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The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and the City of Charleston, South Carolina, proudly invite you to discover Historic Charleston's Religious and Community Buildings. Charleston sits on a narrow peninsula where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet as they flow into the Atlantic Ocean. The community named for King Charles of England was established in 1670, became the center of the Carolina colony, the eighth state to join the Union, and the cultural center of the antebellum South. Charleston was the destination for peoples throughout Europe, Africa, and the Carribean, who have collectively shaped this unique region. This National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary explores Charleston's rich heritage using 43 historic places that reflect over 300 years of history, from the early Walled City of the British colony, through the prosperous growth of the shipping industry and surrounding plantations, its role in the events leading up to the Civil War, the resurgence of the community during the late 19th century, and the establishment of one of the most complete and intact historic districts in the country.
The city of Charleston is already a well-known tourist destination because of its history and pioneering efforts in preservation. This itinerary focuses on the variety of buildings that tell the stories of its religious and community history. Numerous religious denominations have been active in Charleston for centuries. Beautiful St. Philip's Episcopal Church was the first Anglican congregation established south of Virginia. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim is the country's second oldest synagogue and the birthplace of the American Reform Judaism movement. The itinerary also includes less well-known churches which represent the spiritual diversity that the city was built upon, such as the Emanuel AME Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South, First Scots Presbyterian, established in 1731 by 12 Scottish families, and St. Mary's, the first Roman Catholic Church in the Carolinas and Georgia. The majority of Charleston's public and community buildings reflect a time when it was one of the wealthiest and most important port cities of the colonies and young country. Major events that shaped the future of the colony took place at the Exchange. The Market Hall and Sheds provided fresh meat and produce for the same city dwellers that formed social and benevolent groups such as the South Carolina Society Hall and the German Friendly Society. St. Michael's Episcopal Church, the United States Post Office, the Charleston County Courthouse, and Charleston City Hall form the city's civic center, known as the Four Corners of the Law.
Historic Charleston's Religious and Community Buildings offers numerous ways to discover the historic properties that played important roles in the establishment of Charleston's civic, cultural, and spiritual community. Each property features a brief description of the site's significance, color and historic photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page, the visitor will also find a navigation bar containing links to three essays concerning Charleston and Preservation, Religious Architecture, and Community History. These essays provide historical background, or "contexts," for many of the sites included in the itinerary. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out for use by visitors to Charleston.
Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, the City of Charleston's Department of Planning and Urban Development, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC), Historic Charleston's Religious and Community Buildings is the third example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to revitalize communities by promoting public awareness of history and encouraging tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. In the Learn More section, the itineraries link to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located in Charleston.
Charleston is the third of a number of communities and regions that have worked directly with the National Register of Historic Places to create travel itineraries. The National Register of Historic Places and the City of Charleston hope you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of the city's historic resources. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.
After Charles II was restored to the English throne, he granted the chartered Carolina territory to eight of his loyal friends, known as the Lord Proprietors, in 1663. It took seven years before the Lords could arrange for settlement, the first being that of Charles Town. The community named for the King Charles I was established by English settlers in 1670 across the Ashley River from the city's current location. It was soon chosen by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, one of the Lord Proprietors, to become a "great port towne," a destiny which the city fulfilled. By 1680, the settlement had grown, joined by others from England, Barbados, and Virginia, and relocated to its current peninsular location. The capital of the Carolina colony, Charleston was the center for further expansion and the southernmost point of English settlement during the late 1600s.
The settlement was often subject to attack from sea and from land. Periodic assaults from Spain and France, who still contested England's claims to the region, were combined with resistance from American Indians as well as pirate raids. Charleston's colonists erected a fortification wall around the small settlement to aid in its defense. The only building to remain from the Walled City is the Powder Magazine, where the city's supply of gun powder was stored.
A 1680 plan for the new settlement, the Grand Modell, laid out "the model of an exact regular town," and the future for the growing community. Land surrounding the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets was set aside for a Civic Square. Over time it became known as the Four Corners of the Law, referring to the various arms of governmental and religious law presiding over the square and the growing city. St. Michael's Episcopal, Charleston's oldest and most noted church, was built on the southeast corner in 1752. The following year the Capitol of the colony was erected across the square. Because of its prominent position within the city and its elegant architecture, the building signaled to Charleston's citizens and visitors its importance within the British colonies. Provincial court met on the ground floor, the Commons House of Assembly and the Royal Governor's Council Chamber met on the second floor.
While the earliest settlers primarily came from England, colonial Charleston was also home to a mixture of ethnic and religious groups. French, Scottish, Irish and Germans migrated to the developing seacoast town, representing numerous Protestant denominations, as well as Catholicism and Judaism. Sephardic Jews (of Spanish and Portugese ancestry) migrated to the city in such numbers that Charleston became one of the largest Jewish communities in North America. The Jewish Coming Street Cemetery, first established in 1762, attests to their long standing presence in the community. The first Anglican church, St. Philip's Episcopal, was built in 1682, although later destroyed by fire and relocated to its current location. Slaves also comprised a major portion of the population, and were active in the city's religious community. Free black Charlestonians and slaves helped establish the Old Bethel United Methodist Church in 1797, and the congregation of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church stems from a religious group organized solely by African Americans, free and slave, in 1791.
By the mid-18th century Charleston had become a bustling trade center, and the wealthiest and largest city south of Philadelphia. Rice and indigo had been successfully cultivated by gentleman planters in the surrounding coastal lowcountry, while merchants profited from the successful shipping industry. As the relationship between the colonists and England deteriorated, Charleston became a focal point in the ensuing Revolution. In protest of the Tea Act of 1773, which embodied the concept of "taxation without representation," Charlestonians confiscated tea and stored it in the Exchange and Custom House. Representatives from all over the colony came to the Exchange in 1774 to elect delegates to the Continental Congress, the group responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence; and South Carolina declared its independence from the crown on the steps of the Exchange. Soon, the church steeples of Charleston, especially St. Michael's, became targets for British war ships. A siege on the city in 1776 was successfully defended by William Moultrie from Sullivan's Island, but by 1780 Charleston came under British control for two and a half years. After the British retreated in December 1782, the city's name was officially changed to Charleston. By 1788, Carolinians were meeting at the Capitol building for the Constitutional Ratification Convention, and while there was support for the Federal Government, division arose over the location of the new State Capital. A suspicious fire broke out in the Capitol building during the Convention, after which the delegates removed to the Exchange and decreed Columbia the new State Capital. By 1792, the Capitol had been rebuilt and became the Charleston County Courthouse. Upon its completion, the city possessed all the public buildings necessary to be transformed from a colonial capital to the center of the antebellum South. But the grandeur and number of buildings erected in the following century reflect the optimism, pride, and civic destiny that many Charlestonians felt for their community.
As Charleston grew, so did the community's cultural and social opportunities, especially for the elite merchants and planters. The first theater building in America was built in Charleston in 1736, but was later replaced by the 19th-century Planter's Hotel where wealthy planters stayed during Charleston's horse-racing season (now the Dock Street Theatre). Benevolent societies were formed by several different ethnic groups: the South Carolina Society, founded by French Huguenots in 1737; the German Friendly Society, founded in 1766; and the Hibernian Society, founded by Irish immigrants in 1801. The Charleston Library Society was established in 1748 by some wealthy Charlestonians who wished to keep up with the scientific and philosophical issues of the day. This group also helped establish the College of Charleston in 1770, the oldest college in South Carolina and the 13th college in the United States.
Charleston became more prosperous in the plantation dominated economy of the post-Revolutionary years. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 revolutionized this crop's production, and it quickly became South Carolina's major export. Cotton plantations relied heavily on slave labor. Slaves were also the primary labor force within the city, working as domestics, artisans, market workers or laborers. Many black Charlestonians spoke Gullah, a dialect based on African American structures which combined African, Portuguese, and English words. By 1820 Charleston's population had grown to 23,000, with a black majority. When a massive slave revolt planned by Denmark Vesey, a free black, was discovered in 1822, such hysteria ensued amidst white Charlestonians and Carolinians that the activities of free blacks and slaves were severely restricted. Hundreds of blacks, free and slave, and some white supporters involved in the planned uprising were held in the Old Jail. It also was the impetus for the construction of a new State Arsenal in Charleston.
As Charleston's government, society and industry grew, commercial institutions were established to support the community's aspirations. The Bank of South Carolina, the second oldest building constructed as a bank in the nation, was established here in 1798. Branches of the First and Second Bank of the United States were also located in Charleston in 1800 and 1817. While the First Bank was converted to City Hall by 1818, the Second Bank proved to be a vital part of the community as it was the only bank in the city equipped to handle the international transactions so crucial to the export trade. By 1840, the Market Hall and Sheds, where fresh meat and produce were brought daily, became the commercial hub of the city. The slave trade also depended on the port of Charleston, where ships could be unloaded and the slaves sold at markets.
In the first half of the 19th century, South Carolinians became more devoted to the idea that state's rights were superior to the Federal government's authority. Buildings such as the Marine Hospital ignited controversy over the degree in which the Federal government should be involved in South Carolina's government, society, and commerce. During this period over 90 percent of Federal funding was generated from import duties, collected by custom houses such as the one in Charleston. In 1832 South Carolina passed an ordinance of nullification, a procedure in which a state could in effect repeal a Federal law, directed against the most recent tariff acts. Soon Federal soldiers were dispensed to Charleston's forts and began to collect tariffs by force. A compromise was reached by which the tariffs would be gradually reduced, but the underlying argument over state's rights would continue to escalate in the coming decades. Charleston remained one of the busiest port cities in the country, and the construction of a new, larger United States Custom House began in 1849, but its construction was interrupted by the events of the Civil War.
In 1860, the National Democratic Convention convened in Charleston. Hibernian Hall served as the headquarters for the delegates supporting Stephen A. Douglas, who it was hoped would bridge the gap between the northern and southern delegates on the issue of extending slavery to the territories. The convention disintegrated when delegates were unable to summon a two-thirds majority for any candidate. This divisiveness resulted in a split in the Democratic party, and the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate. On December 20, 1860, the South Carolina legislature was the first state to vote for secession from the Union. They asserted that one of the causes was the election to the presidency of a man "whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery."
On January 9, 1861, Citadel cadets fired the first shots of the Civil War when they opened fire on a Union ship entering Charleston's harbor. April 2, 1861, shore batteries under the command of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard opened fire on the Union-held Fort Sumter in the harbor. After a 34-hour bombardment, Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Cadets from the Citadel, South Carolina's liberal arts military college, continued to aid the Confederate army by helping drill recruits, manufacture ammunition, protect arms depots, and guard Union prisoners. The city under siege took control of Fort Sumter, became the center for blockade running, and was the site of the first submarine warfare in 1863. In 1865, Union troops moved into the city, and took control of many sites, such as the United States Arsenal which the Confederate army had seized at the outbreak of the war.
After the eventual and destructive defeat of the Confederacy, Federal forces remained in Charleston during the city's reconstruction. The war had shattered the prosperity of the antebellum city. Freed slaves were faced with poverty and discrimination. Industries slowly brought the city and its inhabitants back to a renewed vitality and growth in population. As the city's commerce improved, Charlestonians also worked to restore their community institutions. In 1867 Charleston's first free secondary school for blacks was established, the Avery Institute. General William T. Sherman lent his support to the conversion of the United States Arsenal into the Porter Military Academy, an educational facility for former soldiers and boys left orphaned or destitute by the war. The William Enston Home, a planned community for the city's aged and infirm, was built in 1889. An elaborate public building, the United States Post Office and Courthouse, was completed in 1896 and signaled renewed life in the heart of the city.
In 1886 Charleston was nearly destroyed by a major earthquake that was felt as far away as Boston and Bermuda. Few buildings escaped damage. Coupled with fires, hurricanes, tornados, several wars, and urban renewal in the 20th century, it is extraordinary how many of Charleston's historic buildings remain. Today the city's community buildings help to make Charleston one of the most complete historic districts in the country, with more than 1400 historically significant buildings.
Charleston's church architecture, like the city's architecture in general, is overwhelmingly of English derivation, as might be expected in an English colonial establishment which has been referred to as a "Little London."
During the Colonial era the prevailing architecture was English Georgian, which was founded securely on the work of the late Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, as interpreted by Indigo Jones and subsequent English architects. In church building, the translation of Palladio's influence came through the designs of Christopher Wren and James Gibbs.
Although South Carolina's religious freedom (for all non-Catholics) attracted many Dissenters, the Church of England was the established church after 1706. Even before that, the '"English Church" was dominant> and ' its houses of worship were public buildings. The first structure of St. Philip's Church, the first Anglican parish, was erected in 1681-82 at the southeast comer of the Meeting and Broad Streets, the site now occupied by St. Michael's Church. John Oldmixon wrote in 1708 that it was "large and stately enough," and the "most remarkable" of the town's public buildings. It was built of black cypress upon a brick foundation.
The intriguing question is whether or not this first "English Church" had a tall pointed steeple inspired by Wren's steepled churches in London, built after the Great Fire of 1666. The Gothic steeple had been in disfavor, due to the influence of the Italian Renaissance, until it was revived by Wren and classicized through the use of arches, pilasters and other devices. It is not impossible that the first St. Philip's had such a classicized steeple. On the other hand, the Congregational, Anabaptist and French Calvinist churches and the Quaker Meeting House, all of which were built about the same time, were simple, steepleless structures, more a tribute to the Lords Proprietors' guarantee of liberty of conscience than to the architectural aspirations of their congregations.
Colonial Charleston was the wealthiest of English cities in America, and the city's elite maintained close ties with London. That a sophisticated taste in architecture was present early in Charleston was illustrated by the second St. Philip's Church, built in 1710-23. The brick church featured not only a steeple but also three monumental Roman Doric porticoes, depicted in an illustration from London's Gentleman's Magazine in 1753. The steeple, a polygonal tower topped by a polygonal lantern, dome and cupola, perhaps was based on the steeple of Wren's St. Magnus the Martyr, London, or on that of St. Ignatius, the Jesuit church at Antwerp.
St. Philip's undoubtedly was the most sophisticated church building in the English colonies when it was built. It antedated Christ Church in Philadelphia, which was the second church in America to use an applied order, and Peter Harrison's King's Chapel in Boston, the second church for which a giant order portico was designed. The English aesthete Edmund Burke later described St. Philip's as "spacious, and executed in a very handsome taste, exceeding everything of that kind which we have in America." The proud new edifice was sited to protrude into Church Street, so that the tower and porticoes provided a terminus to the vista. The siting of the church as a vistal terminus reflected a Baroque city planning concept, prototypes of which included similar building sitings in some of the plans for rebuilding the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666.
