2019 Cohort

Trinity Episcopal Church

Abbeville, South Carolina

Trinity Episcopal Church is a community landmark in rural Abbeville, South Carolina.

Trinity Episcopal Church by Bill Fitzpatrick
Trinity Episcopal Church by Bill Fitzpatrick
2019 Cohort

Trinity Episcopal Church

Abbeville, South Carolina

Trinity Episcopal Church is a community landmark in rural Abbeville, South Carolina.

The congregation was founded in the 1800s by wealthy slaveowners who settled in “Carolina” to profit off of the cotton industry. They commissioned Charleston-born architect George Edward Walker to design the Gothic Revival church in 1859 based on the designs of the New York Ecclesiological Society. At the time of construction, the church, with its 125-foot steeple, was the tallest building in South Carolina outside of Columbus or Charleston. Enslaved persons constructed the church using handmade bricks produced on-site, and its interior includes one of the last “slave galleries” built in South Carolina prior to the Civil War.

With the help of Preservation South Carolina, Trinity Episcopal Church is working to tell its full history. It’s incorporating enslaved history into tours and researching the registers of enslaved congregants who attended the church in the balcony. Trinity Episcopal Church also meets community needs by providing space for free community events, including HIV testing and lectures, hosting concerts, and offering tours to schoolchildren and visiting groups. The church is the principal tourist destination in the small town, helping revitalize Abbeville’s economy through facilitating spending at local shops.

A National Fund grant of $250,000 with $500,000 in matching funds raised by Preservation South Carolina and the congregation allowed Trinity Episcopal Church to stabilize its steeple. This required detaching the steeple from the building, replacing rotted foundational timbers that had caused leaning, and reattaching it to the new timbers. Additionally, Trinity Episcopal Church replaced its roof, repaired water-damaged interior plaster, and installed a new HVAC system. As a result of this restoration, the church is now open to congregants and community members for the first time since 2017.  

Trinity Episcopal Church by Preservation South Carolina

Two Sacred Places as Community Spaces in Rural America

Often built in the center of town near the local post office or town hall, rural churches were designed with community gathering in mind. In small towns like Sheridan, Wyoming, and Abbeville, South Carolina, with populations fewer than 20,000 people and congregants living across wide geographic regions, going to church meant reconnecting with friends and family, accessing free resources, and participating in service projects to better the region.

Trinity Episcopal Church by Preservation South Carolina

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez