Best Places to Live

Charleston, SC

Population: 127,694
Photo: Kate A. Dellas, Preservation Society of Charleston

Charleston, SC, has set the standard for historic preservation. In 1931, it became the first city in the country to establish a board of architectural review. Charleston also has the oldest community-based historic preservation group – The Preservation Society of Charleston.

There is an unparalleled collection of historic buildings in Charleston, reflecting architectural styles of the Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate and Victorian eras. Nicknamed the Holy City, Charleston has a large number of churches with steeples that dot the city's skyline. There are a number of Civil War sites in Charleston as well. The pleasing aesthetics of Charleston make it a huge draw for tourists, which provides a big boost to the local economy.

Each year, The Preservation Society of Charleston chooses seven sites representing seven broad issues to focus on as part of a campaign called Seven to Save. Activities during the campaign can include adaptive use plans, installation of historic markers, public awareness, fundraising, development of protective ordinances and nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.

"I think historic preservation is relevant in the 21st century because our goal is to maintain our historic properties. They tell us so much about who we were and where we've come from," says Robert Gurley, assistant director of the preservation group. "A lot of the historic district is a testament to our passion for our unique architectural heritage."

Number of Properties on the National Register of Historic Places (including districts): 97

Accolades:

• Top U.S. City, Conde Nast Traveler 2011 Readers Choice Awards

• No. 2 City in the World, Travel + Leisure

• No. 4 City for Culture and Sightseeing, Trip Advisor

• Favorite Southern City, Southern Living

Historic Landmarks: Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue (1840), St. Phillip's Episcopal Church (1836), Rainbow Row (1800s), Aiken Rhett House (1818)

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