Discover Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church

By:Page Ivey

Date:12/1/2014

Built in 1706, Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church is one of the oldest churches in South Carolina still in use. The church was one of 10 established in South Carolina that year by the Anglican Church.

The church is a simple structure built in the shape of a cross, like many Colonial-era churches.

At first, the church served the planters and their families along the Ashley River and then focused more on plantation slaves and freedmen following the Civil War. Rev. John Grimké Drayton, who built the beautiful gardens at Magnolia Plantation, served as the church’s rector for 40 years, seeing the church through the Civil War, Reconstruction and the earthquake of 1886.

After Drayton’s death in 1891, the church was mostly abandoned until the mid-20th century, when the post-war building boom brought parishioners to the suburbs around the old plantations.

When the church reopened, the women of the church would spend a day cleaning for services. At the time, the area was rather remote with no restaurants nearby, so the ladies brought their lunches and began sharing them with visitors to the area who were coming to see the plantations.

From this was born the Annual Tea Room and Gift Shop, which opened in 1953. The weeklong event features handmade crafts in the gift shop and lunches of soups, salads and sandwiches. Proceeds from the event support the church women, who also provide daily tours of the church.

Old St. Andrew’s has been renovated several times — after a fire in the 1760s, the earthquake in 1886 and more recently Hurricane Hugo, which did extensive damage to the graveyard in 1989.

The cemetery has more than 1,000 graves. One of the oldest belongs to Edward Brailsford, who was born in 1684 in England and died in Charleston in 1733.

Details: Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church is at 2604 Ashley River Road, Charleston, 843.766.1541. The church has an active congregation and offers three Sunday morning services and a Wednesday evening service. Call for tour information.

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