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In The Know About Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, Charleston

Updated: Mar 23, 2019

The mission of Saint Mark’s, an historical, Black Episcopal Church with a diverse congregation, is to live and grow in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as to reach out, serve, teach, and support the parish family and wider community. The church is in the Radcliffeboro neighborhood at 16 Thomas Street in downtown Charleston.

Saint Mark’s was organized as an independent parish in 1865 by a group of devout Black Episcopalians who found themselves without a place to worship at the end of the Civil War. Permission was granted by the city to use the Orphan’s Chapel on Vanderhorst Street. The first service was held on Easter, 1865. Immediately after the service, an organizational meeting was held, and the following were elected to manage the affairs of the congregation: S. L. Bennett, Chairman, J. N. Gregg. Secretary, R.E. DeReef, Treasurer, B.K. Kinloch, J. Wheaton, R Holloway, S. O’Hear, and J. B. Mushington, aided by Mrs. Lydia Frost.

At the suggestion of Mr. J.B. Mushington, Sr., the name “Saint Mark’s” was adopted at a meeting of the congregation on June 25, 1865. In August, W.E. Marshall and J.M.F. DeReef were added to the committee. By that time, ninety-five persons had subscribed to give financial support to the church.

The property on which Saint Mark’s stands today – at the corner of Thomas and Warren Streets – was purchased in 1870. The church was designed by Louis J. Barbot and was built by the Devereau Brothers. A temple form was used and may have been one of the last of that style built in America. In the city, it is the only church built of wood. The people subscribed an additional amount to begin construction with the cornerstone being laid on October 26, 1877. After completion the dedication and the consecration took place on Nov. 7, 1878.

The church structure has suffered major damage from several natural disasters including the earthquake of 1886, the Sea Island Hurricane of 1893 and Hurricane Hugo 1989. Over the years repairs and continued maintenance have been made to preserve the beauty of the church.

As the church has evolved over the years, so has the neighborhood in which it stands. For years, this vibrant African-American community was known as the Morris Street area. It was home to black professionals who owned many businesses including restaurants, a motel, doctors and law offices and real estate. Today, due to its proximity to MUSC and C of C, many of the residents of Radcliffboro are professionals and students.

Saint Mark’s has renewed its outreach and presence to reach out, serve, teach, and support not only its parish family but the wider community. Like the Sankofa, Saint Mark’s looks to the future while remembering its past. ALL ARE WELCOME to be a part of this new day of mission, ministry and worship!!

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