The taste for Palladian and Wren-Gibbs design outlasted the Colonial era, and Charleston's conservatism in that regard triumphed in the rebuilding of St. Philip's Church following a fire in 1835. During a debate on the design of the replacement structure, the view was expressed that Charleston's older buildings were superior, in design and construction, to those in the newer 19th century styles. As a result, St. Philip's vestry insisted that architect Edward Hyde rebuild the Georgian church exactly as it had been before the fire, Hyde acceded to their request except for minor changes on the exterior, but persuaded them to let him model the new interior after that of James Gibbs' St, Martin's-in-the-Fields. A decade later, the vestry commissioned architect Edward Brickell White to design the present steeple, in the Wren-Gibbs tradition.
The third St. Philip's might be considered anticipatory of the Colonial Revival movement of the late 19th century, if it were not for the motivation of the conservative vestry and congregation. Their goal was not to revive the architecture of the past, which would have been an innovative step, but to continue it. Therefore St. Philip's has to be cited as a rare instance of "Georgian Survival."
White's 1849 steeple for St. Philip's did not replicate its domed predecessor but was consciously patterned after, and made intentionally higher than, the steeple of St. Michael's Church.
St. Michael's Church remains Charleston's oldest church edifice. An Irish architect, Samuel Cardy, built and largely designed St. Michael's Church, erected in 1751-61 on the site of the first St. Philip's, at the southeast corner of Broad and Meeting streets. Like St. Philip's, St. Michael's exemplifies the Wren-Gibbs tradition of American Colonial church building. Like many Colonial churches of the period, it was inspired by James Gibbs' design for St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, c. 1726, and many of its details are reminiscent of plates from Gibbs' A Book of Architecture, published in 1728.
The initial design of St. Michael's was by a Mr. Gibson (possibly Robert Gibson, Sr). However, Cardy, who became involved in the project after construction had begun, significantly altered the original plan. Cardy was responsible for the remarkable ceiling, which spans some 60 feet without visible support, being carried on hidden trusses. In that feature, St. Michael's recalls churches of Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor, such as St. Alfege's, Greenwich (1713-18), rather than St. Martin's, which has arches on columns supporting the ceiling (and which provided the model for the interior of the third St. Philip's, as noted above).
Cardy also contributed the steeple, which has three octagonal upper tiers over a square tower. Cardy solved the problem of supporting the diagonal faces of the octagon over the voids at the comers of the square, by carrying them on corbelled brick half arches, known as "squinches," which span the corners of the square.
America's first native-born professional architect, the Charlestonian Robert Mills, designed for several Charleston congregations. MiIls had a varied architectural background. He studied under James Hoban, a Palladian traditionalist who was the architect of the White House; he was a protegee of Thomas Jefferson, who defined his own style at Monticello; and he worked under Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who brought Rational Neoclassicism from Europe to America. The latter was based on the philosophe Laugier's Essai sur architecture, in which he advocated a more functional approach to classical architecture, anticipating Louis Sullivan and the Beaux Arts. Although French in origin, the Rational Neoclassical in America was based mainly on the English version, as evoked by Sir John Soane and George Dance, whose work was studied by Latrobe, Mills developed a distinctive Millsian style, a robust and geometric form of Rational Neoclassicism, but the influence of all his teachers is evident in his buildings as well, including the more conservative elements.
Mills' first major contribution to Charleston architecture was the design of the Circular Congregational Church, built in 1804-06, which was the first Pantheon-like church in America. In the Circular Church he employed a dome of laminated ribs, such as was found in Jefferson's copy of Philibert Delorme's Invention pur batir les couvertures courbes, and which Jefferson had used in the dome at Monticello. Afterwards, Mills used the Delorme system in round and octagonal churches in Richmond and Baltimore.
Mills' plans for the Circular Congregational Church included a portico of stolid Doric columns, and no steeple, reflecting the Rational Neoclassicist influence of his mentor, Latrobe. His plans were altered by the building committee, which substituted Corinthian columns attenuated in the then-current Adamesque taste, and subsequently the portico was replaced with a more elaborate one, designed by the Charleston firm of Jones & Lee in the 1850s. Similarly, the church engaged Charles Reichardt in 1838 to add a Wren-Gibbs steeple. Reflecting the "Georgian Survival" trend noted previously at St. Philip's, Reichardt patterned the steeple closely after that of St. Michael's.
The changes made the church unrecognizable as a Mills building. The original Mills design became suggestible again only after the great fire of 1861 reduced the church to a brick skeleton, In rebuilding in the 1890s, the Congregationalists kept the circular concept, but it was reinterpreted in the then-fashionable Richardsonian Romanesque style.
Mills may also have designed the First Scots Presbyterian Church, built in 1814. The architect of the church has not been identified, but Mills' family were members of the congregation. The facade of the church features twin towers capped by domes, flanking a partially recessed portico. This scheme is reminiscent of Latrobe's design for St. Mary's Cathedral in Baltimore, which anteceded First Scots Presbyterian by just a few years. It should be noted that James and John Gordon, builders and designers of the Second Presbyterian Church and St. Paul's, Radcliffeboro (see below) also were members of First Scots Presbyterian.
Mills was especially proud of his design for the First Baptist Church in Charleston, built ca. 1818. He described it as "purely Grecian in its style, simply grand in its proportions, and beautiful in its detail." The superlatives are true, except the building is not "purely Greek." The portico, with its Roman Doric columns, is more Palladian-Georgian than Greek Revival. The portico is not an integral component, as is the portico of a Classical temple, but is appendaged to the rectangular body of the church in the Wren-Gibbs tradition. The use of two tiers of arched windows along the sides also constitutes a continuation of Georgian tradition. Such conservative features may reflect the lingering influence of his early training under Hoban.
However, newer Rational Neoclassical concepts are revealed in the simplification of ornament, the differentiation of the parts of the building -- portico, vestibule, auditorium -- and in the massy, windowless attic, reminiscent of the work of the French Rational Neoclassicist, Claude-Nicholas Ledoux, as well as some work of Latrobe. The church formerly had a domed cupola, as well, reminiscent of Latrobe's design for St. Paul's in Washington, built in 1815.
Mills' mentor Thomas Jefferson developed his own style in his Virginia buildings, characterized by Roman Doric porticoes and arched openings, and fanlights everywhere, including the pediment of the portico. Two Charleston churches, Second Presbyterian and St. Paul's, Radcliffeboro (the latter now the Cathedral of St. Luke and St.Paul), are in this style. Both were designed and built by the Gordon brothers, James and John, ca. 1809-1811. Both also developed structural problems in their towers, so that their steeples were never completed. Second Presbyterian's tower was capped by a simple lantern, while that of St. Paul's was topped off, incongruously, by a Gothic parapet.
The first of the popular 19th century eclectic styles to arrive in Charleston was the academic Greek Revival, which was based on a study of the temple architecture of classical Greece. There had been little interest in Greek architecture, since the Italian Renaissance chauvinistically based its architecture on Roman models which were considered superior to their Greek prototypes. Interest in Greek forms was stimulated in the mid-18th century by scholarly expeditions to Greece and by the publication of works such as The Antiquities of Athens, containing on-site drawings of classical Greek ruins by the English architects Nicholas Revett and James Stuart. The architects of the academic Greek Revival movement sought to design modern buildings using authentic Greek elements of design, gleaned from the study of prototypes in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.
In Charleston's church architecture the Greek Revival had a flowering after the great fire of 1838. The fire reduced to rubble a large part of the King and Meeting streets commercial area, and most of Ansonborough, a residential neighborhood. The fire, though tragic, nevertheless provided a unique opportunity for the Greek Revival. The majority of structures built in the burnt district during the years after the fire were in that style, and the neighborhood is sprinkled liberally with temple-form buildings.
One of the new churches in the "burnt district" was the Doric temple Second Baptist Church (now the Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church), built in 1842. It was designed by Edward Brickell White, the local architect most identified with the Greek Revival. White felt obliged to defend his design after the church authorities altered his plans to place two additional doors in the facade, behind columns. This, he pointed out, was a departure from precedents in Greek temple design.
One of the most beautiful of the Greek temple-form houses of worship in the "burnt district" is Temple Beth Elohim, built -in 1840-41. It was designed for the Reform Jewish congregation by a New York architect, Cyrus Warner. The academicists would have protested that, while its massive fluted Doric columns are authentic, the spacing of the triglyphs, and metopes in the entablature is more Georgian than Greek, and the ceding of the sanctuary has an ornamental saucer dome, which, while gorgeous, is more Roman than Greek. However, those not hemmed by 19th century academic constraints will agree that, although the ensemble is not "purely Greek," the result is superb.
The Gothic Revival movement was based on an earnest theological justification for the Gothic as the most proper Christian architecture. The intellectual foundation of this "Ethical Gothic" premise was established in the writings of the British architect Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin, whose conversion to Roman Catholicism guided him to a desire to revive England's medieval Catholic architecture. His ideas were presented in his influential works, Contrasts, or a Parallel between the Noble Edifices of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries and Similar Buildings of the Present Day, published in 183 6, and The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture, published in 1841. Pugin's ideals evoked a response among Protestants as well, as they paralleled the ideas of reformers within the Church of England and the Anglican academic community. John Henry Newman and others began in 1833 the Oxford Movement which sought to restore ritual and liturgical richness to the Church of England. The Cambridge Camden Society (later known as the Ecclesiological Society) was formed at Oxford in 1836 by scholars with a common interest in medieval Christian architecture, who advocated through their publication, The Ecclesiologist. For that reason, the Ethical Gothic is also known as the Ecclesiological Gothic.
In the United States, the British born architect, Richard Upjohn, was a subscriber to The Ecclesiologist. His Trinity Church in New York, 1839-1841, had no galleries (which the Ecclesiologists condemned) and introduced a raised altar, an extended chancel and a cross-topped spire (all of which they promoted). The church was built of stone (which they advocated) but the interior vaulting was not executed in stone, but simulated in lath and plaster (of which neither the Ecclesiologists, nor Pugin would have approved).
Charleston architect Edward Brickell White made a "visit [to] the Northern Cities, on professional, calls," in 1842, when Upjohn's Trinity Church was under construction. Subsequently, he designed the Huguenot Church, built in 1844-45. The Huguenot Church was praised locally as "the only specimen of pointed, or emphatically Christian Church Architecture, which has ever been erected in our city." The language indicates a knowledge of Pugin's works, and the design indicates possible direct references to them. In the use of materials, the church owes no allegiance to Pugin or The Ecclesiologist. The crockets and finials, tracery of the principal window, and dripstones are all of cast iron, and the vaulting inside is simulated in lath and plaster. The church is unusual in that it has no tower and spire. It is a simple rectangle with a tent-like roof.
White became South Carolina's foremost Goth, designing Gothic churches, including Grace Church in Wentworth Street, and other structures in Charleston and elsewhere. Grace follows Ethical strictures in having no galleries and is topped by a graceful steeple. However, White employed no stone; the materials, like those of the Huguenot Church, were stuccoed brick, lath and plaster, and cast iron. In the 1970s, White's cast iron crockets, having deteriorated in Charleston's damp climate, were replicated in fiberglass.
The Ethical Gothic fervor inevitably faded, but interest in the Gothic continued. The later Gothic Revival drew inspiration from periods other than the "Middle Pointed" promoted by Pugin and the Ecclesiologists as the ideal. When Francis D. Lee Gothicized the late 18th century structure of the Unitarian Church in 1852-54, he employed the late Gothic of the Tudor period, which the Ethicists had considered debased. Lee gave the church a handsome perpendicular tower, and a magnificent fan-vaulted ceiling, the latter inspired perhaps by ceilings of the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster and the cloisters at Gloucester. Lee designed a similar ceiling for St. Luke's Church (now the Fourth Tabernacle Baptist Church), ca. 1859.
The Brooklyn, New York, based Patrick Charles Keely, an Irish-born architect, designed literally hundreds of Catholic churchs in the United States, including three in Charleston. Keely claimed to have been a student of Pugin, England's premier Gothicist. In the 1850s Keely designed the Cathedral of St. Finbar, which was lost in the great fire of 1861, as well as its successor on the same site, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, begun after the 1886 earthquake. The two cathedrals followed the Ethical requirement to be built of stone (Connecticut brownstone) in emulation of the medieval prototypes, and manifested similar but differing versions of Gothic design. Keely also designed the Gothic Revival edifice of St. Patrick's Church, built 1886-87.
John Henry Devereux, the most prolific architect of the post-Civil War era, designed two Gothic Revival churches in the city. St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1867-71, originally was polychromed, its stuccoed surface scored and overlayed with paint, mixed with sand,
to simulate blocks of different colored stone. That colorful scheme reflected the influence of the English aesthete John Ruskin, who in works such as The Stones of Venice, advocated the use of polychromed stone in church architecture.
Another popular 19th century style for church buildings was the Romanesque Revival. The style was derived from earlier medieval church architecture, before the rise of the Gothic, and is distinguished from the latter mainly in the use of round, rather than pointed, arches.
The firm of Jones & Lee (Edward C. Jones and Francis D. Lee) of Charleston designed the Citadel Square Baptist Church in 1855-56, employing the Norman mode of the Romanesque Revival style for the edifice.
The design of Citadel Square Baptist deviated from the model by the use of a steeple (Romanesque churches had bell towers, whereas the steeple spire was a Gothic innovation). The steeple was blown over by a hurricane and the tower was damaged by an earthquake. The tower was repaired and given a lower steeple, designed by Edward Silloway, a Boston architect. Silloway's steeple was lost in a hurricane (Hugo) in 1989, and replaced by a new steeple along the lines of the original, design by Jones & Lee.
The Romanesque Revival of the antebellum period was based mainly on examples in Northwestern Europe. In the late 19th century, another version of the Romanesque was developed by the Boston architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, based on churches of Provence and Spain. Used for the first time in the 1870s in his Trinity Church, Boston, the Richardsonian Romanesque became widely popular in the ensuing decades. Charleston's best Richardsonian Romanesque building is the Circular Congregational Church, built in the 1890s to replace Mills' burned predecessor. Designed by the firm of Stevenson and Green, it features a massive central tower, somewhat reminiscent of Richardson's Trinity Church. Although the "Circular" remains part of the name, the present structure is not really circular but tri-apsidal.
Written by Robert P. Stockton, adjunct professor of history at the College of Charleston.
It is no accident that Charleston, South Carolina, is a locus for the modern preservation movement. For nearly 100 years, generations of Charlestonians have been aware of this city's singular sense of place. Since the turn of the 20th century, individuals, organizations, and government have established and promoted a preservation ethic. The roots of preservation run deep. In 1783, Charleston established itself as a municipal government with the motto: "She guards her customs, buildings and laws." Early on Charleston embraced one extremely important notion of what a city should be: guardian of its cultural, physical and social structures.
Charleston's unique environment, people, and circumstances contributed to a tradition of preserving and protecting the physical evidence of past generations. Over the past century, Charlestonians have moved from saving individual buildings to entire neighborhoods to maintain the city's unique sense of place.
