Bethel Methodist Church
History and museums
Bethel Methodist Church is a National Register property located at 57 Pitt St. It is a different property and a different church than "Old Bethel Methodist Church" which is located across Calhount St. from Bethel Methodist Church. The half acre lot at the southwest corner of Pitt and Calhoun Streets was purchased by the Methodists in 1795 as a burial ground. However, they soon decided to construct a wooden church there called Bethel, and the original building was constructed in 1797-1798. In 1852 construction of the current Bethel Church began, and the existing wooden building was relocated to the rear of the lot. (The original wood church was later given to a black congregation and moved again, across Calhoun St. to 222 Calhoun St., where it survives today as Old Bethel United Methodist Church.)
The new Greek Revival building, designed by E. Curits, was dedicated on August 7, 1853, and cost $18,000. Inside were galleries supported by Doric columns, occupying one end and the two sides of the church. These were used for seating the black members. A modern pulpit platform and carpeted chancel were used instead of the high pulpit and sounding board design of older churches. An article dated August 19, 1853, said that a large window was directly behind the pulpit and was flanked by richly ornamented pilasters of the Corinthian order.
Following Reconstruction, a thorough renovation was undertaken in 1886. The fourteen-foot wide side galleries were removed and other work was in progress when the earthquake of August 31, 1886 made further repairs necessary. During the 1886-87 period, an alcove was added behind the chancel for a pipe organ, carpet and pew cushions put in, and the installation of stained glass windows enhanced the beauty of the edifice. The tin coved ceiling was placed in the building during repairs following the hurricane of 1893. The unusual stenciling was applied to the interior walls in the late Nineteenth Century and is renewed each time the building is painted.
Bethel Church was the only Methodist church in Charleston to remain open throughout the Civil War.