This chapel sits within the 55-acre Bethany Cemetery north of the Charleston peninsula and adjacent to historic Magnolia Cemetery. Owned and maintained by St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, the land was purchased by the church in 1856 when its first cemetery on Reid Street – called Hampstedt Cemetery – reached capacity during a yellow fever outbreak.
Hampstedt Cemetery was sold at auction and divided into lots in the 1930s when assessments were not paid for a street paving project. When the Charleston Housing Authority purchased the Hampstedt Cemetery property in 1981, the department had no idea the land contained human remains. After it begun site-preparation work, the graves were discovered, and the Housing Authority relocated 437 graves to Bethany Cemetery in 2009.
Though Bethany Cemetery is affiliated with the Lutheran congregation, people of all denominations are interred at the cemetery. The cemetery is known for its Victorian-era funerary art, as seen on its headstones and monuments.
Receiving Tomb – Bethany Cemetery
The receiving tomb, seen above and below, stands close to the chapel at Bethany. Many historic cemeteries had these, but rarely are they still intact. Before the days of refrigerated storage, deceased people were stored in these masonry tombs while their burial plot was prepared and families gathered. The materials used to build these structures promoted a cooler environment in which the decomposition process would in theory slow until the body could be properly interred.
More Pictures – Bethany Cemetery