1900 - 1930: PRESERVATION AS NATIONALISM
Early preservation efforts had a specific ideological motivation: saving the city's remaining colonial era structures for educational purposes. In the early 1900s, Charlestonians like other Americans shared a growing interest in the beginnings of the country. This rise of nationalism is best represented by the efforts of the National Society of Colonial Dames and its sister organization, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Charleston's local chapters took up the charge of stimulating interest and pride in the nation through the preservation of the city's earliest buildings. In 1902 the Colonial Dames acquired the pre-revolutionary Powder Magazine, one of the oldest remaining structures associated with the permanent settlement of Charleston of 1680. Meanwhile, the DAR acquired the Old Exchange one of the city's most prominent buildings, from the federal government. The motivation in both cases was the same: to acquire and preserve those buildings associated with past events which would physically reflect Charleston's contribution to the development of the nation.
The most notable individual of the time was a real estate agent, Susan Pringle Frost. For nearly nine years she worked independently to save historic residences in the city. She gathered a group of like-minded citizens, and in 1920 the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings was formally established.
In the 1920s, supported by the United States Supreme Court Euclid decision which held zoning as a valid municipal police power, cities began to enact local laws regulating property use. In Charleston the city council established a Special Committee on Zoning to draft an ordinance to prohibit specific uses south of Broad Street, then perceived as the city's heaviest concentration of important historic buildings. Upon adoption of the ordinance, the special committee was permanently established as the Committee on Planning and Zoning, now known as the planning and zoning commission. The use of zoning regulations specifying a city's historic significance and the importance of protection set the standard for hundreds of cities.
1931-1966: FORMALIZATION OF AN ETHIC
In the next 35 years, historic preservation became a formal, institutionalized ethic. The Society continued to stimulate interest in the preservation of historically important buildings and encourage private sector involvement in the preservation of individual structures. Existing civic and newly formed nonprofit organizations focused on increased awareness of good planning and preservation principles; and on securing buildings from inappropriate development through outright ownership. Their efforts, combined with the infusion of preservation objectives into government regulations, would make a significant impact on the city and set an example for the nation.
The work initiated in 1929 by the Special Committee on Zoning resulted in the hiring of a planning consultant, Morris Knowles, from Pittsburgh, Pa. Knowles conducted a survey with the assistance of Albert Simons which identified a relatively small but extremely important area of 18th-century buildings. His work also took into account a variety of planning issues relating to parks, schools and land utilization. Ultimately this work formed the basis for a city plan and zoning ordinance. Although the plan was never adopted, the city council did ratify the proposed (historic district) zoning ordinance on October 13, 1931. The opening sentence of the ordinance clearly stated its purpose: "In order to promote general welfare through the preservation and protection of historic places and areas of historic interest...", leaving no doubt as to the city's intention. For the first time groups or areas of buildings were designated as significant and worthy of protection. The blending of planning and preservation goals was unique and a revolutionary concept for its time.
The city council also created the Board of Architectural view (BAR) and the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Although the powers of the review board were limited to reviewing demolition requests within the area specified, the formal plan submission and review procedures opened an avenue for negotiation which heretofore never existed. The board's role was that of a negotiator, working with applicants to find mutually acceptable solutions to design problems. During the late 1930s Charleston utilized federal sources of money for preservation purposes. In 1938 when a tornado struck, federal assistance was used to mitigate the damage to historic structures. The city also used available federal funding under Roosevelt's New Deal to provide public housing. In 1939 the city razed a number of dilapidated buildings outside the historic district defined by the 1931 ordinance. The most valuable antebellum structures were saved and incorporated into the new multi-family housing project. Although this was the only time the Housing Authority of Charleston restored historic buildings for housing, in subsequent years it rehabilitated the Marine Hospital (1833) by Robert Mills and the adjacent City Jail for administrative functions.
As community interest in historic preservation grew, so did the city's organizational interests. The Carolina Art Association inaugurated a citywide survey of historic and architecturally significant buildings. The survey, conducted by Helen Gardner McCormack, included 1,168 buildings. (In 1944) the Carolina Art Association published the findings of the survey as This Is Charleston, illustrating more than 500 of the surveyed structures. The result was the first publication of an architectural inventory of an American city. This simple idea of monumental proportion had a far-reaching influence on future work in the city, in other cities, and on the formation of the National Register of Historic Places. (In 1945) Kenneth Chorley, president of Colonial Williamsburg, Inc. planted the seed of what was to become Historic Charleston Foundation, Inc. (In a public speech) he pointed out the need for an independent, nongovernmental organization which could set its own agenda without ties to any existing organization or city politics. The result was the establishment of a nonprofit foundation that could own and operate historic sites and provide educational information and assistance to individuals, civic organizations, and local government following the Colonial Williamsburg model. Historic Charleston Foundation, Inc., was chartered in 1947. The foundation began a Spring Tour of Homes in 1947 fashioned after those in other southern cities that showcased restored historic sites to visiting tourists. The tours provided a public education opportunity to help fulfill the foundation's charter responsibilities. More importantly the tours provided much needed income in the years to follow. The house tour director, Frances S. Edmunds, soon became executive director and guided the foundation's activities for the next 38 years.
The 1950s brought about several preservation crises, as well as a rethinking of the approach to historic preservation. The Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings was renamed the Preservation Society of Charleston, reflecting a broader definition of what was considered important to the community. In 1959 Historic Charleston Foundation began to focus on the rehabilitation of entire neighborhoods through an aggressive purchase and resale agenda. It targeted the Ansonborough neighborhood, a fine collection of post 1840 masonry dwellings. The foundation established a revolving fund and options or outright purchases were made with the idea that one or two buildings successfully restored on a street would cause others to follow. The foundation stabilized or partially rehabilitated exteriors of the buildings. The foundation placed easements on the properties before resale, establishing control over the rehabilitation and long term maintenance of the buildings. The buildings were marketed to individuals or families who would take up residence. The program gained momentum and dilapidated and often abandoned tenements gave way to single family dwellings. This innovative program added a significant new dimension to the way historic preservation was accomplished in Charleston. Although the need to react to immediate threats remained, preservation organizations were now taking a proactive, entrepreneurial role within the limits of available funding.
In 1959 the city council revised the historic zoning ordinance for the first time, granting the BAR powers over demolitions and the ability to review exterior in alterations to any pre-1860 building, as well as to any building within the Old and Historic Charleston district. Although no additional area was added to the board's jurisdiction, the ordinance gave the BAR a voice.
Charleston in the 1960s struggled with many of the same social and economic issues as other southern cities, the least of which was the need for inner-city economic revitalization. Public sector improvements of the time were not quite as kind. In 1967, the city of Charleston under Mayor J. Palmer Gaillard supported the removal of historic buildings for a new civic auditorium and meeting hall to bring conventions and entertainment downtown. The Preservation Society and Historic Charleston Foundation moved eight of the threatened structures to appropriate infill sites throughout the city and placed the buildings up for sale. Conversely, Mayor Gillard and the city council voted to expand the boundaries of the Old and Historic District, nearly tripling its size, to an east-west line that included one-half of the peninsula's land mass. All the buildings south of the recently constructed Septima Clark Expressway (US Highway 17) fell under the jurisdiction of the BAR, with the added power to deny demolition permanently. In 1970 the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) sought to expand its highway system west across the Ashley River. The preservation community feared the expansion would have a detrimental effect on the Old and Historic Charleston National Register District (designated in 1966). After the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation determined an adverse effect for the proposed James Island Bridge, SCDOT mitigated the effect by terminating the bridge improvement to the edge of the Ashley River at the end of Calhoun Street, away from the boundaries of the historic district.
Such public sector struggles identified the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the city's resources. Not until the adoption of the Feiss-Wright Anderson Survey and Preservation Plan in 1974 was a comprehensive architectural inventory, ranking of buildings, and area plan available to the public. The first inventory since the 1944 Carolina Art Association effort, the inventory identified more than 2,800 structures. The preservation plan became the centerpiece for planning and zoning efforts on the peninsula for the next two decades. It recommended a downtown revitalization strategy and stronger enforcement of building codes and height restrictions. It also stimulated the city council to extend the Board of Architectural Review's controls further up the peninsula.
The election of Joseph P. Riley, Jr. as mayor in the 1970s has had a lasting effect on this historic city. A Charleston native, son of a successful real estate and insurance businessman, graduate of The Citadel, lover of history, the arts, architecture and his city, Riley utilized the unique characteristics of Charleston as a magnet for needed economic development. At the same time he understood the need to maintain the high quality of design and construction reflected in the city's historic architecture. He also displayed a very keen sense of urban design and planning that would maintain the fabric of the city. From the beginning, his administration embraced an aggressive agenda of stimulating a city that was supported by a large military establishment (Navy and Air Force), constant port traffic, and a small tourist economy. It was not enough, however, to attract the kind of money needed to reinstate Charleston as one of the most significant and important cities along the Atlantic coast.
The city commissioned Barton-Aschman Associates to develop a commercial revitalization plan for the historic commercial core of the peninsula. Noting the need for a new economic stimulant, the study provided Riley the needed support to begin his first major development project. The young and energetic Riley sought out private development to bolster the city's economy. Fearing that businesses would further abandon the city for the suburbs, as so many cities had experienced in recent years, he decided to create the needed stimulant in the commercial core. In 1978 the city announced that a hotel/convention complex, to be called Charleston Center, would be constructed on a blighted block at the most critical commercial corner in the city. The city government acquired several million dollars in HUD Urban Development Action Grant funding for the project.
The proposed complex split the city's preservation community in half. Those in favor saw the development as the centerpiece of much-needed revitalization. Opponents saw it as old style urban renewal that would destroy the quality and character of the historic city. Questions over the long-term effect of the project beleaguered the city, developer, and architects for years. Finally after several developers, architects, and a myriad of lawsuits, compromises, and design changes, the center opened eight years later as Charleston Place. The final plan included a 600-room mid-block hotel, meeting/conference facility, and retail shops along the commercial street frontage. It also restored a city block of 19th-century cast-iron storefronts and returned to private ownership property not needed for the development.
A year later preservationists again had to battle large-scale development. In the shadow of Charleston Place a local private developer sought to demolish the 1938 Art Deco Riviera Theater for a retail/office building. Preservationists collected more than 5,000 signatures against the project and presented the petition at the Board of Architectural Review hearing. More than 200 individuals attended the hearing to urge denial. In a unanimous decision, the board denied outright the loss of a significant landmark. This decision reflected the change in the community's attitude toward what was considered historic in a city that for decades had limited itself to protecting only the earliest of buildings and sites.
The following year, in spite of this victory, the city council voted against a proposal to expand the National Register district in response to community opposition. The expansion would have included buildings south of the east-west boundary created by the Crosstown Expressway. Residents feared gentrification as a result of the designation and were confused about the role the local Board of Architectural Review would have with this national designation. Although there had been scattered interest in utilization of tax incentives in the area, a local developer attempted to force the issue of designation. His efforts failed to persuade the SHPO (State Historic Preservation Officer) to go against the local recommendation. Although the area would not carry the national recognition that it deserved, the city council amended the zoning ordinance once again to expand the role of the BAR to review all new construction within the proposed boundaries.
A year and a half later a greater challenge threatened Charleston's historic resources. During the early morning hours of September 21, 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck the South Carolina coast northeast of the peninsula. The hurricane affected 85 percent of the city's properties. Immediately, preservation organizations formed a consortium which included the Preservation Society, Historic Charleston Foundation, the Charleston Museum, the southern regional office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and city planners. This self-initiated group assessed damage to buildings within the historic district, collected and identified significant architectural elements for salvage, and established weatherization and stabilization procedures. The group disseminated information to property owners, coordinated the efforts of volunteers from the National Park Service and the American Institute of Architects, and served as a clearinghouse for suppliers, vendors, and manufacturers of building materials.
The city refused to reduce or diminish its requirements for compliance with local building codes and the BAR did not reduce its standards or relinquish the right of approval for changes within the historic district. The battle over the expansion of the National Register district was set aside in the struggle to save the city's historic resources. Uninsured or under-insured property owners cited economic hardship and demanded substitute materials and relief from standard construction practices. The BAR, however, emphatically refused to deviate from established standards by unanimous vote. This decision saved countless historic buildings from demolition and inappropriate modification.
Within the past decade renewed emphasis has been placed on the preservation planning process. South Carolina now requires a historic preservation component in the legally mandated comprehensive planning process. Charleston 2000: The City of Charleston's Comprehensive Plan clearly spells out historic preservation goals and objectives as a major component. Since the city's incorporation 215 years ago, Charlestonians have been aware of the need to preserve its urban environment. For nearly a century, citizens have acted to preserve the city's most important buildings. And for the past 55 years urban design and planning have been a means to historic preservation. The work of individuals, organizations, and government have all contributed to the preservation of the city's resources. More importantly it is the respect and cooperation each has shown to the other that makes not only the process but the result unique. It is not a collection of buildings or the city's urban structure that has made this city successful. It is its people.
With permission from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this article is exerpted directly from "CHARLESTON: Guarding Her Customs, Buildings, and Laws", published in the Fall 1998 issue of Preservation Forum, written by Charles Edwin Chase, AIA. Chase is the former city architect and preservation officer with the City of Charleston, South Carolina, and now with the San Francisco Architectural Heritage Alliance.
William Enston Home
Charleston Library Society
South Carolina Bank of Charleston
Farmers and Exchange Bank
Exchange and Provost Building
First Baptist Church
Fort Sumter National
Charles Pinckney National Historic
The William Enston Home is an early example of a planned community for the elderly. Developed in the late 19th century, the home is comprised of 24 residential cottages; Memorial Hall, a community building; an infirmary; an engine house; a water tower and an entrance gate. Designed in 1889, the water tower served as the centerpiece of a model waterworks system, and the spacious, landscaped grounds exemplified suburban planning ideals of the 19th century. The buildings also constitute a significant collection of Romanesque Revival architecture, a style rare in Charleston.
William Enston was the Home's philanthropic benefactor. An English immigrant to Charleston, Enston made his fortune in trade. Upon his death, he bequeathed the majority of his estate to the City of Charleston to establish a benevolent home for the city's aged and infirm residents which would "make old age comfortable." The Home was to be modeled on similar British institutions, specifically one Enston was familiar with in his native Canterbury. Enston specified that the complex be comprised of neat and convenient two-story brick cottages with at least eight acres of land. He also stipulated that potential residents be the old and sick, from 45 to 75 years old, of "good honest character," and not suffering from "lunacy."
Enston's estate at his death in 1860 was valued at $1 million, but reduced by half after losses from the Civil War. The project was delayed until after Mrs. Enston's death in 1886, when the City received the whole of the estate. Charleston Mayor William A. Courtenay corresponded with the mayor of Canterbury to develop the concept for the "model village."
