Presbyterian Church retains old-time glory

March 2014 006

Lancaster’s Old Presbyterian Church retains the simple architectural beauty inherent in many 19th century brick structures.

Constructed in 1862, the Early Gothic Revival-style edifice is believed to have been the first brick church built in South Carolina’s Lancaster County, and its graveyard holds the remains of many of the area’s early prominent residents, in addition to several men who were killed or died during the War Between the States.

The Old Presbyterian Church was constructed on the site of the town’s first Presbyterian church, begun in 1835. The extant church’s walls feature handmade brick, stuccoed and scored to resemble stone.

The church features a Basilican plan, with a gallery along the sides and back of the sanctuary and an arched pulpit apse. Its interior includes hood moldings over the arches, cornice brackets with pendants under the gallery and round wooden columns supporting the gallery.

At the very end of the Civil War, troops under Union Gen. William T. Sherman occupied a large house just up the street and horses were stabled inside the church.

The structure was the house of worship for Lancaster-area Presbyterians until 1926, when the growing congregation moved to a new church on nearby Main Street.

Afterward, the house of worship was used by another denomination, then by a chapter of Masons. In the early 1960s it was purchased and served as a museum.

Front of Old Presbyterian Church, Lancaster, SC.

Front of Old Presbyterian Church, Lancaster, SC.

Bought in 1976 by the Lancaster County Society for Historical Preservation, Inc., it was listed in the National Register the following year. In 2012, it reopened as the Cultural Arts center after an extensive renovation.

Among those buried in the church graveyard:

  • Dr. Robert L. Crawford (1825-1863), who served in the Confederate Army and signed the SC Ordinance of Secession;
  • Dr. Joseph Henry Foster (1835-1885), a brigadier general in the medical corps of the Confederate army; and
  • James H. Witherspoon (1810-1865), who served as a delegate to Democratic National Convention in 1860, was a colonel in the Confederate Army and served as representative from South Carolina in the Confederate Congress in 1864-65.
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