The romantic and history-filled notion of Charleston as a wealthy home to plantation owners was predated by a much more modest and humble back ground: One of dirt roads, hot weather, and uncertainty.
The Post and Courier writes on the topic:
Taken together, they make a point that most tourists don't hear, that most residents probably haven't thought much about: Before the oldest parts of Charleston became the historic city we know today, they were something quite different. Something rougher, simpler.
The streets were dirt, and property owners hadn't been required yet to spread oyster shells in front of their properties for sidewalks. The architecture likely was crude, small and made mostly of wood.
The paper then continues to discuss how the city (and its land) grew and expanded as the city became larger and more prosperous.
The Historic Charleston Foundation offers several interactive maps that show how the Peninsula has grown and changed.