When Oscar Wilde arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1882, he found the place firmly rooted in the past. One evening he remarked on how beautiful the moon looked. “You should’ve seen it, sir,” he was told, “before the war.”
The American civil war began with the bombardment of Charleston’s Fort Sumter 155 years ago this Tuesday and, since the Confederate army was defeated in 1865, the city has held on to a nostalgic vision of its history. The pastel-hued colonial homes, the old theatres and municipal buildings, the Palmetto trees and cobblestone streets all remain, and today form much of the appeal for homebuyers.
However, in recent years, the city has developed a reputation for innovation and change, drawing an influx of younger buyers from Europe and the US. Between 2000 and 2012, the population of 25-35 year-olds grew 58 percent, according to a report from the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. As of last year, millennials made up 15.7 percent of the population — the highest proportion of any “mid-level” metropolitan area in the country (cities with 500,000 to one million people).
It’s an increase some have linked to the blossoming tech sector. The city’s Charleston Digital Corridor, an initiative promoting and developing 294 local technology companies, has helped it earn the moniker “Silicon Harbour”.
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