2 Your Roots: The history of King Street

2 Your Roots

Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s fairly easy to piece together that King Street is named after a king— but do you know which one? News 2’s Temple Ricke sat down with Dr. Eric Lager, a Professor of Adjunct history of the Citadel, to bring you the answer.

Dr. Lager explains that King Street was named after the English King Charles II, who ruled from 1660-1685. His reign came more than a decade after his father, King Charles I, who was on trial for treason against his subjects during the English Civil War. He was publicly beheaded in 1649; the first time in history that a reining English King had been legally deposed and executed.

After his father’s execution, Charles II joined forces with royalists to try and restore the monarchy but was defeated by Oliver Cromwell, a military and political leader who had seized the government.

Cromwell and his supporters abolished the “House of Lords” and declared England a commonwealth. Dr. Lager says the decision grew increasingly unpopular and many Englishmen began to look for a restoration of the king.

The opportunity came with Cromwell’s death in 1658. In 1660, a new Parliament was organized and it declared Charles II as king.

Dr. Lager says that Cavaliers, supporters of The King, made great personal sacrifices to restore Charles II. He explains that Charles II needed their continued support to stay in power so he gave eight of the men a chunk of land known as “Carolina”; the men then became known as the Lords Proprietors.

The initial settlement of the Carolina colony was settled in 1670 and was located about five miles west of present-day Charleston at Albemarle Point. The new town in Carolina was called “Charles Town”.

Dr. Lager tells News 2, “The Jean Boyd Map of 1686 is the earliest known map of Charles Town. It shows the town before it was enclosed by walls. There are no streets on this map. Nor are there any on the 1711 Edward Crisp Map, which is the earliest view of Charleston’s walled city.”

King Street was known variously as “The Broad Path”, “The Broad Road”, and “The High Way” because it was located on high ground. Those names continued to be used on occasion until after the American Revolution, but the term “King Street” was used once Carolina transitioned from a Proprietary Colony to a Royal Colony in 1719. Street names were mentioned by the time the South Carolina Gazette was first published in 1732.

Dr. Lager explains that King Street became a major artery for trade leading from the bottom of the peninsula leading up to the northern neck. Since Charles Town was founded during King Charles II’s reign, the name “King Street” was intended to honor his role in the establishment of the colony.

If you have a street, landmark, or a piece of history you want Temple to help uncover, send your suggestions to tricke@wcbd.com​.

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