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Charleston History

First named Charles Town in 1670, Charleston was one of the biggest East Coast ports for much of America's early history. As the major trade center for the South, its streets saw visitors from all over the world, imbuing the city with an international flavor. French Huguenots fleeing religious oppression in their native country gave the city a French flair (you can still see their influence in much of the city's downtown architecture). Slaves were brought over from West Africa to be sold in Charleston's notorious slave markets; freed slaves later became an important part of the city's cultural mix. The first shots of the Civil War rang out of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. After four years of fighting, Union troops took the city, ushering in a new era of post-war poverty and decay for the once-rich city. Over the next hundred-plus years, Charleston was hit by several natural disasters. An 1886 earthquake nearly destroyed the city. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo damaged three-quarters of the homes in the historic district. Only in recent decades did Charleston begin to recover its mojo, becoming a major tourism destination.