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Charleston Coal Tipple – Charleston, South Carolina


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Standing in contrast to the modern commercial structures that line the banks of the Charleston Harbor are the remains of this historic industrial site. Established in 1915 at the tip of what is now a landfill, the Charleston Export Coal Terminal, commonly called the coal tipple, was a business that loaded coal onto ships to be exported. The operation included a wooden trestle that still stretches into Town Creek, a tributary of the Cooper River. A tipple is a structure that loads mined materials into railroad cars, which then dump the contents into containers for transporting. The word can also be used in reference to a facility that prepared the product being shipped.

Coal Tipple Trestle

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

When the Charleston coal tipple began operations, it was the only such business south of Virginia. The coal tipple was originally owned by the Southern Railway Company and could load up to 2,000 tons of coal per hour. As the coal shipping industry became successful in other parts of the United States towards the mid-century, business at the Charleston coal tipple began to lag. By 1952, the tipple was closed, and the State Ports Authority purchased the business site in 1957.

Coal Tipple Masonry

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The land on which the coal tipple stands extends from Town Creek to Magnolia Cemetery, which sold a portion of its property to the coal exporting company in 1913. After the tipple closed, its industrial brick buildings and trestle sat abandoned. Plans by the State Ports Authority for establishing a containment terminal at the location were scrapped upon the discovery that the surrounding marsh would be destroyed in the process. In 1976 a fire broke out at the former coal loading site, leaving its charred remains hollowed but stalwart beneath the Cooper River Bridges. Today the site is visible from the Ravenel Bridge, which replaced the Cooper River Bridges in 2005.

Coal Tipple Building

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In 2014 the SPA sold part of the tipple to a private business, Agru America, for $3 million. The company plans to build a polyethylene plant at the 16-acre site, which encompasses the portion of the tipple that includes the smaller brick buildings, seen below. Together Agru America and the SPA are contributing towards the cleanup of the surrounding area, which was contaminated during the coal tipple’s operating days. The SPA retains ownership of the remainder of the tipple site, which includes the trestle and a larger brick building, seen in the above photos.

Coal Tipple Brick Buildings

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

State Representative Chip Limehouse of Charleston has advocated for the historic preservation of the coal tipple. Limehouse, who pushed to have the operation’s remains designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009, pledges to continue working with the site’s new owners to preserve the coal tipple’s existing structures. The coal tipple is best viewed by boat.

More Pictures of the Charleston Coal Tipple


Coal Tipple

Johnna Hansen of Summerville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Coal Tipple

Johnna Hansen of Summerville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Coal Tipple

Johnna Hansen of Summerville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Coal Tipple Interior

Johnna Hansen of Summerville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Below are aerial photos of the coal tipple and its surroundings taken by a drone from contributor Ryan Monroe.

Coal Tipple Ruins Aerial

Ryan Monroe of Columbia, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Coal Tipple Ravenel Bridge Aerial

Ryan Monroe of Columbia, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Coal Tipple Drone Shot

Ryan Monroe of Columbia, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Coal Tipple Rail Aerial

Ryan Monroe of Columbia, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent


Charleston Coal Tipple Info


Address: Greenleaf Street, Charleston, SC 29405
GPS Coordinates: 32.815642,-79.932020


Charleston Coal Tipple Map




Charleston Coal Tipple – Add Info and More Photos


The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Charleston Coal Tipple, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!


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The South Carolina Picture Project is a volunteer project which earns no profit. We work hard to ensure its accuracy, but if you see a mistake, please know that it is not intentional and that we are more than happy to update our information if it is incorrect. That said, our goal is to create something positive for our state, so please make your comments constructive if you would like them to be published. Thank you!



5 Comments about Charleston Coal Tipple

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
July 8th, 2017 at 12:50 am

Thank you for this information! We would love to see what you had and will look further into this as well.

Ron StaffordNo Gravatar says:
July 7th, 2017 at 6:25 am

A thoroughly enjoyable blog, extremely well written and with great photo documentation. However, I feel compelled to make one correction…the remains of the three brick buildings located on what is now the Agru America property (the spoils area on the mainland, directly to the southwest of the coal pier remains) were NOT part of the coal pier operation. This land was at that time owned by Standard Oil Co…the building remains are believed to part of an oil or lubricant storage area (note the remains of the concrete bases used to support the tanks).

So what we have here are two very different sites. I have several additional close-up photos of both sites on 35-mm slides which I hope to get scanned in the very near future and sent to you. Also a picture of the coal pier as it appeared in 1915 shortly after its construction and a copy of a June 14, 1923 property map.

Southern Railway (Charleston) coal pier
32.817570, -79.930830

Standard Oil Co. property
32.814955, -79.931240

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
July 25th, 2016 at 9:21 am

Sure! Feel free to send photos here: https://www.sciway.net/forms/pictures.html

Ryan H Monroe says:
July 25th, 2016 at 1:45 am

I have some great drone photos if you are interested.

James Jenkins says:
December 12th, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Brandon, that is a great addition to SCIWAY, thanks for the photos and the background information. Really enjoyed it.





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