The majority of the cottages were built in 1889 on 12 acres with shaded and stone-paved roadways, named after various English sites and historical figures. The remaining buildings were all added by the 1930s. Today the complex is owned by the Housing Authority of Charleston, and the restored cottages are home to persons of low to moderate income.
The William Enston Home is located at 900 King St., at the northeast corner of Huger St. The grounds only are open to the public after check-in at the main office. Call 843-720-5347 for further information.
The Porter Military Academy site reflects several eras of Charleston history--from major events in the city's settlement, to Civil War and Reconstruction, and more recently important 19th and 20th century educational institutions. As early as the 1700s, the site was used as a potter's field or pauper's graveyard. In 1825, the Federal government acquired the land for a new United States Arsenal, which was partially built sometime thereafter, and greatly enlarged in the 1840s. The Confederate army strategically seized the Arsenal at the outbreak of the Civil War, as it contained valuable arms able to supply three military divisions. Federal troops took over the Arsenal in 1865 and remained there during Reconstruction until 1879, when it was leased to Reverend Anthony Toomer Porter, a prominent educator and clergyman.
Dr. Porter, a former South Carolina rice planter, entered the ministry in an attempt to bring order out of the confusion following the Civil War. In 1867, mourning the death of his own son, Reverend Porter founded the Holy Communion Church Institute with his wife, to educate former soldiers and young boys left orphaned or destitute by the war. Dr. Porter's efforts to convert the former arsenal into his expanding educational facility was strongly supported by former Union General William T. Sherman. Holy Communion Church Institute moved to the arsenal in 1880, and became known as the Porter Military Academy by the late 19th century. The school added new buildings to the complex, while using and adapting the existing arsenal buildings for educational needs. In need of a school chapel, Dr. Porter remodeled the artillery shed in 1883 by removing the roof, raising the walls, and adding a Gothic roof and stained glass windows. Now known as St. Luke's, the artillery shed's window and doorway openings are still evident in the chapel today.
In 1964 the Medical University of South Carolina purchased the school. Many of the original buildings were demolished to make room for the heart of the Medical campus, but the remaining buildings represent the site's diverse history of uses. Only two remain from the Arsenal complex--St. Luke's Chapel, and Colcock Hall, one of two surviving military buildings in South Carolina built by the Confederate government. The brick walls along Ashley Avenue surrounding the school also date to the late 19th century, and are largely the work of Holten Bell, a prominent African American builder. The Waring Historical Library is the only remaining building from several built by Dr. Porter and a unique building for the State. A Gothic octagonal library with square reading rooms, the building was donated by and named for leading New York clergyman Reverend Charles Frederick Hoffman. Now known as the Waring Library, the current library commemorates Dr. Joseph I. Waring, one of the Medical school's early professors and historian.
Porter Military Academy is located at 175-181 Ashley Ave. Now used by the Medical University of South Carolina, the grounds are open to the public. The Waring Historical Library is open to researchers 8:30am to 5:00 pm Monday – Friday. Call 843-792-2288 for further information.
The Coming Street Cemetery, established in 1762, is the oldest Jewish burial ground in the South. Privately owned by Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, the cemetery contains some 600 marble and brownstone grave markers. Most of the markers date to the last half of the 18th century or the first half of the 19th century, and include box tombs, table-top tombs, obelisks, and columns. Many are significant examples of gravestone art, signed by locally prominent sculptors and stonecutters.
Significant artistic markers denote the graves of prominent Charlestonians such as Joshua Lazarus (1791-1861), former president of the Beth Elohim Synagogue and the Charleston Gas Light Company. Lazarus's marker features a fluted column on a pedestal, surmounted by an urn. Marx E. Cohen, Jr. (1839-1865) was a Confederate soldier killed near the end of the Civil War, and his obelisk marker features a cannon below the State and Confederate flags in bas-relief. An elaborately detailed box tomb, described as a "stonecanopy," memorializes Catherine Lopez (1814-1843), wife of David Lopez, builder of the Beth Elohim Synagogue. Lopez is buried in a family plot of land adjacent to the main cemetery that was later incorporated. At the time of her death, she was not permitted burial in the main cemetery because she had not converted to Judaism.
A stuccoed brick wall surrounds the Cemetery, portions of which are original. An important feature of the site, this brick wall has been a major factor in preserving the intact cemetery over the past two centuries. There are also remains of a wall that once divided the cemetery, reflecting a time in the mid-19th century when the Beth Elohim congregation was divided over a doctrinal dispute. By 1887, Beth Elohim established a new cemetery, and burials in the Coming Street Cemetery are now restricted to the few vacancies in the adjacent family plots. The appearance of the cemetery, or graveyard as it was called historically, has been little altered. Over time, some damage has occurred to individual gravestones from pollution, climate, severe weather and vandalism.
Coming Street Cemetery is located at 189 Coming Street. It is a private burial ground and not open to the public.
Central Baptist Church is thought to be one of the first black churches founded and built solely by African Americans in Charleston. The congregation was founded in 1891 by members of the Morris Street Baptist Church, which lead the way in the formation of a Negro Baptist Church association in 1867 and a statewide organization in 1876. Designed by black architect John P. Hutchinson, the Central Baptist Church was completed in 1893 and was first used by the congregation in August of that year.
Architecturally, Central Baptist is an excellent example of a vernacular Carpenter Gothic style church. Victorian era churches such as this are rare in Charleston, largely due to the prevalence of well constructed churches from earlier periods. Central Baptist's architectural features typical of this style include the detailed protective hood above the central double doors and Gothic windows with plate tracery. The original octagonal belfry tower topped with a dome was replaced by a square tower in the 1950s. The church's interior contains carved wooden details, a semicircular apse with Gothic arch, and the original galleries and pews.
During its first 20 years, the church grew and prospered. This prosperity is reflected in the addition of murals depicting the scenes of the life of Christ completed from 1912 to 1915. These murals, painted by Amohamad Milai, a native of Calcutta, India, are significant works of folk art. The scenes portray the Crucifixion, the Ascension, and the Resurrection. The church continued to grow after the completion of these paintings, and still has a strong congregation. The building was renovated in 1977. Although severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the church was repaired and the interior paintings were restored in 2003.
Central Baptist Church is located at 26 Radcliffe Street. The building is open to the public. Call 843-577-4543 for further information.
Constructed in 1867 to 1868, the Avery Normal Institute was Charleston's first free secondary school for African Americans. Reverend F. L. Cardoza organized the school at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Cardoza received a grant of $10,000 for his school from the estate of Reverend Charles Avery of Pittsburgh, a philanthropic Methodist, for whom the school was named. Further financial assistance was received from the Freedman's Bureau, local merchants, and the American Missionary Association of New York City, who also staffed the school. Constructed by local white contractors for $17,000, the school was designed in the Italianate style with arched entry, cupola, and piazzas running the length of the building and opening into classrooms.
The School operated as a private institution serving Charleston's most prominent free black families. By 1800, enrollment had reached nearly 500. In 1947, the institute became a public city school. Notable graduates of Avery Institute are T.M. Stuart, a Supreme Court Justice in Liberia; Dr. R.S. Wilkinson, President of South Carolina State College; and Richard E. Fields, the first African American in modern times to be named as Judge of the Municipal Court of Charleston, and the second black Circuit Judge.
Currently known as the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the center is part of the College of Charleston and operates as a museum and archives for African American history and culture. It is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
Avery Institute is located at 125 Bull St. It is open for research 12:00pm to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday. Call 843-953-7609 for further information.
Old Bethel United Methodist Church is the third oldest church building surviving in Charleston. The church is an architectural reminder of the significant relationship between African Americans and the Methodist Church in Charleston. Methodists conducted extensive missionary work among African Americans in South Carolina, sometimes suffering persecution for their suspected abolitionist tendencies. Indicative of the Methodist Church's philosophy of encouraging black membership, Old Bethel was founded and paid for by both black and white citizens.
Construction began in 1797 and was completed in 1807. The church was originally constructed in the gabled meetinghouse style with white clapboards after a design by Francis Asbury, the first Methodist bishop in the United States. It stood at the corner of Pitt and Calhoun Streets, then the extreme northwestern part of the city. Membership in the congregation of Old Bethel was open to both free blacks and slaves. However, in 1834 a schism developed over whether blacks were to be restricted to sitting in the galleries. By 1840 the black members seceded to form their own congregation.
In 1852 the church was moved to the western portion of the lot on which it stood, to be used by the black congregation. A new church, Bethel Methodist, was built on the original site, to serve the white congregation. After the church was given to the black population, in 1880, it was moved across Calhoun Street to its present location. The addition of a gabled portico supported by four fluted Corinthian columns documents changing styles in ecclesiastical architecture. The interior of the church was likely damaged by the 1886 earthquake in Charleston, and the pressed metal ceiling and Victorian era furnishing of Old Bethel date to the end of the 19th century. The church currently serves a black congregation, which includes descendants of the 1880 congregation.
Old Bethel United Methodist Church is located at 222 Calhoun St. The building is open to the public. Call 843-722-3470 for further information.
The first Methodist congregation in Charleston purchased this parcel of land in 1795 and the Old Bethel United Methodist Church building was erected here in 1797. A schism between black and white members of the congregation developed in the 1830s. As a result the original church was moved to the western portion of the lot in 1852, to be used by the black Methodists. Shortly thereafter work was begun at the original site for this second Methodist Church for the white congregation.
Records from 1852 indicate that the anticipated cost for the church was $18,000. The building was constructed in 1853-1854 by local architect, Mr. Curtis, who came from a family of architects and builders. Bethel Methodist Church is an exceptional example of Greek Doric Temple architecture common to antebellum churches. Even with an uncharacteristic steeply-pitched roof, the church is one of the best examples of Greek Doric temple architecture in the State. The steep pitch would have allowed rainwater to drain more quickly. The most prominent architectural feature is the massive hexastyle Doric portico, with simple pediment and entablature. Windows, chimneys, verandahs, and refined details, as well as the building's overall mass, materials, and craftsmanship are elegant and innovative. Bethel was the only Methodist church in Charleston which remained open during the Civil War, and it survived the earthquake of 1886 intact. Although there have been interior alterations, the exterior has been well-preserved.
Bethel Methodist Church is located at 57 Pitt St. It is open to the public 9:00am to 4:30pm, Monday-Thursday, and 9:00am to 2:00pm on Friday. Call 843-723-4587 for further information.
The College of Charleston is the oldest municipal college in the United States, and a National Historic Landmark. Founded in 1770, and chartered in 1785, the College possesses additional historical significance as the oldest institute of higher learning in South Carolina, and the 13th oldest in the country. The center of the small campus contains its core of historic mid-19th- century buildings. Three principal structures--the Main Building, the Library, and Gate Lodge--are situated around a square college green with evergreen oaks, known as The Cistern. This name is derived from a 19th-century oval cistern constructed there to hold the campus's water supply.
The founders of the college include three signers of the Declaration of Independence, and three fathers of the United States Constitution. Classes were held in former Revolutionary War barracks until the first new building was constructed. Designed by Philadelphia architect William Strickland, the simple rectangular brick Main Building was completed in 1829. In 1854 prominent local architect Edward Brickell White extensively remodeled the Main Building (now known as Randolph Hall), adding an Ionic portico and wings. White had previously designed the Gate Lodge (now Porter's Lodge), a two-story Roman Revival brick building, in 1852. The Towell Library, constructed from 1854 to 56 by George E. Walker, is a Classical Revival two-story brick building with Italianate details, now serving as administrative offices. Both the Lodge and Library have been little altered. As a whole, the complex is an outstanding example of academic architecture of the 19th century.
The College of Charleston campus is approximately bounded by Calhoun, St. Philip, Wentworth, and Coming Sts.; the Cistern is located at 66 George St. The campus is open to the public. Tours are offered Monday-Friday at 10:00am, 12:00pm and 2:00pm during the school year, and at 10:00am in the summer. Pre-registration is preferred. Call 843-953-5670 for further information.
Patterned after typical German Gothic churches, St. Mathew's German Lutheran Church is a Gothic Revival church designed by local architect John Henry Deveraux and constructed between 1867 and 1872. An immigrant from Ireland, Deveraux became a noted architect in Charleston by the late 1860s. Its 297-foot steeple once made it the tallest building in South Carolina; it continues to possess the tallest spire. The congregation was founded originally by German-speaking Lutherans in 1840. Their first church was located at the corner of Hasell and Anson Streets, now St. Johannes's Lutheran church. As Charleston's German community grew quickly in the mid-19th century, so did the congregation, and the need for a larger church. Three thousand people gathered for the dedication ceremony of St. Mathew's in 1872.
In 1965, a fire destroyed much of the interior of the church and steeple, which crashed spectacularly into King Street. The damaged portions were carefully restored except for a finial on the steeple. The iron finial, designed by prominent Charleston ironworker Christopher Werner, was prohibitively expensive to replace at $500,000. The stained glass windows in the apse and under the balcony, as well as the pulpit, are original to the building. St. Matthew's is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
St. Mathew's Lutheran Church is located at 405 King St. The building is open to the public Monday-Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm. Call 843-723-1611 for further information.
Previously known as the Citadel Green, Marion Square is a 10 acre rectangular plot of land that was conveyed to the colony of South Carolina in 1758. The Old Citadel, or South Carolina State Arsenal, currently sits on the north side of the square where a group of buildings known as the Tobacco Inspection once stood. These buildings were erected by the State in 1790 for the storage and inspection of tobacco prior to its shipment. The grounds of the Square served as a muster ground for the State Arsenal. At one time the Square was bisected by Lowndes Street and divided into building lots. Houses remained on the King Street side of the square until the latter part of the 19th century. Lowndes Street disappeared, but Tobacco Street, which runs along the south side of the Old Citadel, remains a dedicated public street. According to the lease agreement made with the City of Charleston, the central portion of the square is to be kept open forever as a parade ground for the Sumter Guards and the Washington Light Infantry.
Marion Square also houses several monuments. The most noted is the John C. Calhoun Statue. Calhoun, a native South Carolinian, was a renowned orator, Secretary of War, U.S. Senator, and Vice President. The cornerstone, laid in 1858 before construction was halted by the Civil War, contained a cannon ball used in the Revolutionary War battle of Fort Moultrie , a banner used in Calhoun's funeral, $100 in Continental money, a lock of Calhoun's hair, and the last speech he delivered in the U.S. Senate, on March 4, 1850. The original statue was criticized for its poor casting, and replaced in 1896 with the current stone statue with cast-iron palmettos flanking its base. Marion Square also contains a remnant from the 18th century fortifications of the city; and the Bandstand, designed by August Constantine and constructed in 1944.
Lately Marion Square became the site of a new Holocaust Memorial. A master plan has recently been completed for a major relandscaping and renovation project. Marion Square is one of more than 1400 historically significant sites within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
Marion Square is roughly bounded by King, Calhoun, Meeting, and Tobacco Sts. The square was renovated in 2001 and is open to the public.
