Thanks to the church steeples that dot her majestic skyline, Charleston is known as the “Holy City.” One of the oldest churches in the city is St. Michael’s Church, situated on the site of the first Anglican church built south of Virginia.
The small wooden church was built in the 1680s, the first place of worship in the newly settled Charles Town. Decades later the growing town outgrew the little church and a new, larger church was built on Church Street. It was a destroyed by fire in 1835.
To accommodate the city’s growing population another church was built on the original site and came to be known as St. Michael’s. It opened for services in 1761. The structure remains virtually unchanged.
A gallery on three sides of the church brings more people closer to the center of worship. St. Michael’s is one of the few city churches in America that has retained this original design.
Some additional facts about St. Michael’s Church:
- The steeple reaches 186 feet. The steeple was painted black so as not to be an easy target during the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
- The chandelier was ordered from London in 1803. Now powered by electricity, it was first lighted with candles and then gas.
- The long double-pew in the center of the church – originally known as “The Governor’s Pew” – is where President George Washington worshipped on Sunday afternoon, May 8, 1791.
- The clock and ring of eight bells were imported from England in 1764. The Ainsworth-Thwaites clock was restored by Smith of Derby, London, England, in 1993. It is thought to be the oldest functioning colonial tower clock in the country.
St. Michael’s Church is just one of the historic sites visitors can see when they take one of our harbor tours. Combine a harbor tour on the Carolina Belle with a bus tour for a chance to see multiple historic buildings and sites around the city. Learn more about the city tour and harbor tour with Adventure Sightseeing.
(Historic information about St. Michael’s Church and steeple photo are courtesy of the church’s history webpage.)