61 Church Street
City Directories and History: FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
Constructed 1819-22; restored 1990 Robert Mills, architect
“Site of the original “Anabaptist” Meeting House, the lot had been given by the prominent Elliott family in 1699 to provide a place of worship for a fledgling congregation begun by immigrants from Kittery, Maine, some fifteen years earlier. The earlier wooden structure held the pulpit of the Reverend Richard Furman, a revolutionary patriot and co-author of South Carolina’s move to disestablish the Anglican Church. The British occupying commander used the meetinghouse for storage of provisions from 1780 to 1782.
The Charleston-born architect Robert Mills designed the present edifice (the third on the site) by 1819, when the cornerstone was laid. Mills worked extensively in his native city at this juncture, following his studies with Thomas Jefferson and then Benjamin Latrobe, and successful commissions in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Richmond. This was, however, prior to his important work in Washington planning the Treasury and Patent Buildings and the Washington Monument. As with the numerous courthouses he designed throughout South Carolina, he considered the new First Baptist Church with its temple form plan to be “purely Greek in its style,” calling it the “best specimen of correct taste in architecture of the modern buildings of this city.” Actually a Roman Doric or Tuscan colonnade supports the front pedimented portico. The simple parapet was originally designed with a laurel wreath frieze and surmounted by a roof lantern, but neither of these features survives. On the interior a double colonnade supports the galleries on three sides with both Ionic and Doric orders. A portion of the original graveyard was removed in the 1950s for the construction of the educational building. Important stones, however, line the south walkway, including that of Dr. Furman and the Abigail Barker stone carved in Newport, Rhode Island.”
Information from: The Buildings of Charleston – J.H. Poston for the Historic Charleston Foundation, 1997
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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