St. Philips Church founded in 1680 is just one of many old churches in Charleston South Carolina and the oldest congregation in the state. South of the Virginia state line it is known as the oldest Anglican congregation.
St. Philips stands tall on Church Street in the heart of the historic district of Charleston, but this is the congregation’s second location. The first St. Philips was a small wooden structure located on the corner of Meeting and Broad Streets. But this was to be only the first in a succession of new buildings, all due to damage caused by natural and some not so natural occurrences.
In 1710 the original church was badly damaged in one of South Carolina’s famous hurricanes and a new, stronger brick building was authorized for the Church Street location. Unfortunately, the new building, still under construction in 1713, was damaged by yet another hurricane. The building of the new church suffered other setbacks too mostly due to the Indian wars. Finally, in 1723, the first services in the new brick church took place on Easter Sunday.
In 1835, just more than a century later, tragedy struck the old church again when a fire burned it down to the ground. This time the rebuilding was quick and unhindered by storms or other disasters and the new church, which still stands today, was open for worship. The three Tuscan porticoes and Roman columns on the interior gave the church a grand feel.
Today the church is registered as a national historic landmark. The historic graveyard spans three sides of the church and the property across the street and contains the graves of notable authors, governors, congressman and even a vice president. Some say it’s haunted and with a history dating back to the 18th century, maybe it is, but the church proudly boasts a sign that states “The only ghost here is the holy ghost.” Either way, this is a congregation that is proud of its heritage.