The History of Charleston Place
Any local will tell you there’s plenty of reasons for residents and travelers alike to find themselves at Charleston Place. From world-class dining to top-shelf shopping, it’s not just a grand hotel.
Opening its doors on September 2, 1986 (only partially finished), Charleston Place Hotel has undergone many transformations.
At the time, the city unemployment rate was around 15 percent, so Mayor Joe Riley was determined to improve it. Between its event catering, restaurants, spa, hotel, and shops, Charleston Place today meets a 550-worker payroll. Not only did the hotel create jobs, but it also drew more people into Charleston.
Today, the hotel welcomes about 17,000 guests in an average month. Located at the Market Street entrance, the Charleston Place fountain marks the epicenter of a local economy that considers tourism the number-one industry.
Before Charleston Place, it was common to see empty storefronts. Some sections of King Street fell to pre-1948 levels, and it was rare to see pedestrians walking around downtown, much less shopping and dining out.
An Atlanta magazine even stated in 1979 that Charleston was the epitome of the decaying American city, a difficult fact to fathom these days! Desperate for change, Mayor Riley turned to help. He sorted through countless books from a Washington, D.C. consulting firm, and it was suggested that a hotel be built on Charleston Place’s current location.
The project split the city down the middle, with people in disagreement with the plans. The project was called “Riley’s Folly,” and the lead investor threatened to sell it to a low-budget motel company. On September 2, 1986, the hotel finally saw its opening as the Omni Hotel. The hotel had a rough start when a man disguised as a valet stole two luxury cars from guests; and rainwater seeped into the buildings bricks and walls, costing $15 million in repairs. The retail sales at the Charleston Place shops began to show hope for the hotel and the surrounding area. The rooms have been remodeled numerous times and the hotel launched Charleston Place events which attracted even more guests. Mayor Joe Riley’s effort allowed room for something new in Charleston, which it lacked. Today, the hotel brings in guests from all around the world and has made a miraculous difference in Charleston’s success. Today, you can find Charleston Place in the same historical location, but with a new name; The Belmond Charleston Place.
Learn more about the The Belmond Charleston Place and other landmarks in Historic Charleston by taking a tour with us!