Resources Available at the Records Center

The Records Center houses a variety of records generated by departments and divisions of the City of Charleston, which may be of use for both historical and contemporary research. These records document the City’s organizational history and provide important insight into the social, political, and economic history of Charleston.

In 2002, the City transferred some of its older collections to the Charleston County Public Library  (CCPL) in order to make the documents more widely available. A list of these records is located on the library website at City of Charleston Records.

The following gives a broad overview of the records held by the City of Charleston and available for research at the Records Center at 2 George Street. Researchers are welcome to make appointments to view many of our records; however, some research requests may require a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Council Records

Executive & Legislative Files 

  • Mayoral Records, 1879 to present
  • Mayoral Scrapbooks, 1931 to 1999
  • Codes of Ordinances of the City of Charleston, 1783 to present
  • Ordinances, Resolutions, and Proclamations, 1800 to 2015 (with gaps)

Departmental Records, including the following collections of note:

General Research Files 

These files are a useful source of knowledge for anyone seeking a broad overview of a particular subject, person, or place of significance to the City. While largely a collection of newspaper clippings, the General Files also contain many original City documents. 

The General Files of the City Records Center contain information on:

  • Businesses
  • City Streets
  • Events Relevant to the History of Charleston
  • Historic Buildings
  • Institutions
  • Noteworthy Persons

Institutional Records 

In 2002, many Charleston Orphan House records over seventy-five years were transferred to the South Carolina Room of the CCPL, where records are processed and open to researchers. Records that were less than seventy-five years old at the time remain with the City’s Records Management Division. Depending on age, the records on file at the Records Center are subject to the following restrictions:

  • To protect the privacy of former residents, access to these files is restricted until the records reach seventy-five years of age. Contact Records Management for more information on accessing these records. The records may be viewed at Records Management, or redacted photocopies may be obtained:
    • By a former resident, upon presentation of a photo ID
    • By a relative of a deceased former resident, upon presentation of a photo ID and a copy of the death certificate of the former resident
    • By a relative of a living former resident, upon presentation of a photo ID and a power of    attorney from the former resident
    • By other persons with a court order allowing access to the records upon presentation of  a photo ID and a copy of the court order

Land & Property Records 

  • Building Permits, 1932 to 2016
  • Certificates of Occupancy, 1978 to 2015
  • Elevation Certificates, circa the 1980s to present
    • Elevation Certificates are now available online through the  City's Mapnet system
    • Information on how to search for and access the certificates is available here
  • Housing Photographs, 1989
  • Maps and Plats, 1698 to 1989
    • Through the courtesy of the Charleston County Register of Deeds (ROD), digital images of more than 800 archival maps and plats, many drawn by the City Surveyor or City Engineer, are available online at City of Charleston Archival Maps and Plats.
    • Please note that the City does not retain plans for private property longer than one year after an issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy.

Publications & Printed Material 

Records Not held by the City of Charleston

Many of the public records frequently requested from the City Records Center are actually issued by other government agencies.