The South Carolina State Arsenal, more commonly known as the Old Citadel, is associated with several aspects of Charleston's history. The impetus for the Arsenal's construction in the early 1830s was the 1822 slave revolt led by Denmark Vesey. In 1842 the South Carolina Military Academy, a liberal arts military college, was established by the state legislature. The new Academy took over the arsenal the following year, and the school soon became know as The Citadel in reference to the fortress-like appearance of the building. Many Citadel alumni fought in the Civil War. Cadets remained at the school but were periodically ordered by the governor to support the Confederacy, and helped drill recruits, manufacture ammunition, protect arms depots, and guard Union prisoners. Citadel cadets were responsible for firing the first shots of the Civil War, January 9, 1861, at the Union relief vessel approaching Fort Sumter. From 1865 to 1881, during Reconstruction in Charleston, Federal troops occupied the Citadel and the school was closed. Classes resumed at the Citadel in 1882, and continued here until the school was relocated to a campus on the banks of the Ashley River in 1922.
Two well-known Charleston architects, Frederick Wesner and Edward Brickell White, are credited with the Citadel's design. The original State Arsenal building was a simple-two story brick building surrounding an interior courtyard, designed by Wesner. White was responsible for changes to the building later in the century, and added the upper floors and wings. These two periods of construction are most visible from the courtyard, where the original first floor arches are offset by tiers of smaller arches in the upper floors. Charleston County used the building for government offices during much of the 20th century. In 1994 a local development firm renovated the building for use as a hotel.
The South Carolina State Arsenal is located at 337 Meeting St. Now a hotel, the building is open to the public.
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church is a Gothic Revival style church built in 1891. Retaining its original alter, communion rail, pews, and light fixtures the church is one of only a few unaltered religious interiors in Charleston, especially from the Victorian period. The brick Gothic church with its tall steeple replaced an earlier 1872 church badly damaged by the 1886 earthquake. Today Emanuel is the oldest AME church in the South, and houses the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore, Maryland.
The history of this congregation reflects the development of religious institutions for African Americans in Charleston. Its roots stem from a religious group of free blacks and slaves organized in 1791. In 1816, black members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church withdrew over disputed burial ground, and under the leadership of Morris Brown, formed a separate congregation. The church's 1400 members soon thereafter established themselves an African Methodist Episcopal church, a denomination formally established in 1816 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Two years later, Brown and other ministers of the church were jailed for violating state and local laws which prohibited religious gatherings of slaves and free blacks independent of white supervision.
In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church's founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston. Vesey was raised in slavery in the Virgin Islands among newly imported Africans. He was the personal servant of slavetrader Captain Joseph Vesey, who settled in Charleston in 1783. Denmark remained with him until in 1799, when he was able to purchase his freedom with a winning lottery ticket worth $1500. He became a successful carpenter, especially among Charleston's majority black population. Beginning in December 1821, Vesey began to organize a slave rebellion, but authorities were informed of the plot before it could take place. Three hundred thirteen alleged participants were arrested, and 35 including Vesey were executed. The plot created mass hysteria throughout the Carolinas and the South. Brown, suspected but never convicted of knowledge of the plot, went north to Philadelphia where he eventually became the second bishop of the AME denomination.
During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all-black churches were outlawed. The congregation subsequently met in secret until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted. Today, Emanuel AME Church is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is located at 110 Calhoun St. It is open to the public Monday-Friday 9:00am to 1:00pm and 2:00pm to 4:00pm. Call 843-722-2561 for further information.
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, a National Historic Landmark, is the country's second oldest synagogue and the oldest in continuous use. The American Reform Judaism movement originated at this site in 1824. The congregation of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim--meaning Holy Congregation House of God--was established in colonial Charleston in 1749, and is now the nation's fourth oldest Jewish community. The building reflects the history of Jewish worship in Charleston, as well as the high degree of religious tolerance within the Carolina colony.
The Beth Elohim congregation began as an Orthodox community, founded primarily by Sephardic immigrants (of Spanish and Portuguese ancestry). By the end of the 18th century the Beth Elohim congregation had become the largest Jewish community in the nation, with a membership of 500. This synagogue was built in 1840, on the site of the congregation's first synagogue destroyed in the Charleston fire of 1838. The building is an excellent example of the Greek Revival style, as its form, portico and rich ornamentation are adapted from classic Greek temples. Designed by New York architect Cyrus L. Warner, the temple was built by congregation member, David Lopez.
By 1841, the majority of the congregation was embracing Reform Judaism, and the first service held in the new temple reflected this ideology. The Reform Movement, an attempt to modernize synagogue worship and a reevaluation of Jewish theology, had its roots in Hamburg, Germany, in the 1810s, and quickly spread throughout central Europe and to the United States. Worship reform included choral singing, organ music, and the use of German instead of Hebrew for prayers and sermons. In 1824, 47 members of Beth Elohim petitioned the trustees to abridge the Hebrew rituals and conduct prayers and sermons in English. The denial of these requests resulted in a temporary split of the congregation, but by 1833 a united Beth Elohim had nearly 200 members supporting the Reform Movement. After the burning of the first synagogue and the election of a new rabbi, the inaugural service of this synagogue held in 1841 contained modernized ritual and Beth Elohim formally became the first American Reform congregation. Today, the Synagogue still serves the Reform Judaism community. A small museum contains artifacts pertinent to the history of the congregation, such as a letter written to the congregation by George Washington.
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue is located at 90 Hasell St., 10 blocks south of the temple's Coming Street Cemetery, the oldest Jewish burial ground in the South. The temple is open for tours Monday-Friday 10:00am-12:00pm; the gift shop remains open until 4:00pm. Call 843-723-1090 for further information.
The congregation of St. Mary's was the first Roman Catholic Church in the Carolinas and Georgia. A sufficient number of Catholic immigrants had arrived in Charleston by the late 18th century, that Reverend Ryan, an Irish priest, was sent to the city in 1788. The Hasell Street site was purchased for the church by trustees one year later, and the congregation has worshiped here ever since. The congregation first worshiped in a dilapidated Methodist meeting house that was at the site. In 1801 the congregation constructed their own brick church. The Charleston fire of 1838 that burned much of the surrounding Ansonborough neighborhood also destroyed most of the Catholic church. The present building was completed in 1839 in the Classical Revival style. Its monumental form, elements and ornamental details are adapted from classic Roman architecture with typical Classical details such as its arched openings and Tuscan portico with a parapet.
Reflecting early French influence in the Charleston congregation, many of the tombstones in the churchyard are in French, and the parish registers were kept in that language until 1822. In 1960, the interior of the church was restored. The pews of the sanctuary are divided by a central aisle, above which are galleries on three sides. The painting that hangs over the altar was originally painted in 1814, and hung in the earlier brick church. Salvaged after the 1838 fire, the original artist, John S. Cogdell, was able to restore the painting. The works on the other walls and on the ceiling are copies of old masters, and were painted in Rome before being installed here in 1896. The vitality and growth of the church at the turn of the 20th century is evident in the numerous gifts to the church by parishioners, including a series of stained glass arched windows, and a polished marble altar.
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church is located at 89 Hasell St. It is open to the public Monday-Friday, 9:30am to 3:30pm. Call 843-722-7696 for further information.
Market Hall and Sheds
The Market Hall and Sheds, a National Historic Landmark, are the only surviving market buildings in Charleston, and one of a small number of market complexes still extant in the United States. The Market is also considered to be one of Charleston's best examples of Greek Revival style architecture, exemplified by its massive portico supported by Tuscan columns. The buildings were constructed in 1840 to 41 and were designed by prominent local architect Edward Brickell White. The Market was the commercial hub of Charleston for many years and is an important part of the city's commercial heritage.
The land on which the Market sits was donated in 1788 by the Pinckney family for use as a city market. The first market buildings consisted of a beef market, country produce market and a fish market. White's 1841 market complex replaced the charred remains of these early buildings after the 1838 Charleston fire. Sheep and bull skulls decorate the stucco frieze of the Market Hall, symbolizing the presence of a meat market. The arcaded basement of the Hall is a typical characteristic of the region's architecture. The series of open-air sheds to the rear of the hall have brick columns, tile roofs, rectangular and arched openings, and some lattice work and louver panels. Meat and produce were brought to the market daily from nearby rural communities. Vendors were required to bring only fresh products. To that end, remaining products were thrown in the street at the end of the market day. Buzzards (Charleston eagles) scavenged the surrounding streets for this waste, a service so valued by Charlestonians, that the birds were protected by law. Other ordinances regulated butcher cuts and weights and required vendors to wear clean white aprons.
The Market Hall is occupied by The United Daughters of the Confederacy Museum on the second floor, and various shops underneath. The musuem contains a collection of artifacts of the Confederate States of America. The Sheds continue to be used as a market place for individual vendors to sell a great variety of Low Country arts and crafts.
The Market Hall and Sheds are located on Market St. between Meeting and East Bay Sts. The sheds are filled with vendors everyday around 9:00am to 6:00pm, and sometimes later on weekend evenings.
Majestically overlooking East Bay Street and the harbor, the United States Custom House is one of the most striking buildings in Charleston. It is an outstanding example of a public building and reflects the time when Charleston was one of the country's busiest port cities. The cruciform building, executed in the Roman Corinthian order, is monumental in scale, measuring 259 feet on its east-west axis and 152 feet on its north-south axis. Marble is used throughout the building and highlighted in details such as office fireplaces. The interior of the building revolves around a two-story center room, called the Business Room. Fourteen Corinthian columns support its second floor gallery, and most offices open onto this room. The ceiling is ornamented with artificial sky lights, a depiction of the American flag and other patriotic symbols, and stenciled classical motifs.
Prior to the construction of the Custom House, port business was transacted in the Exchange. In need of larger facilities, this site between East Bay and the Cooper River was purchased by Congress in 1849. It was formerly the site of Craven's Bastion, a colonial-era fortification. Although a competition for the design contract was won by Charleston architect Edward C. Jones, federal authorities awarded the project to Ammi Burnham Young. Young was the Supervising Architect of the U. S. Treasury Building, and one of 19th-century America's leading architects. His design for the Custom House apparently coordinated various elements of the competition drawings. Noted Charleston architect, Edward Brickell White acted as superintendent of construction which began in 1853. Hampered by unforseen engineering problems of the site, the building was unfinished at the outbreak of the Civil War. Construction was suspended until 1870, when architect A.B. Mullet arranged for further Congressional appropriations to complete the war damaged building. To reduce costs and hasten completion, Mullet's plan modified the east and west porticoes and omitted a dome and side porticoes of the original design.
Finally complete in 1879, this building has been used ever since as a United States Custom House. A new federal building that opened in the early 1960s threatened its continued use, but due to the united support of local preservationists, legislators, and U.S. Customs Officials, the building still functions today as it was originally intended.
The United State Custom House is located at 200 East Bay St., at the foot of Market St. It is not open to the public.
A National Historic Landmark, the Powder Magazine, is the oldest public building in South Carolina, and reflects the city's early, sometimes volatile, history. It is the only remaining building from the era of the Lords Proprietors (the colonial governors of South Carolina), when Spain and France still contested England's claims to the region. Charles Town was the southernmost English settlement in the late 1600s, and subject to attacks by the Spanish, French, Native Americans, and pirates. Defense of the colony was a major priority and in addition to fortification walls constructed around the city the Powder Magazine was built in 1713 to store the city's supply of gun powder.
The Powder Magazine's tile roof is typical of very early buildings, as are the 32-inch thick brick walls, which originally would not have had windows. The steep hip roof is punctuated by gables on all sides. The interior roof structure was constructed so that the building would implode were any explosions to occur inside. After a new magazine was built in 1748, this structure was condemned in 1770. Shortly thereafter, the outbreak of the Revolutionary War created a new demand for the old Magazine, and it was again used to store powder. After 1820, the building was used for a variety of things including storage, a printing house, and livery stable.
Since 1902 the Powder Magazine has been owned by the South Carolina Society of Colonial Dames, which operates the property as a museum of early Charleston history. The building has recently undergone an extensive archaeological and architectural conservation effort led by the Historic Charleston Foundation.
The Powder Magazine is located at 79 Cumberland St. It is open to the public 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, 2pm to 5pm on Sunday. Call 843-722-9350 for further information.
The Circular Congregational Church, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the few examples in Charleston of the adaptation of the Romanesque style that was made popular by architect Henry Hobson Richardson. The Church is an excellent example of this architectural style in its massing, broad roof plane, ribbons of windows and openings, short tower, and large arched entry. The present building is the third structure to be built on this site, and was constructed circa 1892. In spite of its name, the plan of the church is more complex than circular; shaped like a cloverleaf with three semi-circular parts and one rectangular.
English Congregationalists, Scotch and Irish Presbyterians, and French Huguenots of the original settlement of Charles Town founded this dissenting congregation, known as the Independent Church, around 1681. Their first church building, erected before 1695, was known as the White Meeting House, for which Meeting Street was named. A second meeting house was built at this site in 1732. In 1804 to 1806 this church was replaced by a circular structure designed by architect Robert Mills, often referred to as the first professionally trained American architect, and a Charleston native. At this time, Mills also designed the Parish House, a good example of his ability to create Greek Revival temples of small proportions. The present church is named for Mill's earlier church, which burned during a 1861 fire, and stood in ruins until the 1886 earthquake destroyed it completely. Services were held in the Parish House until the current church was completed. Designed by architects Stevenson and Green, the Richardsonian Romanesque church was constructed as the city was rebuilding after that earthquake and reused bricks from the older structure. The graveyard is the city's oldest burial ground with one monument remaining from the 17th century. Today, Circular Congregational Church is a congregation of the United Church of Christ and has an ecumenical relationship with the Presbyterian Church USA.
The Circular Congregational Church is located at 150 Meeting St. The building is open to the public Monday-Friday 8:30am to 12:00pm, tours given when there is a tour guide on duty. Call 843-577-6400 for further information.
St. John's Lutheran Church houses Charleston's oldest Lutheran congregation. Built from 1816 to 1818, the design of the church is attributed to well-known Charleston architect and church member Frederick Wesner. Numerous other Charleston craftsman and builders contributed to its design and construction. The rectangular, stuccoed brick building combines Federal and Baroque elements. The Italianate steeple with bell-shaped roof was not added until 1859, and was built by David Lopez, contractor for the Kadal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue. While it is not clear who designed the steeple, famous miniaturist and architect Charles Fraser submitted several steeple designs to the church prior to its construction. The church was damaged in the Charleston earthquake of 1886 and the 1891 hurricane, after which a recessed chancel with memorial windows was also added. The church also was damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 but has been restored.
