Central Baptist Church

Carpenter Gothic style church with Gothic windows.

CC BY-SA 3.0, Bryanluce, Wikimedia.org.

Quick Facts

Location:
26 Radcliffe Street, Charleston, SC
Designation:
National Register of Historic Places
OPEN TO PUBLIC:
Yes
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.