Charleston’s Most Unusual Church Story

IMG_2309It was almost Charleston’s grandest church, and now its congregation hangs on to an aging, faded structure that never matched the original design.

Begun in 1859 as St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Charlotte Street, the massive Gothic Revival concept of famed Charleston architect Francis D. Lee was to have a 210-foot steeple and stucco facade over exquisite brick details. The church was not finished when the Civil War began, and money intended for its finish details was diverted to the defense of the city, so the spire and stucco never were added.

Changes in the city demographics by 1950 saw the congregation badly dwindled, and they joined St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Coming Street. The old building was sold to black parishioners and became the New

Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church, a congregation first established by Rev. Daniel Jenkins, who would achieve great fame as creator of the #Jenkins Orphanage Band.

Today, weeds grow from the old bricks, and the small congregation hangs on to a faded remnant of antebellum Charleston, in what is one of the most undiscovered areas of the historic city. <img src=”famous landmarks” alt=”Holy City”>

Jenkins Orphanage Band

IMG_1887The Jenkins Orphanage Band became such an international sensation by the early 20th century, that the group was invited to play for King George of England. The jazzy genesis of the band came from orphanage director, Rev. Daniel Jenkins, who wanted to give the poor young boys some enthusiastic distraction from the tedium of life in the old building on Franklin Street. In the aftermath of the Civil War, most of Charleston was poor, and poor black children from broken homes faced little hope were it not for learning skills at the orphanage as cobblers and tailors, which were menial jobs nonetheless.
Re. Jenkins added a new inspiring spirit by asking Charlestonians to contribute used musical instruments, and getting former Citadel cadets to donate old uniforms. With bent horns and faded tunics, the little boys lit up Charleston with impromptu concerts on street corners – a fast-paced, brassy sound whose fame spread far and wide.
Several band members went on to fame playing for such orchestras as Count Basie and Duke Ellington.