The first Lutheran congregation had been formally organized in Charleston by 1752, and their first building dedicated by 1764. This wooden building with a steeple stood behind the site of the current church on Clifford Street, which was known in 1788 as "Dutch Church Alley." The pastor of the church during the American Revolution, Reverend John Nicholas Martin, was expelled from the city by the British as he refused to pray for the King of England. Dr. John Bachman, from Rhinebeck, New York, became St. John's pastor in 1815, and directed the construction of the current church. He led the organization of the South Carolina Synod, the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, and Newberry College and trained the first black ministers in Lutheranism. Bachman was pastor until 1874, including the tumultuous years surrounding the Civil War. While reluctant to see South Carolina secede from the Union, Bachman also believed that the southern cause was just, and made the opening prayer at the Secession Convention. Two of Bachman's daughters married sons of John James Audubon, with whom he collaborated on the famous books Birds of America and The Quadruped of North America. St. John's is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
St. John's Lutheran Church is located at 5 Clifford St., at the intersection of Archdale St. The building is open to the public Monday-Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm by appointment. Call 843-723-2426 for further information.
The Unitarian Church, a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest Unitarian
church in the South. In colonial Charleston, members of the Circular
Congregational Church (then known as the Independent Church) were
so numerous the need arose to build a second church building. Construction
began at this Archdale site in 1772, but was temporarily interrupted
by the Revolutionary War. The small rectangular brick church was finally
completed in 1787. In 1817, the Archdale congregation was chartered
as the Second Independent Church, with a Unitarian minister presiding.
As the American Unitarian Association was not organized until 1825,
it was not until 1839 that this congregation was rechartered as Unitarian.
The church received a major remodeling in the mid-19th century and is
today a statement of the emotional mood of the era when the romantic
and picturesque were dominant not only in literature but also in building
Architect Francis D. Lee is responsible for the 19th-century Gothic Revival additions to the building. In 1852 his two-year renovation of the church began, which included the addition of the rear chancel, a four-story tower and stucco to the original brick walls. The remodeled church exhibited typical Gothic features such as the crenellated tower, arched windows, stained glass panels, and Tudor arch entrance. On the exterior, false buttresses are used for visual effect rather than as structural supports, as is the interior vaulting, made of lath and plaster. This vaulting is modeled on the that of Henry VII chapel at Westminster in London, England. When the building suffered significant damage in the earthquake of 1886, people across the country sent donations to fund repairs.
The Unitarian Church is located at 4 Archdale St. The building is open to the public Friday and Saturday 10:00am to 1:00pm. Call 843-723-4617 for summer hours.
The Old Jail building served as the Charleston County Jail from its construction in 1802 until 1939. In 1680, as the city of Charleston was being laid out, a four-acre square of land was set aside at this location for public use. In time a hospital, poor house, workhouse for runaway slaves, and this jail were built on the square. When the Jail was constructed in 1802 it consisted of four stories, topped with a two-story octagonal tower. Charleston architects Barbot & Seyle were responsible for 1855 alterations to the building, including a rear octagonal wing, expansions to the main building and the Romanesque Revival details. This octagonal wing replaced a fireproof wing with individual cells, designed by Robert Mills in 1822, five years earlier than his notable Fireproof Building. The 1886 earthquake badly damaged the tower and top story of the main building, and these were subsequently removed.
The Old Jail housed a great variety of inmates. John and Lavinia Fisher, and other members of their gang, convicted of robbery and murder in the Charleston Neck region were imprisoned here in 1819 to 1820. Some of the last 19th-century high-sea pirates were jailed here in 1822 while they awaited hanging. The jail was active after the discovery of Denmark Vesey's planned slave revolt. In addition to several hundreds of free blacks and slaves jailed for their involvement, four white men convicted of supporting the 1822 plot were imprisoned here. Vesey spent his last days in the tower before being hanged. Increased restrictions were placed on slaves and free blacks in Charleston as a result of the Vesey plot, and law required that all black seaman be kept here while they were in port. During the Civil War, Confederate and Federal prisoners of war were incarcerated here. It is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
The Old Jail is located at 21 Magazine St. Now occupied by the American College of the Building Arts, tours are available by appointment. Please call 843-577-5245 for further information.
A National Historic Landmark, the Old Marine Hospital, was designed by Robert Mills, often referred to as the first professionally trained American architect, and a Charleston native. Mills was responsible for the Washington Monument and many public buildings throughout the State and nation. He also developed a pattern design from his Charleston hospital that was used to build similar hospitals around the country. The Old Marine Hospital is one of only eight remaining from a group of around 30 marine hospitals built before the Civil War.
The Marine Hospital was also one of the most controversial buildings of Charleston's antebellum period, viewed by state's rights advocates as an illustration of the Federal government's abuse of its powers. The Marine Hospital Fund, established in 1798 by an Act of Congress, was one of the earliest manifestations of Federal involvement in the area of public health, and provided the first Federal health care and social welfare initiative for United States sailors. Funding for the hospitals was deducted from sailors' wages and supplemented by shipping industry taxes. In Charleston, many people resented the heavy hand of the Federal government in the construction of their Marine Hospital, which began in 1831. Even though Mills had left the city only two years earlier, state's rights supporters were particularly infuriated by the replacement of their local architect and contractors with Mills and other professionals from Washington D.C., as well as the increased costs of the project. By the time of its completion in 1834, the Marine Hospital was rejected by Charlestonians as an unworthy civic accomplishment.
Originally a U-shaped building, the two large wings that once projected from the rear were removed because of extensive fire damage. The subtle Gothic features of the building include its pointed arches, windows and clustered columns, reminiscent of medieval religious architecture. The delicate porch railings were designed to resemble the tracery around Gothic stained glass windows. In the 19th century, Gothic architecture of was believed to be an appropriate style for hospital design. Widely used in Charleston's domestic architecture, the piazzas were an adaptation to climate as they provided some protection from the weather.
After the Civil War, the Episcopal Church used the building as a free school for black children. From 1895-1939 the structure served as the Jenkins Orphanage, whose famous band traveled the United States and Europe on fund-raising tours. In 1939 the Housing Authority of Charleston purchased the building for administrative offices, a purpose it still serves today.
The Marine Hospital is located at 20 Franklin St. It is not open to the public.
The Charleston Library Society is thought to be the third library established in the United States. It was organized in 1748 by a group of young men who wished to keep up with the scientific and philosophical issues of the day, and hoped to "save their descendants from sinking into savagery." The initial group consisted of nine merchants, two lawyers, a schoolmaster, a physician, two planters and a perukemaker (wig-maker). The Library Society was active in many areas. To promote education, it began giving funds for the establishment of a college in the 1770s, hence the foundation of the College of Charleston. The Society purchased scientific instruments and appointed a committee to collect materials that promoted the study of the natural history of the area. These collections became the foundation of the Charleston Museum, the oldest museum in the United States.
In the early years, successive librarians kept the books in their custody, until 1792 when they were stored on the upper floor of the Statehouse. The original collection was lost when that building was destroyed by fire in 1778. In 1836, the Society bought the vacated building of the Bank of South Carolina. During the Civil War part of the Library's collection was taken to the South Carolina State Capitol for safe keeping. When these items were returned after the war, the Library also absorbed another institution, the Apprentice's Library. As a result of that merger, the Society today maintains a tradition of granting each adult member a free minor membership to any person under 21.
The current building was constructed in 1914 by Phildelphia architects McGoodwin and Hawley. It was designed in the Beaux Arts classical style using stuccoed brick and marble detailing. Built on a raised basement, the main floor is punctuated by arched Palladian windows separated by double pilasters with Ionic capitals. Today, the Library still serves researchers from all over the world, in person and by correspondence, providing access to the collections of rare books, periodicals, manuscripts, clippings, maps, directories, almanacs, and a newspaper collection that dates to 1732. The Library Society is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
The Charleston Library Society is located at 164 King St. The library is open to the public and non-members may conduct research for a small fee, Monday-Friday 9:30am to 5:30pm, and Saturday 9:30am to 2pm. Call 843-723-9912 for further information.
St. Philip's Episcopal Church, a National Historic Landmark, houses the oldest congregation in South Carolina and was the first Anglican church established south of Virginia. This church is the third building to house the congregation, which was formed by Charles Town colonists. The first church, built in 1681, was a small wooden building located at the present site of St. Michael's Episcopal Church. In the early 18th century, the congregation built a second brick church at the site of the current church. It's construction was partially funded by duties on rum and slaves. After suffering from one fire that was extinguished by a black slave, who was given his freedom for this act, the church completely burned in 1835. The current St. Philip's was constructed from 1835 to 1838 by architect Joseph Hyde, while the steeple, designed by E.B. White, was added a decade later.
Hyde's design for the church incorporated some of the feature's of the former building, as the vestry proposed, while introducing new elements. St. Philip's, like the earlier church, extends into the center of Church Street, following the contemporary practice of parish churches in England. While planning for St. Philip's, the city proposed widening the street. A persuasive argument was made by the vestry that a steeple was more ornamental than a street. Compromising, the church was built slightly to the east, while the street curves around the projecting tower and steeple. A unique feature of the church's exterior are three separate Tuscan porticoes, one on each of its Church Street facades. Hyde added Roman columns and entablatures to the interior, as well as high Corinthian arcades and a chancel. The chancel was damaged during the Civil War, when St. Philip's steeple was used for siting during Union bombardment of the city. Bells once encased in the steeple were melted for Confederate cannon.
Many prominent people are buried in the graveyard, which is divided into two parts. The western yard was initially set aside for the burial of "strangers and transient white persons," but church members were later buried there. Several colonial Governors and five Episcopal bishops are buried here, as well as John C. Calhoun (former Vice President of the United States), Rawlins Lowndes (President of South Carolina in 1778-79), and Dubose Heyward (author and playwright). The view of Church Street punctuated by St. Philip's remains one of Charleston's most photographed spots.
St. Philip's Episcopal Church is located at 146 Church St. The building and graveyard are open to the public Monday-Friday, 10:00am to 12:00pm and 2:00pm to 4:00pm. Call 843-722-7734 for further information.
An essential part of the streetscape of Church Street, the Dock Street Theatre is Charleston's last surviving hotel from the antebellum period. The silhouette of its wrought iron balcony against the spire of St. Philip's church may be the single most photographed spot in the city. The main portion of the building was constructed around 1809 as Planter's Hotel. The hotel was built by Alexander Calder and his wife, who did so by renovating several pre-existing buildings at the site. The main entrance may not have been built until 1855 by J.W. Gamble.
The hotel was used extensively by planters from the midlands of South Carolina, who traveled to Charleston during horse-racing season. It was noted for its wonderful food and drinks during this era, and the South's famous Planter's Punch may have originated here. Guests to the hotel passed through the recessed porch with brownstone columns, into the lobby, and up a grand staircase that ascended to a drawing room. While much of the interior has been altered, these elements of the antebellum hotel remain and were adapted in subsequent uses of the building. A series of additions to the hotel throughout the 19th and 20th centuries can be easily identified by differences in brick coloration.
The Dock Street Theatre also relates the story of Charleston's theater history. In the 1930s, the building was restored by the City of Charleston as a Works Progress Administration project. During this project, a large section was constructed behind the hotel containing a stage and auditorium characteristic of the 18th century. The renovated building took the name of a 1730s theater which stood on the Queen Street (formerly Dock Street) side of the property. This theater is said to have been the first building built specifically for theatrical performances in America. Planter's Hotel occasionally housed one of the city's theatrical troupes, which performed at the nearby New Theatre during the mid-19th century. The most notable actor of this troupe was Junius Brutus Booth. Booth was the patriarch of an outstanding family of actors, which included John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin. Junius Booth, who stayed at the Planter's Hotel, allegedly tried to kill his manager here in 1838. Today the Dock Street Theatre is home to the Charleston Stage Company, South Carolina's largest professional theater production company, and houses the city's Cultural Affairs office as well as The City Gallery, an exhibition space for local artists.
Dock Street Theatre is located at 135 Church St., at the southwest corner of the intersection of Church and Queen Sts. Tickets can be purchased at the theater's box office, call 843-720-3968 for further information. To reach the Charleston Stage Company call 843-577-5967 or visit the company's website at http://www.charlestonstage.com.
he French Huguenot Church, a National Historic Landmark, is the third church to be constructed on this site. Completed in 1845, it was the first Gothic Revival building constructed in Charleston, and is an excellent example of the versatility of local architect Edward Brickell White. White had recently completed very different Greek and Roman Doric buildings in Charleston. The stucco over brick Huguenot church is ornamented with windows, buttresses, and decorative details typical of the Gothic Revival. The use of iron for many of these decorative details was unusual, but reflects the difficulty of obtaining carved stonework during the antebellum period in Charleston. Today it remains unaltered, even the clear glass windows are original.
The first church of this denomination was built in 1687, but detonated in 1796 to create a fire break for a blaze raging through the neighborhood. A second church was built in 1800. Services were timed with the tides to accommodate those arriving by boat from the nearby plantations. In 1823, the church was closed due to declining membership.
Huguenot descendants revived the congregation in 1844 and the second church was torn down to make way for the current building. For most of the 20th century, the church was used for periodic services sponsored by the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, for organ recitals, and weddings. Today's active congregation, reestablished in 1983, is the only French Calvinist congregation in the United States.
The French Huguenot Church is located at 136 Church St. It is open to the public. Call 843-722-4385 for further information.
The Old Slave Mart, located on one of Charleston's few remaining cobblestone streets, is the only known extant building used as a slave auction gallery in South Carolina. Once part of a complex of buildings, the Slave Mart building is the only structure to remain. When it was first constructed in 1859, the open ended building was referred to as a shed, and used the walls of the German Fire Hall to its west to support the roof timbers. Slave auctions were held inside. The interior was one large room with a 20-foot ceiling, while the front facade was more impressive with its high arch, octagonal pillars and a large iron gate.
During the antebellum period, Charleston served as a center of commercial activity for the South's plantation economy, which depended heavily upon slaves as a source of labor. Customarily in Charleston, slaves were sold on the north side of the Exchange Building (then the Custom House). An 1856 city ordinance prohibited this practice of public sales, resulting in a number of sales rooms, yards, or marts along Chalmers, State and Queen Streets. One of these belonged to Thomas Ryan, an alderman and former sheriff. Ryan's Mart, now the Old Slave Mart, occupied the land between Chalmers and Queen Street, and contained three additional buildings--a four-story brick tenement building with offices and "barracoon" (slave jail in Portugese) where slaves were held before sales, a kitchen and a morgue. Before the construction of the shed, sales were held in the tenement building or in the yard. Another auction master, Z.B. Oakes, purchased the property in 1859 and applied for a permit to insert brick trusses for the roof of the shed into the adjacent Fire Hall. When sales were held in the shed, slaves stood on auction tables, three feet high and ten feet long, placed lengthwise so slaveowners could pass by them during the auction. The building was used for this purpose only a short time before the defeat of the South in the Civil War led to the end of slavery.
Around 1878, the Slave Mart was renovated into a two-story tenement dwelling. In 1938, the property was purchased by Miriam B. Wilson, who turned the site into a museum of African American history, arts and crafts.
