South Carolina

Unitarian Church in Charleston – Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina  |  SC Picture Project  |  Charleston County Photos  |  Unitarian Church in Charleston

Edit This Page  |  Leave A Comment

The Unitarian Church in Charleston is the second oldest church building in the Holy City (the oldest is St. Michael’s) and the oldest Unitarian church in the South. The congregation formed in 1772 when the Congregational Church, which at the time gathered in a frame meeting house (hence the name of the street where the church still gathers – Meeting Street), outgrew its small church.

Unitarian Church Downtown Charleston

Spencer Means of New York, New York, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A new church of the same denomination, referred to as the Society of Dissenters, was built to house the overflow. Construction on the new church on Archdale Street began that same year but was interrupted by the Revolutionary War. British soldiers stabled their horses within the incomplete church, while Patriot forces used it as a barracks. Construction resumed and was finished in 1787.

Unitarian Church Charleston

John Diskes of Summerville, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The two Congregational churches – also called Independent churches – initially operated as one, and two pastors alternately served both churches. In 1817 this church was chartered as the Second Independent Church, though its pastor, the Reverend Anthony Forster, was a Unitarian. In 1839 it was again chartered, this time as the Unitarian Church in Charleston. Forster’s successor was Dr. Samuel Gilman, a Harvard University alumnus who wrote the school’s alma mater, Fair Harvard. Dr. Gilman served the church from 1819 through 1858.

Unitarian Church

Dennis Church of Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The church acquired its Perpendicular Gothic style in 1852 when architect Francis D. Lee remodeled the church in what was then considered “the new style.” Though Lee made several structural changes that significantly altered the church’s appearance, he worked around the building’s original walls and foundation. The church survived the Civil War, yet suffered damage during the earthquake of 1886. Thanks to the generous donations of Unitarians throughout the United States, the church was fully restored. Fortunately, the church was spared during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Unitarian Cemetery

John Diskes of Summerville, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The churchyard (below) is a point of interest, designed by Dr. Gilman’s wife, Caroline. Her idea was to create gardens of native plantings that were allowed to grow freely, mimicking spiritual growth of the church body. In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke from these gardens in 1827. The church invites visitors to quietly stroll the church grounds and appreciate the timeless beauty of the free-flowing nature that surrounds them.

Unitarian Graveyard

John Van Dalen of Charleston, 2011 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

More Pictures of the Unitarian Church

Unitarian Window

Pamela Talbird of Charleston, 2010 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Unitarian Ceiling

Unitarian Interior

Pamela Talbird of Charleston, 2010 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Unitarian Churchyard

Beth Brittain of Boone, NC, 2006 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Unitarian Church in Charleston is listed in the National Register:

Begun in 1772, the church was gothicized by Francis D. Lee between 1852 and 1854. The building is a good statement of the emotional mood of the mid-nineteenth century when the romantic and picturesque were dominant not only in literature but also in building design. Of Gothic Revival design, the church has a crenellated four-story tower and lancet-arched windows. The main entrance is a Tudor arch, while the eighteen paned lancet arched main tower window has a crocketed hood mould. All windows in the west façade have hood moulds. The building is constructed of stuccoed brick and has false masonry buttresses. Lee designed the church’s interior to simulate that of the chapel of Henry VII at Westminster. The architect’s use of compound piers to “support” the ceiling and to divide the nave and the aisles is quite good and gives the arches an appearance of soaring to heights that they never reach physically. A great deal of Gothic tracery is used in balustrades and arches within the nave of the church.

Unitarian Church in Charleston Info

Address: 6 Archdale Street, Charleston, SC 29401
GPS Coordinates: 32.778571,-79.934455

Unitarian Church in Charleston Map

Unitarian Church in Charleston – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Unitarian Church in Charleston, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!


The South Carolina Picture Project is a volunteer project which earns no profit. We work hard to ensure its accuracy, but if you see a mistake, please know that it is not intentional and that we are more than happy to update our information if it is incorrect. That said, our goal is to create something positive for our state, so please make your comments constructive if you would like them to be published. Thank you!

3 Comments about Unitarian Church in Charleston

Don McAllisterNo Gravatar says:
July 22nd, 2017 at 5:59 am

What stunning architecture – and what a beautiful philosophy ! A perfect dream in which to offer worship. Would love to see picture of the whole of the church, both inside and out. My own Unitarian in Great Yarmouth, UK. is an airy, light sanctuary, built in 1954, on simple lines, after the original church was destroyed in WW2. Our church, Old Meeting, sends you its greetings.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 19th, 2017 at 7:48 am

Hi, Kevin. The website for the church is above the map. Hopefully, someone there can answer your question. Best of luck!

Atty. Kevin Chadbourne DownsNo Gravatar says:
January 18th, 2017 at 6:55 pm

Respectfully, Is your church available for a wedding on Saturday, May 6, 2017? Kind Regards, Kevin C. Downs

Unitarian Church in Charleston - Related Entries

The Governor Thomas Bennett House

Daniel Cannon House

Roper House in Charleston
Roper House

William Aiken House Upstairs Porches

Wentworth Mansion

Pirate House Church Street
Pirate House

Charleston Harbor Container Ship

St. John's Lutheran Gates

German Fire Company Chalmers Street


Join Us on Facebook
Our 5 Goals
Our Contributors
Add Info
Add Pictures
Search for Pictures
Missing Landmarks


Abbeville ACE Basin Aiken Allendale Anderson Awendaw Bamberg Banks Barns & Farms Barnwell Batesburg-Leesville Beaches Beaufort Beech Island Belton Bennettsville Bishopville Blackville Bluffton Bridges Bygone Landmarks Camden Carnegie Libraries Cemeteries Charleston Charleston Navy Base Cheraw Chester Churches Clemson Clinton Clio Colleges Columbia Conway Cordesville Courthouses Darlington Denmark Dillon Donalds Easley Edgefield Edisto Elloree Fairfax Florence Folly Beach Forests and Nature Preserves Gaffney Garden City Beach Georgetown Glenn Springs Graniteville Greeleyville Greenville Greenwood Greer Hamburg Hampton Hartsville Hemingway Hilton Head Historical Photos Historic Houses Honea Path Hopkins Hunting Island Isle of Palms Jails James Island Johns Island Johnsonville Johnston Kiawah Island Kingstree Lake City Lake Marion Lakes Lancaster Landrum Latta Laurens Lexington Libraries Lighthouses Little River Manning Marion McClellanville McCormick Military Mills Moncks Corner Mountains Mount Carmel Mount Pleasant Mullins Murrells Inlet Myrtle Beach National Register Newberry Ninety Six North Augusta North Charleston North Myrtle Beach Orangeburg Pacolet Parks Pawleys Island Pendleton Pickens Piers Pinopolis Plantations Port Royal Post Offices Ravenel Restaurants Ridge Spring Ridgeway Rivers Roadside Oddities Robert Mills Rock Hill Rockville Rosenwald Schools Salters Saluda Savannah River Site SC Artists SC Heroes of the Alamo Schools Seneca Shrimp Boats Society Hill Spartanburg Sports Springs St. George St. Helena Island St. Matthews Stores Sullivan's Island Summerton Summerville Sumter Sunset Synagogues Town Clocks Trains & Depots Trees Trenton Turbeville Ulmer Union Wadmalaw Island Walhalla Walterboro Waterfalls Water Towers West Columbia Westminster Winnsboro Yemassee York

© 2018, LLC All rights reserved.