Trinity Church. Abbeville, SC, dates from 1842 with the construction of a small wooden building. In 1858, the growing and more afﬂuent congregation decided to build a larger and ﬁner structure. Architect George Edward Walker of Columbia, who had also worked on the state capitol building, was inspired by the advocacy of Gothic Architecture by the New York Ecclesiological Society of which his mentor Edward Brickell White was a member. It was that society’s intention to create a more Christian Architecture for the 19th-century American landscape, one that soared to the heavens and uplifted the soul.
While Walker was working under EB White, White visited Richard Upjohn in New York to see firsthand the construction of Upjohn’s Gothic masterpiece, Trinity Wall Street. This inspired White (with a young Walker by his side) to construct the first true Gothic Churches in SC: The Hugeunot Church in Charleston and Grace Episcopal. This also led to a cooperative spirit where Upjohn and White togetjher designed the buildings of Graniteville in the Carpenter Gothic Style.
Though we have yet to find any correspondance between Walker and Upjohn (many of Walkers papers were lost in the 1960s), we don’t think it a coincidence that when Walker designed Trinity of Abbeville, he uitilized the same vendors used by Upjohn in NY:
- The organ commission was awarded to John Baker, who had helped install the Henry Erben organ in Trinity Wall Street
- Trinity’s Chancel window was built by William Gibson of NJ, who also installed windows in Trinity Wall Street.
When Walker first met with the leadership of Trinity of Abbeville to discuss the new ediface they wanted to build, the congregation was only 26 people. We are confident that Walker used the image of Trinity Wall Street and his connections to that church to inspire the small congregation in a small muddy street town of back country South Carolina, where almost all buildings were wooden framed, to construct a massive masonry structure that could accomadate almost 400 persons under a steeple that was the tallest in rural SC.
It also isn’t a coincidence that the Episcopal Diocese of SC in 1858 was led by Bishop Christopher Gadsden, who also happened to be the only South Carolinian to be a patron in the NY Ecclesiological Society when it was formed in 1851.