The Old Slave Mart is located at 6 Chalmers St. It is owned by the City of Charleston and is currently closed for renovations.
The building that now houses the German Friendly Society was constructed around 1829. It originally housed a Bible depository, a use which reflects Charleston's response to the evangelical movement of the early 19th century. When first complete, the three-story brick building had a hipped roof with a square cupola. Although this cupola was removed, the building today retains many of its original features.
In 1882 the Carolina Art Association purchased the Bible depository for its headquarters. For several decades the building housed the beginnings of the association's art collection. In 1904, the association moved to its newly constructed headquarters at 135 Meeting Street, now the Gibbs Memorial Art Gallery.
The German Friendly Society purchased the building for its headquarters in 1942. Founded by members of St. John's Lutheran Church in 1766, the German Friendly Society gave assistance to new immigrants and aid to orphans and widows. The Society meets here weekly, and while membership is limited to 175 people, it is not restricted to persons of German ancestry. The building contains a collection of artifacts that depict more than 200 years of the Society's history, as well as portraits of past officers, the earliest of whom were distinguished Revolutionaries. The original Society hall was located at 27 Archdale Street until 1864, when it burned in a fire believed to have been started by a Federal shell. The German Friendly Society is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
The German Friendly Society is located at 29 Chalmers St. The building is not open to the public.
The Fireproof Building, a National Historic Landmark, was the most fire protected building at the time of its construction in 1827. Aptly named for this architectural feature, the building was originally called the Charleston District Record Building. It is now believed to be the oldest building of fireproof construction in the United States. The Fireproof Building is also characteristic of the work of Robert Mills, the first native-born American to be trained as an architect, and a Charleston native. He worked with other important early American architects such as Thomas Jefferson, as a draftsman for Monticello, and Benjamin Latrobe, engineering the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Mills was responsible for the Washington Monument and many public buildings throughout the State and nation.
The Fireproof Building was constructed in a simple Greek Doric style, with minimal ornamentation, and conveys a sense of order and serenity. Because the building was designed to store public records safely, no flammable materials were used in its construction. The building consists primarily of solid masonry, with window sashes and shutters of iron. The high columnar porticoes on an arcaded basement and the triple windows are typical of Mills. Inside, an oval hall contains a cantilevered stone staircase, lit by a cupola. Of such sound construction, the Fireproof Building survived the 1886 earthquake unharmed, except for the exterior stairs. Currently the building is the headquarters for the South Carolina Historical Society, a private non-profit organization founded in 1856.
The Fireproof Building is located at 100 Meeting St., at the corner of Chalmers St. The archives of the South Carolina Historical Society are open for research Monday-Friday 9am to 4pm, with extended evening hours on Tuesday until 7:30pm and Saturday 9am to 2pm. There is a small fee for non-members. Call 843-723-3225 or visit the society's website for further information.
Hibernian Hall, a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1840 to provide a meeting place for the Hibernian Society, an Irish benevolent organization founded in 1801. The Hall is the only extant building associated with the National Democratic Convention of 1860, one of the most critical political assemblies in this nation's history. Hibernian Hall served as the convention headquarters for the faction supporting Stephen A. Douglas. It was hoped that Douglas would bridge the gap between the northern and southern delegates on the issue of extending slavery to the territories. The first floor of the Hall was used for meetings, while the second floor was filled with hundreds of cots for the delegates. The convention disintegrated no candidate was able to summon a two-thirds majority vote. This divisiveness resulted in a split in the Democratic party, and the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate.
Hibernian Hall was the first semi-public building of pure Greek style to be built in the city, and the only building in Charleston designed by architect Thomas U. Walter of Philadelphia. Walter's design included an Ionic pediment which collapsed in the earthquake of 1886 and was replaced by a Corinthian pediment with brackets and a center circular-arched window. The dignified exterior of the Hall does not allude to the flamboyant ballroom and double stairhall within. The Irish harp carved in the panel above the main door and within the iron gates, as well as a stone from Ireland's Giant's Causeway, reflect the ethnic heritage of the Hall's founders. Christopher Werner, one of Charleston's foremost ironworkers, is responsible for the Hall's gates.
The Hibernian Society continues to meet regularly, holding elections, alternating every two years between a Roman Catholic and Protestant president. The Hall still serves as the location for many events, including an annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, society balls and other brilliant social occasions.
Hibernian Hall is located at 105 Meeting St. The building is not open to the public. Call 843-723-4752 for information on renting this facility.
The Charleston County Courthouse is one of the most important buildings in the state. First built in 1753 as the provincial capitol for the colony of South Carolina, the building was reconstructed in 1792 and used for the Charleston district courts. The original Statehouse building was two stories high with an elaborate lobby and grand staircase. Provincial court met on the groundfloor, the Commons House of Assembly and the Royal Governor's Council Chamber met on the second floor. The Statehouse was part of the original Civic Square planned for in the Grand Modell of Charles Town, now known as "Four Corners of the Law," at the central intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets. Architecturally and geographically the building signaled to Charleston's citizens and visitors the city's importance within the British colonies. From the second story balcony overlooking Meeting Street, great affairs of state were announced to the public, including the first reading of the Declaration of Independence in South Carolina.
The original building burned during the Constitutional Ratification Convention of 1788, leaving only the foundation, walls and doorways. Anxious to retain their position in the new state government, Charlestonians quickly began reconstruction of the building in a Neoclassical style. Judge William Drayton, an amateur architect, supervised the construction, while James Hoban, architect of the White House may have assisted in its design. By the time of its completion in 1792, Columbia was firmly established as the capital city, and the building became a center for legal activity, housing circuit, state and federal courts as well as the sheriff's offices. A third story was used by the Charleston Library Society and Charleston Museum, the oldest museum in the country.
Major additions and changes occurred throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, resulting in insensitive alterations to the building. The courthouse was recently restored to its late 18th-century appearance, and still houses court and county government functions. It is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
Charleston County Courthouse is located at 84 Broad St. The building is open to the public during normal business hours.
Charleston's City Hall building was constructed between 1800 and 1804 in the Adamesque style. In 1800 the City Council conveyed this parcel to the Federal government for the purpose of erecting "an elegant building" that would serve as a branch of The First Bank of the United States. Charleston's branch was one of eight in the country, serving as the Office of Discount and Deposit. The design is attributed to Charlestonian Gabriel Manigault, a gentleman architect credited with introducing the Adamesque style to the city after studying in Europe. City Hall's semi-circular projection on the north side and round basement windows are characteristic features of Manigault. The white marble trim is believed to have originated in Italy before it was cut in Philadelphia. The original red brick walls offered a striking contrast to this marble trim before the walls were covered with stucco in 1882. The building was constructed by local carpenters Edward Magrath and Joseph Nicholson and mason Andrew Gordon. In 1811, the bank's charter was revoked by Congress, after which the property was conveyed back to the City of Charleston and became City Hall in 1818.
This site was originally set aside as a public market within the Civic Square of the Grand Modell, the 17th-century plan of the city. A beef market stood here from 1739 until it was destroyed by fire in 1796. This central intersection is now called "Four Corners of the Law," as the four buildings surrounding it reflect four arms of law--ecclesiastical, state, federal and City Hall's municipal law.
The original interior entrance hall was significantly altered in 1839 to create additional space on the second floor. In 1882, a new roof was added, the interior completely modified, and the brick stuccoed. The council chamber on the second floor remains the center of city government. City Hall is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
City Hall is located at 80 Broad St. Call 843-577-6970 for further information.
St. Michael's Episcopal Church, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the finest Colonial American churches in the country and the oldest church in Charleston. Although the architect is unknown, the church was built between 1752 and 1761 and resembles 18th-century English pattern book examples widely used throughout the colonies. It is similar in many respects to London's St. Martin-in-the-Fields, designed by James Gibbs. Prominent and elegant features of the two-story stuccoed brick church are its giant classical portico and a 186-foot high massively proportioned steeple. The history of the congregation of St. Michael's is rooted in that of St. Philip's Episcopal. The first St. Philip's church stood at this site from approximately 1681 to 1727. In 1751, the congregation divided, and the residents of the lower half of the city formed St. Michael's.
Approximately 15 years after its doors opened, St. Michael's became Charleston's focal point of Colonial resistance to the British. During the Revolutionary period, the church tower was a target for British ship gunners. In the hopes of decreasing it's visibility the white tower was painted black, which made it even more visible against the blue sky. Contributing to the war effort, the lead roof was melted down for bullets. The steeple continued to function as a navigational landmark and observation post during all subsequent major American military conflicts, as well as a fire lookout until the late 19th century.
St. Michael's has amazingly survived several hurricanes, wars, fires, earthquakes and a cyclone with little alteration to its architecture. When damaged, the church has been carefully restored or reconstructed. The current portico dates to the late 1880s, and is a replica of the original which was damaged in the 1886 earthquake. The interior of the church still retains its traditional 18th-century English design, with a three-sided second story gallery and native cedar box-pews. The pews, including Number 43 used by George Washington in 1791 and General Robert E. Lee in 1861, have recently been restored to their 18th-century finish. St. Michael's bells are among the city's most beloved treasures, imported from England in 1764. During the Revolutionary War the bells were taken to England as a prize of war, but a London merchant purchased and returned them. During the Civil War, they were sent to Columbia, but cracked in a great fire there in 1865. The metal fragments were salvaged and sent to England to be recast in their original moulds and rehung. St. Michael's continues to be a major city landmark, representing ecclesiastical law in its prominent position at the "Four Corners of the Law," originally the Civic Square in the 17th-century plan of the city.
St. Michael's Episcopal Church is located at 80 Meeting St. The building and the graveyard are open to the public Monday-Friday 8:45am to 4:45pm and Saturday mornings. Call 843-723-0603 for further information.
The United States Post Office and Courthouse was built in 1896 and designed by local architect John Henry Deveraux. An Irish immigrant, Deveraux became a noted architect in Charleston by the late 1860s. His Renaissance Revival style building with lavish interior is indicative of elaborate public buildings of the late 19th century. Deveraux used grey granite from Winnsboro, South Carolina, a square corner tower, rusticated quoins, and balustraded balconies to create a palatial and imposing exterior. The Post Office occupies the first floor, decorated with carved mahogany woodwork, a marble staircase, brass and ironwork, and stone columns.The second floor contains a paneled Victorian courtroom. The Post Office and Courthouse is the most modern building at the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets, land that was set aside as a Civic Square in the Grand Modell, the 17th-century plan of the city. The intersection is now called "Four Corners of the Law" as the buildings that surround it reflect ecclesiastical, municipal, state, and federal law, with the Post Office representing the latter.
Prior to this building's construction, the site contained a mid-18th-century guardhouse (police station), treasury building, and the Charleston Club. The guardhouse standing at the time of the 1886 earthquake was damaged so severely it was demolished. In 1983, a large annex was constructed south of the building; another to the west was begun in 1997, after years of planning and debate. The building still functions as it did originally, used as the downtown branch of the post office and federal district court.
The United State Post Office and Courthouse is located at 83 Broad St. The lobby is open to the public during normal business hours.
The South Carolina Society Hall is considered one of Charleston's most valuable Adamesque buildings. Built in 1804, the Hall was designed by Charlestonian Gabriel Manigault, a gentleman architect who introduced the Adamesque style to the city after studying in Europe. Manigault's design for the Society's headquarters, of which he was a member, consisted of a two-story brick building on a very high basement, covered with stucco. The first floor contained three rooms used for billiards, a small school the society operated, and quarters for the schoolmaster. A large meeting room and ballroom occupied the second floor. The meeting room also contained a small musician's gallery and a decorative Palladian window, while the ballroom was ornamented with a Neoclassical canopy. In 1825, the portico with Doric and Ionic orders, designed by prominent local architect Frederick Wesner, was added along with the brownstone stairs and iron railings. As a result of damage to the building during the Civil War and the 1886 earthquake the interior was renovated during the Victorian period.
The South Carolina Society was first organized in 1737, mainly by French Huguenot businessmen and artisans. It was originally named "The Two Bit Club," as members agreed to weekly dues of two bits, or 15 pence, to the relief of a French Huguenot tavern owner. Later the benevolent association established schools for orphans and indigent children. The Society now donates scholarships to the College of Charleston. The Society still uses the Hall, along with the St. Andrew's Society. The South Carolina Society Hall is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District
The South Carolina Society Hall is located at 72 Meeting St. The building is not open to the public. Call 843-723-9032 for information on renting this facility.
First Scots Presbyterian Church, the fifth oldest church in Charleston, was constructed in 1814. Its design was perhaps inspired by St. Mary's Cathedral in Baltimore, Maryland designed by Benjamin Latrobe. Latrobe was the first professionally trained American architect, best known for designing the United States Capitol. The massive brick Presbyterian Church has walls that are three feet thick and covered with stucco. Twin towers rise above a columned portico. Reflecting the heritage of the congregation, the seal of the Church of Scotland is displayed in the stained glass window over the main entrance, and the decorative wrought iron grilles contain thistles, the symbol of Scotland. First Scots replaced the congregation's first church, a frame building previously located in the southeast corner of the graveyard. The graveyard contains more than 50 stones that date earlier than 1800.
The congregation of First Scots dates to 1731 when 12 Scottish families withdrew from the Meeting House, located at the site where the Circular Congregational Church now stands. These members formed Scot's Kirk or the Scotch Meeting House, and were associated with the Presbytery of Charleston and later the Presbyterian Church of the United States. Their first building was finished in 1734 and used for worship until the current church was built. Unique silver and pewter tokens were used for admission to Communion. During both the Revolutionary War and Civil War services were not held. Like many other buildings in Charleston, the church was damaged by the 1886 earthquake, as well as a hurricane the year before. Presbyterians from the North assisted in the restoration of First Scots, and two other Presbyterian churches in Charleston damaged by these natural disasters. Several memorial windows remain that were placed after the earthquake. Recently an English bell made in 1814, the year of the church's construction, was hung in the north tower, replacing the original which had been given to the Confederate army for cannons. First Scots Presbyterian is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.
First Scots Presbyterian Church is located at 53 Meeting St. near its intersection with Tradd St. The church is open to the public 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday-Friday. Call 843-722-8882 for further information.
The Citizens and Southern National Bank of South Carolina is the second oldest building constructed as a bank in the United States and reflects Charleston's financial and institutional history, as well as commercial architecture of late 18th century. Constructed in 1798 for the Bank of South Carolina, the two-story building is T-shaped, with a pedimented projecting center pavilion and refined architectural details. Keystone arches, window lintels, and a belt course are all executed in white marble.
In 1802 the bank was the target of a inventive but unsuccessful robbery plot. A man by the name of Withers entered a drain near the bank, and began tunneling toward the bank's vault. He remained underground for three months as he dug, supplied with food and water by an accomplice who carelessly led to the plot's discovery.
