Old City Market
Part kitschy tourist trap, part glimpse into the old South, part community gathering place, Old City Market (Meeting and Market Sts., 843/973-7236, daily 6 a.m.–11:30 p.m.) remains Charleston’s most reliable, if perhaps least flashy, attraction. It is certainly the practical center of the city’s tourist trade, not least because so many tours originate nearby.
Originally built on Daniel’s Creek—claimed from the marsh in the early 1800s after the city’s first marketplace at Broad and Meeting Streets burned in 1796—one of City Market’s early features was a colony of vultures who hung around for scraps of meat from the many butcher stalls. Sensing that the carrion eaters would keep the area cleaner than any human could, city officials not only allowed the buzzards to hang around, they were protected by law, becoming known as “Charleston eagles” in tongue-in-cheek local jargon.
No matter what anyone tries to tell you, Charleston’s City Market never hosted a single slave auction. Indeed, when the Pinckney family donated this land to the city for a “Publick Market,” one stipulation was that no slaves were ever to be sold here—or else the property would immediately revert to the family’s descendants. And judging by the prevalence of the Pinckney name in these parts to this day, there has never been a shortage of potential claimants should that stipulation have been violated.
And also no matter what anyone tells you, the old train tracks around this area weren’t for trolleys. During World War II, a railroad ran from port facilities up the peninsula to warehouses down here.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition