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Foundation Matters

Supporting the Community: New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church

Posted: June 12, 2024

Call to action: Support the temporary roof cover for the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church

In 1859, Francis D. Lee, Charleston’s premier Gothic Revival architect, designed and began construction on a unique church for the St. Luke Episcopal congregation in Charleston’s Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood.Completed in 1862, the brick church that we see today is one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Charleston as well as a contributing building on the National Register of Historic Places.

New Tabernacle Church, c.1930s

The final design, and the church we see today, boasts 55-foot vaulted ceilings and two, 37-foot stained glass windows on each side. A survivor, the church withstood bombing from the Civil War during its construction and escaped unscathed from The Great Charleston Fire of 1861, the Earthquake of 1886, and Hurricanes Hazel, Gracie and Hugo while serving St. Luke Episcopal congregation until 1949. In 1950, the Gothic Revival Church began its next chapter when it was purchased by The New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church; a historic congregation founded in 1875 and rebuilt under the leadership of Reverend DJ Jenkins, founder of the Jenkin’s Orphanage.

Partners in Preservation: 

Currently, the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church is a small but tenacious and steadfast congregation. Due to the challenges from the pandemic, membership decline, and ongoing hardships, it has been extremely difficult for the small congregation to make the costly repairs needed to maintain the structure. Ultimately, the deterioration has led to a complete shutdown of the sanctuary and the interior sanctuary has remained closed for several years.

Historic Charleston Foundation, Artis Construction, Glenn Keyes Architects, and Reggie Gibson Architects have come together to support The New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church and its congregation to rehabilitate the site. In May 2024, Guyton Ash and Tom Fredette of Artis Construction used a crane to access the roof from above and created a temporary shaft to enter the attic of the Gothic Revival Church. Together, the partners collectively donated time, equipment and expertise to complete this structural analysis for a preservation plan.

The Attic:

The original vaulted ceilings in the interior of the sanctuary have the most glaring deterioration with obvious water damage and structural instability. Up until this point, the congregation has been unable to access the attic to determine what has been damaged, what can be salvaged and what that would cost. To conduct the laser scan, Guyton, Tom and the HCF team entered the attic on a hot day in May, 2024. The team knew it had been a long time since anyone entered the space and this hunch was confirmed when a “RC Cola” tin can dating to 1990 was found – likely left behind following Hurricane Hugo repairs, 1989.)

“When we opened up the roof, immediately what I saw was the way the plaster ceiling was put together…its in a Gothic arch form, with a wood sub-structure below the truss system and you can see the keys from the plaster below” Guyton observed. When asked if the timber beams and truss system was original to the 1856 construction, Guyton replied, “Yes, all of it. Absolutely.”

Inside the attic, the team observed the original timber king truss system, its very large queen post struts and the center medallion from above. Starting at the center of the church’s attic, the laser scanning equipment is placed every eight feet to scan the space and gather as much data as possible. With this information, a virtual space will be constructed for a thorough structural analysis by architects Glenn Keyes, Reggie Gibson and their respective teams to create a preservation and rehabilitation plan. At each step of the way, HCF’s Director of Preservation, April Wood, is working alongside the congregation to apply for grants, seek additional funding and, overall, support the church’s preservation.

The Immediate Need: 

Following an initial assessment, Artis Construction determined that there was an immediate need for a temporary roof cover to protect the entire church. A roof cover is a necessary and vital first step in the rehabilitation process to prevent any further damage, however, this important recommendation comes with an estimated cost of $28,600. A temporary roof cover is CRITICAL to the preservation of this structure until additional funding can be secured to complete rehabilitation. 

June 2024. Congregation members Elinor Coaxum, Rev. Manigo, Tammy Foster-Jackson

With hurricane season approaching, time is of the essence to prevent further deterioration of the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church. As the congregation strives to maintain a presence in the neighborhood, they are earnestly raising funds to stabilize the sanctuary through a dedicated GoFundMe page. Each donation will go directly to the congregation at New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church to fund the roof cover and ultimately preserve the 168 year old, Gothic Revival Church. Historic Charleston Foundation is steadfast in its support of this preservation project and continually inspired by the community’s dedication to its sacred space. As a contributing building on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the city, the Foundation is confident the church building can serve the community once it is rehabilitated. The first, and vital, step is to install a temporary roof cover. 

If you would like to support the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church and, specifically, the temporary roof cover, you can make a donation HERE.

Special thanks to our Charleston partners that have generously donated their time and resources to support The New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church community alongside HCF. If you would like to learn more about supporting this project, or other preservation initiatives, reach out to Director of Preservation, April Wood via email. 

One response to “Supporting the Community: New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church”

  1. Rhetta Mendelsohn says:

    Fabulous! And what about the beautiful little church on Anson across from Gaillard. It is with saving too !

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