies to provide religious tolerance to the French Huguenot Church.
In fact, it is still the only city in the U.S. with such a church. Charleston was also one of the first colonial cities to allow Jews to practice their faith without restriction. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded in 1749, is the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the continental United States. Brith Shalom Beth Israel is the oldest Orthodox shul in the South, founded by Ashkenazic (German and central European) Jews in the mid 19th century.
The population was estimated to be 118,492 in 2007, making it the second most populous city in South Carolina closely behind the state capital Columbia. Current trends put Charleston as the fastest growing central city in South Carolina. The metropolitan area population of Charleston and North Charleston, which includes the entire populations of Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties, was estimated to be 603,178 in 2006. This ranks Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville as the second largest metropolitan statistical area in the state behind Columbia. Nearly 80% of the Charleston metro population lives inside the city and its surrounding urbanized area (2000 pop.: 423,410).
The city of Charleston is located just south of the mid-point of South Carolina‘s coastline, at the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Charleston’s name is derived from Charles Towne, named after King Charles II of England.