First Scots Presbyterian

Black and white photo of First Scots Presbyterian Church, circa 1933.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Quick Facts

Location:
53 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC
OPEN TO PUBLIC:
Yes
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.

Last updated: February 20, 2018