Famous Charleston Second Is First

IMG_2306Second Presbyterian Church was completed in 1811 at Meeting Street and Ashmead Place, three years before the current First Presbyterian Church was built at Meeting and Tradd as a replacement for a structure built there in 1734. So in terms of historic rank among the Presbyterian congregations, the Second is the first and the First is the third. Second Prez, as it is commonly referred to, was designed originally with a Georgian-Palladian spire, but the scale of the structure was so massive that money ran out, and all that was built was a tower and lantern section above the enormous two-story portico. Still, the lantern is among the highest church structures in the old city, and built atop a slope whose base stands more than six feet above Meeting Street, Second Presbyterian stands out clearly when viewing the city from the harbor or the Ravenel Bridge.

When constructed, the church lay outside the boundaries of the old city in what was then called “The Neck”. Situated equidistant from the city Guard House on Broad Street and the nine ammunition magazine buildings on Laurel Island along the Cooper River in 1827, the Second Presbyterian lantern was put into service for sending signals back and forth in replenishing ordnance and gunpowder from the neck to the city defenses.

It was also high enough to be used as a marker for mariners working their way up the Cooper River, and there are references to “Flinn’s Church” in 19th century maritime accounts. According the the 1882 city directory, Second Presbyterian was also known as Flinn’s Church, presumably because of its first pastor, Andrew Flinn.

The church is the 4th oldest in historic Charleston, and today adorns the beautiful Mazck-Wraggborough neighborhood north of Calhoun Street, where the streets are wide and quiet, and pleasant walks can be made under giant oaks and among fountains and flowers. Nearby are the famous Joseph Manigault House and the statuesque Fourth Tabernacle First Baptist Church.

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