King Street: Charleston, South Carolina


King Street with its Southern charm offers a little something for everyone.  With mixed-use, three story brick and stucco buildings, and the street's central location through the heart of the peninsula, it is considered the spine of the city connecting the Charleston Harbor to uptown. Upper King is known as the Design District, Middle King is the Fashion District, and Lower King is the Antique District.

Designated Area

King Street from Broad Street to Spring Street.

King Street with new bike corrals (on left). Photo by Amy Southerland.

Planning Excellence

"Charles Towne" as the seaport city was originally called, was established in 1670, and was the first city to pass a historic preservation ordinance. The street was named after King Charles II of England, and served as the main highway for the early settlement of Charles Towne. Cobblestone streets and stunning architecture remain from early Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate to Victorian. Charleston is also known as "The Holy City" for its numerous church steeples. Building height restrictions allow visitors to view the steeples, surrounding sea, and natural landscapes with ease.

King Street experienced a revival in the mid-1980s, beginning with the construction of the Charleston Place Hotel.  Instrumental to the street's restoration, the Streetscape Project focused on upgrades to the street, fixtures, and surrounding buildings in three phases from 2000 to 2009.  Property owners were encouraged to vote on various implementation measures throughout the project's lifespan.

King Street is bustling with life around the clock with the College of Charleston a few steps away, and nearly 4.8 million visitors come to Charleston each year. Walking along King Street's wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks is the most convenient way to visit the restaurants, shops, parks, and local attractions.

The city installed bike corrals in place of parking spaces in some areas for cyclists, and riding the free shuttle service or taking a pedicab offer alternate forms of transportation. Marion Square, a 10-acre park located midway along King Street, serves as a local gathering spot and accommodates events year-round, including the famous City of Charleston Farmer's Market and Charleston's Fashion Week.

Marion Square during the Farmer's Market. Photo by Amy Southerland.

Defining Characteristics, Features


  • "Charles Towne" was founded in honor of King Charles II of England (1670)
  • The historic commercial core of King Street originally served as the "Broad Path" connecting the harbor with interior settlements from the late 17th century onward
  • The late 18th and early 19th centuries marked the transition of King Street into a major retail corridor; wagon drivers traveled from interior settlements to trade country products for store goods
  • King Street retains a large number of early 19th century commercial buildings; many have facades rebuilt in Victorian styles after the earthquake of 1886, using the third stories for apartments

Planning and Community Engagement

  • Charleston adopted the first historic district zoning ordinance in the country and created the Board of Architectural Review to oversee new construction and alterations in the Old and Historic District (1931)
  • Charleston's first Historic Preservation Plan was adopted (1974); the new plan was completed in 2009
  • The Charleston Place Hotel and shops were constructed with federal grants, including a $10 million Urban Development Action Grant and $4 million from the Economic Development Administration; ultimately provided over 1,000 jobs and 450-space parking garage; served as a model for revitalization efforts on King Street (1986)
  • The Charleston Downtown Plan (1999) was adopted with input from over 1,600 residents at various downtown planning forums; Charleston's first plan focusing on both business and residential areas downtown
  • A $20.5 million streetscape project was implemented in three phases; placing power lines underground, beautifying sidewalks with bluestone and granite curbs, improving communication and gas line connections, repairing stormwater lines; Phase 1 concentrated on Middle King Street (2000–20001)
  • Phase 2 of the streetscape project focused on Upper King Street (2005–2007)
  • Phase 3 of the streetscape project concentrated on King Street from the intersection of Broad Street to Market Street (2008–2009)
  • Clean King Team established; businesses adopted blocks  to monitor upkeep; Livability Division evolved, providing code enforcement to the area
  • The city is currently updating its Tourism Management Plan led by a citizen advisory committee appointed by the mayor; five subcommittees focused on mobility, special events, visitor orientation, tourism management/enforcement, and quality of life (expected completion in 2014)

Features and Events

  • Marion Square, a 10-acre park owned by the Washington Light Infantry and operated by the city, was renovated (2001); serves as a central gathering place for residents and visitors, accommodating events year-round
  • Large annual events in Marion Square include Charleston Fashion Week, Southeastern Wildlife Festival, Charleston Food & Wine Festival, Spoleto Festival, Piccolo Festival, Christmas Tree Lighting
  • Marion Square weekly events include the City of Charleston Farmer's Market, named one of the top 10 best in the nation by Travel and Leisure
  • A portion of the street is shut down to vehicle traffic on Second Sunday for outdoor dining, art vendors, retail booths, and live music
  • A variety of Art Walks take place in the Design District year-round
  • King Street is home to 192 local businesses

View of the street from Charleston Place Hotel. Photo by Amy Southerland.