College of Charleston
The oldest college in South Carolina and the first municipal college in America, the College of Charleston (66 George St., 843/805-5507, www.cofc.edu) boasts a fair share of history in addition to the way its 12,000-plus students bring a modern, youthful touch to so much of the city’s public activities. While its services are no longer free, despite its historic moniker the College of Charleston is now a full-blown, state-supported university in its own right.
Though the College of Charleston has its share of modernistic buildings, a stroll around the campus will uncover some historic gems. The oldest building on this gorgeous campus, the Bishop Robert Smith House, dates from the year of the College’s founding in 1770 and is now the president’s house. Find it on Glebe Street between Wentworth and George.
The large Greek Revival building dominating the College of Charleston’s old quad off George and St. Philip’s Streets is the magnificent Randolph Hall (1828), the oldest functioning college classroom in the country and now host to the president’s office. The huge circular feature directly in front of it is “The Cistern,” a historic reservoir that’s a popular place for students to sit in the grass and enjoy the sun filtering through the live oaks.
The cistern is also where then-candidate Barack Obama spoke at a rally in January 2008. Movies that have shot scenes on campus include Cold Mountain, The Patriot, and The Notebook.
If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download a neat self-guided tour, complete with video, from the Apple iTunes App Store at www.apple.com.
The College of Charleston’s main claims to academic fame are its outstanding Art History and Marine Biology departments and its performing arts program. The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (54 St. Philip St., 843/953-5680, www.halsey.cofc.edu, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.) focuses on modern visual art and also offers film screenings and lectures. The groundbreaking Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture (843/953-7609, www.cofc.edu/avery, Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. noon–5 p.m.) features rotating exhibits from its permanent archive collection.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition