Charleston strives to save historic church

Of the many things associated with Charleston, S.C., its magnificent architecture ranks near the top of the list. But that beauty doesn’t come without a price tag.

Case in point historic is St. Andrew’s Church. The downtown Charleston structure, currently leased by Redeemer Presbyterian Church, is being threatened with sale and conversion to a personal residence unless the congregation can come up with $1.6 million.

Church members say they’ve raised or secured $800,000 needed to keep the 1840s building off the seller’s block, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.

“Much of the money was raised from sources tied to the congregation,” according to the publication. “Now, the group plans to expand its tax-deductible pitch to outside the church family, knowing it has until Oct. 31 to make the goal.”

The Greek Revival-style structure, which was built after the great Charleston fire of 1838, was initially known as Wentworth Street Methodist Protestant Church; the original congregation merged with Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1853.

The Church became known as St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in 1936 and the sanctuary was extensively renovated in 1908.

The St. Andrew’s congregation moved to nearby West Ashley around 2006 and since has leased the building to Redeemer Presbyterian.

Not only will the church be converted to residential use unless the current congregation is able to acquire the building, but an adjacent brick educational building, designed by noted 20th century architects Simons and Lapham, will be converted to mixed office and residential uses, according to the Post and Courier.

The church has been identified by the Preservation Society of Charleston as one of its key projects in terms of saving historic structures.

Donations to date include a low-interest loan from a family that belongs to another denomination, officials said, plus other personal gifts ranging into the thousands of dollars from people who want to keep the church going.

Fundraising efforts are stressing the church’s significance to downtown Charleston, both historic and present-day.

“Church building committee Chairwoman Nancy Vinson said the appeal will include stressing the precedent of preserving a historic structure that could lose its church mission forever, if the sale goes through,” the publication reported.

“With all the interest in preservation, and maintaining the historic fabric of the Holy City, we hope many Charlestonians will want to partner with us in saving this beautiful pre-Civil War church,” she said.

The Preservation Society of Charleston will collect donations through its Holy City Fund, with the goal of assisting Redeemer Presbyterian Church in acquiring the house of worship.

The congregation would then subsequently accept a conservation easement protecting interior and exterior features of the buildings and restricting future uses.

(Above: Interior of historic St. Andrew’s Church, Charleston, S.C. Photo Credit: Steven Hyatt.)

6 thoughts on “Charleston strives to save historic church

  1. Wow, at first glance I thought it was Saint Helena’s in Beaufort, the structures are remarkably similar. I hope they is able to raise enough funds to save it, it would be a shame to lose such a beautiful and historic landmark.

    • As a fan of older churches, as opposed to the new-age style that’s become more prevelent in recent decades, I couldn’t agree more.

      They don’t build churches like this anymore and we need to preserve the ones that still exist.

  2. Charleston is amazing. And the thought of this spiritual jewel being converted to a residence makes this pastor almost sick. Hard to understand why anybody would want to do that.

    • I’m with you on both counts. I don’t know that I’d be comfortable converting a church into a home, never mind a business. The only way I’d even think about moving into a church is if that church was otherwise going to be demolished, and that’s never going to happen in Charleston.

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