In 1835 the building was purchased by the Charleston Library Society , thought to be the third oldest library in the country. During their occupancy, the building was damaged by the 1886 earthquake and received a Victorian roof. After the Library Society relocated in 1914, the Charleston Chamber of Commerce purchased the building. In 1966 the building finally returned to its original use when purchased by the Citizens and Southern Bank. This institution removed the Victorian roof, renovated the interior and replicated the original iron fencing. Currently the bank building is used as a private office.
Citizens and Southern National Bank of South Carolina is located at 50 Broad St. The building is not open to the public.
The South Carolina National Bank of Charleston is one of the most important buildings on Broad Street, South Carolina's oldest commercial street. It has been in continuous use as a bank since it was constructed in 1817. In the early 19th century, Charleston ranked highly enough as a commercial center to have a branch of the Second Bank of the United States, whose charter was drawn up by John C. Calhoun, the State's preeminent statesman. This financial institution was the second attempt at a national bank; The First Bank of the United States had also established a branch in Charleston, now City Hall. This Second Bank branch, that of Discount and Deposit, was the only bank in the city equipped to handle the international transactions so crucial to the rice trade, a mainstay of the Lowcountry economy. Stucco covers the masonry walls of the two story building. The smooth, clean exterior is accentuated by simple arched and rectangular window and door openings. A gold leaf eagle still adorns the gable of the front of the bank, as it has since 1817. The lobby, also in continuous use since the bank's opening, features more elaborately carved details, and has been altered only with the addition of lights and modern teller windows.
The newly chartered Bank of Charleston purchased the building in 1836, shortly after the Second Bank failed following the withdrawl of all government deposits by President Andrew Jackson. By 1848 the Bank of Charleston became a regional power with affiliates in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana. The building was extended to the north in 1856 and the Board of Director's Room added. It is an elaborate room with coved ceiling, pilasters with Corinthian capitals, and marbelized details (wood painted to simulate tan and black marble). The bank managed to survive financially during the Civil War and Reconstruction, despite a $1.5 million loan to the Confederacy, and by 1887 had recovered sufficiently to become a Federal Depository. In 1926 the Bank of Charleston merged with local banks in Greenville and Columbia to form the South Carolina National Bank, which in turn was absorbed by Wachovia in the mid-1990s.
The South Carolina Bank of Charleston is located at 16 Broad St., at the center of State St. It is open to the public Monday-Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm, except during bank holidays.
The Farmers and Exchange Bank, a National Historic Landmark, is perhaps the only example of Moorish Revival architecture in America that evolved from one aspect of English Regency architecture and the only Moorish Revival building in Charleston. Designed by Edward D. Jones and Francis D. Lee, both notable Charleston architects, the building was completed in 1854. Typical of the eclectic Moorish style are horseshoe arches and the banded facade, produced by using two different varieties of brownstone from New Jersey and Connecticut. Its design is thought to have been influenced by illustrations in Washington Irving's The Alhambra, a volume which was published around the time the building was constructed. The exotic and romantic world of Moorish Spain was popularized by Irving in this book.
Inside the flat-roofed building was a high skylighted banking room. Spanish motifs are seen in this area as well in the elaborate plaster decorations. In contrast the rear wing of the building is built in a more conventional Classical Revival style. The building was threatened by demolition to become a parking lot until it was purchased and restored in 1970. In the early 1990s the building was rehabilitated for use as a restaurant.
The Farmers and Exchange Bank is located at 141 East Bay St. The building is currently vacant and not open to the public.
The Exchange and Provost, a National Historic Landmark, was a pivotal building in colonial Charleston, where many significant events of the American Revolution and early Federal period occurred. As Charleston became the South's largest port, the Exchange and Custom House was built from 1767 to 1771 for the expanding shipping industry, but also served as a public market and meeting place. After a protest meeting against the Tea Act, confiscated tea was stored here in 1774. The Provincial Congress of South Carolina met here the following year. During the Revolutionary War, the British used the building for barracks and the basement as a military prison. The State Legislature met here in 1788, after the Statehouse was destroyed. When George Washington visited Charleston on his southern tour of 1791, a grand ball was held for him on the second floor.
The symmetrical Georgian style building is two stories with an elevated basement and hipped roof. The central projecting pavilion on the main side of the building and tall Palladian windows are typical classical details of the Georgian period. Originally the building fronted the harbor, but during the past two centuries several blocks have been created by landfill between the Exchange and the water. In the 19th century the building was used mainly as a post office and customhouse. Port business was no longer conducted at the Exchange after a new United States Custom House was completed several blocks north of the Exchange in 1879. The Exchange was badly damaged by Union artillery fire during the Civil War, and by the 1886 earthquake.
In 1913, the building was deeded to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to be preserved as a historical monument. Since 1917 the second floor rooms have been used as offices for various federal agencies, while the main floor rooms serve as a meeting place for the DAR. The basement has been restored and is exhibited to the public as the British Provost Dungeon.
The Exchange and Provost is located at 122 East Bay St., at the foot of Broad St. It is open daily 9:00am to 5:00pm. Call 843-722-2165 for further information, or take an in-depth virtual tour.
First Baptist Church, often referred to as the "Mother Church of Southern Baptists," is the oldest Baptist Church in the South. The church was designed by Robert Mills and dedicated in 1822. Robert Mills considered the First Baptist Church to be "the best specimen of correct taste in architecture of all the modern buildings in this city." Mills described the building as "purely Greek in its style," although it is more accurately described as a Georgian Composition. The trim Doric portico topped with triglyphed entablature and pediment are decidedly Greek in style, however, they are juxtaposed Roman arches and Tuscan columns.
The Church was founded in 1682 and originally organized in Kittery, Maine by the Rev. William Screven. Due to persecution, the Church remained in Kittery for only one year. In 1683 the Baptists relocated to South Carolina. Upon arriving in South Carolina, the Baptists first settled in Somerton, on the Cooper River near Charleston. The first Church meetings were held in the King Street home of William Chapman. In 1699, the present lot was donated to the Church by William Elliot and a frame building was constructed. During the Revolutionary War, the Church was seized by the British troops and used as a storage facility for salt beef and other provisions. The British commander, Lord Cornwallis, "feared the prayers of the young Baptist minister more than the armies of Marion and Sumter." The "young Baptist minister" he spoke of was the Rev. Richard Furman, founder of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina: the first Baptist college in the South. Two other pastors of the church, the Rev. Dr. Basil Manly and the Rev. Dr. James Petigru Boyce, founded the Southern Baptists Seminary, currently the largest in the world. Today, the First Baptist Church remains an active congregation and is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District..
First Baptist Church is located at 61 Church St. Tours are given Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:00am to 12:00pm. Call 843-722-3896 or visit the church's website for further information.
From the time of the earliest European settlements until the end of World War II, coastal fortifications guarded the harbors and shores of the United States. At Fort Moultrie, two centuries of seacoast defense is told through a unique plan of restoration. Five sections of the fort and two outlying areas, each mounting typical weapons, represent a different historical period of Fort Moultrie. In its two centuries of history, Fort Moultrie has defended Charleston Harbor twice. During the Revolutionary War, the fort was still incomplete when it was attacked by a British fleet on June 28, 1776. After a nine-hour battle, the ships were forced to retire. Charleston was saved from British occupation and the fort was named for its commander, William Moultrie. Nearly a century later, during the Civil War, Federal forces bombarded Charleston's forts from land and sea for nearly two years. Though the masonry wall of Forts Sumter and Fort Moultire crumbled under the shelling, both forts were able to hold back the Union attacks. Despite its lack of use in combat since, Fort Moultrie was maintained until 1947 to provide a ready and inexpensive deterrent to any prospective enemy.
Fort Sumter was one of a series of coastal fortifications built by the United States after the War of 1812. Begun in 1829 and named for South Carolina Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Sumter, the fort was still unfinished when Major Robert Anderson first occupied it with his 85-man Federal garrison in 1860. The base foundation of rock and granite material supported a massive five-sided, three story fort of 2.4 acres. Fort Sumter was one of few forts in the South that remained in Federal control during the immediate months after South Carolina and six other state seceded from the Union. As Anderson refused to evacuate, Fort Sumter became the site of the opening battle of the Civil War on April 12, 1861. For 34 hours Confederate forces assailed the fort, with limited return fire from Sumter with nine or ten casemate guns. Anderson surrendered and miraculously no one on either side had been killed. During the Federal bombardment of the Charleston harbor from 1863 to 1865, Fort Sumter was badly damaged. In the 1870's, the fort was rehabilitated by partially rebuilding the outer walls. It served mainly as a lighthouse station until 1897. A massive concrete battery was built in the center of the fort in 1898, a response to the Spanish-American War. A small garrison manned the battery's rifles during World War I, and the Army did not use Fort Sumter again as a military establishment until World War II. Since 1948 Fort Sumter has been recognized as a National Monument and administered and interpreted by the National Park Service for the numerous tourists who visit it every year.
Fort Sumter National Monument is administered by the National Park Service. Fort Moultrie, a unit of Fort Sumter National Monument, is located at 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed New Year's, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Days. Fort Sumter is accessible only by boats that leave from the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center in downtown Charleston and from Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant. For additional information, visit the park online (link above) or call (843) 883-3123.
The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is dedicated to interpreting the life of Charles Pinckney's, his role in the development of the United States Constitution, his plantation, and the transition of colonial America to a young nation. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the 28 acres of this site comprise only a small portion of the large 715 acre rice planation that Charles Pinckney inherited from his father in 1782, known as Snee Farm. No standing structures remain from the time during which Pinckney lived at Snee Farm. The present house, built of native cypress and pine in the 1820's, is a fine example of a tidewater cottage once common throughout the coastal areas of the Carolinas and Virginia.
The science of archeology has contributed greatly to what is known about the plantation, as most of Pinckney's papers were destroyed by the Charleston fire of 1861 where he resided most of the year. Archeologists have identified the locations of ponds and fields used for growing indigo, rice and cotton, the Pinckney well, the plantation kitchen, two slave cabins, and foundations for the buildings that may have been the Pinckney's plantation house and overseer's house. Snee Farm was Pinckney's country estate and the favorite among his seven plantations. Pinckney had been born into the Charleston elite, as the son of a wealthy planter and attorney. His career of public service began in 1779, when at the age of 21 he became a member of the South Carolina General Assembly. He was selected as a delegate to Congress in 1784, and was one of four representatives from South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention. Throughout his active political career Pinckney served four terms as South Carolina governor, and a U.S. Senator and Representative. Leading Thomas Jefferson's campaign for the Presidency in South Carolina, Pinckney was rewarded with the position of Ambassador to Spain. He is buried at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Snee Farm continued to be a working plantation well into the 20th century. Most of its labor force were African Americans, first as slaves, then as tenants or sharecroppers after the abolition of slavery. Today, interpretive exhibits highlight Pinckney's life, the history of the plantation, as well as the contribtuions of African-Americans in the development of farm. Archeology is also emphasized as a important means to uncover the history of a site.
The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service, is located at 1254 Long Point Rd. in Mount Pleasant, six miles north of Charleston. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm, closed major holidays. For additional information contact the Superintendent, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, 1214 Middle St., Sullivans Island, SC 29462, or call 843-881-5516. Descriptive paragraphs are based on the National Park Service visitor brochure for the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.
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Fraser, Walter J. Charleston: The History of a Southern City. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989.
Fraser, Walter J. Patriots, Pistols, and Petticoats: "Poor Sinful Charles Town" During the American Revolution. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.
Hendrickson, Robert. Sumter, The First Day of the Civil War. Chelsea, MI: Scarborough House, 1990.
Hudgins, Carter L., ed. al. eds. The Vernacular Architecture of Charleston and the Lowcountry, 1670 - 1990. Charleston, SC: Historic Charleston Foundation, 1994.
Jacoby, Mary Moore, ed. The Churches of Charleston and the Lowcountry. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
Moore, Margaret H. Complete Charleston: A Guide to the Architecture, History, and Gardens of Charleston Charleston, SC: TM Photography, 1997.
O'Brien, Michael and David Moltke-Hansen, eds. Intellectual Life in Antebellum Charleston. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986.
Miller, Ruth M and Ann Taylor Andrus. Witness to History: Charleston's Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper Pub., 1986.
Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City's Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
Powers, Bernard Edward Jr. Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1885. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.
Ravenel, Beatrice St. Julien. Architects of Charleston. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1992.
Rhett, Robert Pinckney. Charleston Then and Now. Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper Pub., 1996.
Rosen, Robert N. Confederate Charleston: An Illustrated History of the City and the People During the Civil War. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
Rosen, Robert N. A Short History of Charleston Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
Severens, Kenneth. Charleston Antebellum Architecture and Civic Destiny. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988.
Smith, Alice R. Huger and D.E. Huger Smith. Dwelling Houses of Charleston, South Carolina. New York: Diadem Books, 1917.
Stockton, Robert, et. al. Information for Guides of Historic Charleston. Charleston, SC: City of Charleston Tourism Commission, 1985.
Sully, Susan. Charleston: Past and Present. New York: Rizzoli, 1998.
Charleston Children's Literature
Chappell, Ruth Paterson. All 'bout Charleston. Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper Pub., 1998.
Edwards, Lillie J. Denmark Vesey. New York: Chelsea House, 1990.
January, Brendan. Fort Sumter. New York: Children's Press, 1997.
Smith, Bruce. The Silver Locket: A Charleston Christmas Storybook. Mt. Pleasant, SC: Marsh Wind Press, 1994.
Historic Charleston's Religious and Community Buildings, was produced by the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior, in cooperation with the City of Charleston's Department of Planning and Urban Development, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NACP). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism Director, and Beth L. Savage, Publications Director. Historic Charleston's Religious and Community Buildings is based on information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark collections. These materials are kept at 800 N. Capitol Street, NW, in Washington, open from 8:00am to 12:00pm and from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.
Charles Chase, Lissa K. D'Aquisto, and Debra L. Rhoad from the City of Charleston's Department of Planning and Urban Development conceptualized and compiled materials for the itinerary. Contextual essays were written by Charles Chase, Robert Stockton, and Shannon Bell (NCSHPO). Nathan Poe (NCSHPO) created the design for the travel itinerary. Shannon Bell coordinated project production for the National Register, edited descriptions and assisted with the design.
Lissa D'Aquisto supplied invaluable supplemental photographs and advise. Jack Boucher (Historic American Building Survey), Jennifer Perunko, Beth Boland, and Linda McClelland, also supplied color photographs. Many historic photographic images were used courtesy of the South Carolina Historical Society. Ben Pugno, intern from the University of California at Davis, prepared many of the photographs for the website. Special recognition goes to the Historic Charleston Foundation, Preservation Society of Charleston, Yvonne Fortenberry, and Barbara Vaughn for their assistance with this project.
Thank you to all of the individuals, organizations and institutions who worked so diligently on this project.