In The News

April 8, 2020 – From WYFF4

Historic South Carolina church steeple renovation moves forward using COVID-19 safety precautions

It’s quiet inside the 160-year-old Trinity Episcopal Church in Abbeville, South Carolina.

The historic John Baker Tracker organ — silent for two decades.

But outside, construction noise filled the streets as the structure’s steeple was straightened Wednesday.

“When George Walker designed this place, that steeple was the tallest structure in South Carolina outside of Charleston and Columbia. And we suspect probably the whole South East — 125-foot-tall — and it represented the sense of Christian aspiration looking upward to heaven,” said Michael Bendenbaugh, executive director of Preservation South Carolina, the only statewide organization tasked with preserving historic locations across the Palmetto State since 1990.

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Restoring Glory to Trinity


Phase One of Trinity's restoration project has begun! After months of due diligence and consulting multiple engineers, Preservation SC, with the help of Meadors Inc. from Charleston, has signed with restoration specialists Midwest Maintenance of Augusta, GA to begin work repairing the sanctuary roof, replacing the internal gutter system, replicating and replacing the crenellations on the north parapet wall, and stabilizing the steeple of the 1860 structure. The National Fund for Sacred Places in Philadelphia has announced that Trinity was one of only 10 churches in the US to receive a $250,000 stabilization grant! Preserve SC, with the help of Friends of Trinity Abbeville, are now tasked with raising the $500,000 match necessary to lift, straighten and replace the foundational timbers supporting the iconic 125 foot tall steeple. Make Your Donation Today!

A Place in Peril

Trinity’s iconic 125-foot steeple, the tallest structure in town, is in danger of future collapse due to the growing rot in the wooden supports imbedded in the masonry walls causing it to lean significantly. The originally designed internal gutter system is failing allowing water intrusion into the sanctuary destroying the interior plaster. The exterior Portland cement coating installed in the 1970s is peeling off taking the original plaster and mortar with it.  For an economically challenged town of 5,000, whose businesses depend heavily on heritage tourism, the loss of Trinity as a popular visitor attraction will be catastrophic. For safety reasons, Trinity is now shuttered and closed until the steeple can be stabilized.

Trinity Church of Abbeville is one of the most important architectural treasures in South Carolina and its future depends on an intensive  stabilization project.

As South Carolina's only statewide nonprofit preservation organization, Preservation South Carolina, is overseeing the fundraising drive and restoration of the sanctuary. Getting the steeple stabilized is a priority so that the church will be safe for the congregation to return to the sanctuary for worship. Help us in our mission to Restore Trinity!

The Restoration Plan

Preservation South Carolina is working with Friends of Trinity Abbeville in-order to raise the funds necessary to embark on a five-year, $3 million restoration. Meadors, Inc., of Charleston, SC, has completed a comprehensive conditions assessment and outlined a phased restoration plan. Meadors, winner of multiple preservation awards from the Preservation South Carolina, The Preservation Society, and the City of Charleston, will develop the scope of work and specifications for the restoration. Help support the restoration of this historic treasure which, as a top tourist attraction, contributes significantly to the economy of Abbeville.

Donate To Trinity of Abbeville Restoration Fund!

Help Save a Piece of Sacred History – When you donate to Preservation SC's Friends of Trinity Fund you will help rehabilitate, stabilize, secure and restore the church structure in order to give it back to the congregation and the surrounding community.

Prefer to Mail Your Donation? Make checks payable to Preservation South Carolina. Please include for "Sacred Spaces Restore Trinity Fund".

PO Box 448
Abbeville, SC 29620

SC Public Radio: Restoring Abbeville’s Trinity Church
Thank you SC Public Radio for featuring Trinity of Abbeville! Read or Listen now to learn about Trinity’s restoration journey and our goals for the future.

South Carolina is famous for many of its structures, especially the houses of worship that dot the varied landscape of the Palmetto State. The existence of many of these structures go back over a hundred years or more. But, whether grand and ornate, or small and simple, they all require a regular amount of maintenance. However, some of those houses of worship have fallen into disrepair due to dwindling membership, or a lack of finances, causing those structures to become at risk of possibly being lost and forgotten forever.

Michael Bedenbaugh, Executive Director of Preservation South Carolina, and Bill Fitzpatrick, author of the book Sacred Spaces, have joined forces to help communities save those endangered sacred spaces that are at risk of being lost. Right now, their focus is on the town of Abbeville, SC. At the heart of the community rises the iconic 125-foot tall steeple of Trinity Episcopal Church. Its construction was envisioned by renowned South Carolina architect George E. Walker of Columbia, who is also known for his work on the South Carolina Statehouse, as well as the Governor’s Mansion.

Read the Full Article and Listen to the Interview

Restore Trinity is a Project of Preservation South Carolina