“A Carpenter Gothic church in downtown Charleston, S.C. retaining its original architectural character. An African American History site.”
24 – 26 Radcliffe Street
City Directories and History: Enjoy added information on this National Register property.
Central Baptist Church (ca. 1893) is significant in terms of black history and folk art. Locally, it is thought to be one of the first black churches to have been founded and built solely by blacks in Charleston. The church was founded in 1891 by a group from Morris Street Baptist Church, an older church in Charleston. Two years later the present structure was completed and first used by the congregation in August 1893. During its first 20 years the church grew and this growth is reflected in the addition of the notable murals of 1915. The church is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic vernacular style of architecture.
Outstanding features of this church which are indicative of the style and period are the central double doors with protective hood above, octagonal belfry and dome, tower window with plate tracery, interior gallery on three sides, and Milai frescoes and murals depicting scenes of the life of Christ, signed by the artist Amohamed Milai in 1915. The gable roof is covered with standing seam tin and the boxed cornice features decorative brackets. The Adult Education Building to the right of the church is a typical Victorian “single house” of the period and is included within the nominated acreage. Listed in the National Register August 16, 1977. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
Click on the More Information links to read additional information on the artist, Mr. Ronald Ramsey.
CENTRAL BAPTIST CHURCH
Constructed 1891; restored 1990 John P. Hutchinson, architect
“The Central Baptist Church was designed by John P. Hutchinson, an African American architect, and built in 1891 by members of the congregation. The church has the distinction of being the first in the city to be designed, built, and financed by African Americans. With its tall Gothic windows and doors and Italianate detailing, the structure is a strong presence on Radcliffe Street. Perhaps its most distinguishing feature is its square central tower, which was replaced with a reproduction of the original after damage by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Striking elements on the interior of this structure are the murals painted between 1912 and 1915 by the artist Amohamed Milai of Calcutta, India, which depict the life and death of Christ.”
Information from: The Buildings of Charleston – J.H. Poston – Author, for the Historic Charleston Foundation, 1997
Preservation Art at Work: Courtesy of Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art: Rick Rhodes – photographer, Ronald Ramsey artist – preservationist, 2017. (For the last several decades, native Charlestonian Ronald Wayne Ramsey has focused on meticulously documenting historical buildings—particularly those slated for demolition—in his hometown. As old buildings in the historically-minded city become condemned and readied for demolition, he secrets himself inside and liberates various seemingly mundane objects from their impending destruction. Such objects, like hinges, shutter dogs, decorative ironwork, doorknobs, and other ubiquitous building artifacts gain new relevance once they become part of his salvaged collection, which traces architectural styles from Charleston’s rich architectural legacy. Along with these objects, Ramsey creates fastidiously detailed drawings of old building facades in the city. Text from the Ahead of the Wrecking Ball Exhibit – 2017)
Access information on numerous Charleston County and South Carolina churches, by clicking the highlighted S.C. Digital Library name.
Other sources: Charleston Tax Payers of Charleston, SC in 1860-61, Dwelling Houses of Charleston by Alice R.H. Smith – 1917, Charleston 1861 Census Schedule, and a 1872 Bird’s Eye View of Charleston, S.C. The Hist. Charleston Foundation may also have additional data at: Past Perfect
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IMAGE GALLERY via photographer Bill Segars – 2005 & R&R – 2014
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