South Carolina Picture Project
South Carolina Picture Project

Central Baptist Church — Charleston, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Charleston County  |  Central Baptist Church

Adopt A South Carolina Landmark
Central Baptist Church

This iconic Carpenter Gothic church was built in 1893 and is thought to be the first black church in Charleston both founded and constructed by African-Americans. Central Baptist Church was organized in 1891 by members from Morris Brown AME Church, another nearby black church. The congregation of Central Baptist Church employed African-American architect John P. Hutchinson to design its edifice, now a fixture of Charleston’s landscape.

Central Baptist Church

John Diskes of Summerville, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Aside from the bell tower, the church is a meeting house-style building with Gothic-style arched windows. The bell tower was originally octagonal, but it was replaced in 1950 with the current square tower. The octagonal belfry is capped with a dome and cross. Probably the most eye-catching exterior feature of the church is the phrase, Jesus Saves, painted on the tower in block letters.

The church’s interior is even more memorable. The walls and ceiling are painted in murals depicting scenes of the life of Christ by Calcutta, India native Amohamed Milai. Members of the congregation met Milai in 1912 during a South Carolina Missionary Baptist Education convention in Greenville. Milai had recently converted to Christianity, and he bartered with the church for a scaffold and room and board for his family in exchange for the mural, which he completed in 1915. Today the murals are considered an important piece of folk art and were restored in 2002.

Though the church was damaged during Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the building was repaired. The church remains active, and its historic sanctuary is open to the public.

Central Baptist Church is a National Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register:

Central Baptist Church (ca. 1893) is significant in terms of black history and folk art. Locally, it is thought to be one of the first black churches to have been founded and built solely by blacks in Charleston. The church was founded in 1891 by a group from Morris Street Baptist Church, an older church in Charleston. Two years later the present structure was completed and first used by the congregation in August 1893. During its first 20 years the church grew and this growth is reflected in the addition of the notable murals of 1915. The church is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic vernacular style of architecture. Outstanding features of this church which are indicative of the style and period are the central double doors with protective hood above, octagonal belfry and dome, tower window with plate tracery, interior gallery on three sides, and Milai frescoes and murals depicting scenes of the life of Christ, signed by the artist Amohamed Milai in 1915. The gable roof is covered with standing seam tin and the boxed cornice features decorative brackets. The Adult Education Building to the right of the church is a typical Victorian “single house” of the period and is included within the nominated acreage.

Central Baptist Church Info

Address: 26 Radcliffe Street, Charleston, SC 29403
GPS Coordinates: 32.788474,-79.940592

Central Baptist Church Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you enjoy this page? Do you have any information we should add? Send us your comments below — we can't wait to hear from you!

2 Comments about Central Baptist Church

SC Picture Project says:
October 30th, 2018 at 8:29 pm

Thank you for sharing your connection, we bet your visit in the spring will bring back a ton of memories, we hope you enjoy it!

October 30th, 2018 at 3:04 pm

My father, Rev O St Clair Franklin, Sr was pastor of Central Baptist Church is the 50s. I only remember the murals but will travel to Charleston this spring and visit the church.


Join Us on Facebook
Search for Landmarks


Abbeville ACE Basin Adams Run Aiken Alcolu Allendale Anderson Awendaw Bamberg Banks Barns & Farms Barnwell Batesburg-Leesville Beaches Beaufort Beech Island Belton Bennettsville Bishopville Blackville Bluffton Bridges Bygone Landmarks Camden Carnegie Libraries Cayce Cemeteries Charleston Charleston Navy Base Cheraw Chester Chesterfield Churches Clemson Clinton Clio Colleges Columbia Conway Cordesville Courthouses Darlington Daufuskie Island Denmark Dillon Donalds Easley Edgefield Edisto Elloree Erhardt Eutawville Fairfax Florence Folly Beach Forests and Nature Preserves Fort Mill Fountain Inn Gaffney Garden City Beach Georgetown Glenn Springs Graniteville Great Falls Greeleyville Greenville Greenwood Greer Hamburg Hampton Hardeeville Hartsville Hemingway Hilton Head Historical Photos Historic Houses Holly Hill Honea Path Hopkins Hotels & Inns Huger Hunting Island Isle of Palms Jails James Island Jamestown Johns Island Johnsonville Johnston Kiawah Island Kingstree Lake City Lake Marion Lakes Lancaster Landrum Latta Laurens Lexington Libraries Lighthouses Little River Lowndesville Manning Marion McClellanville McCormick Military Mills Moncks Corner Mountains Mount Carmel Mount Pleasant Mullins Murrells Inlet Myrtle Beach National Register Newberry Ninety Six North Augusta North Charleston North Myrtle Beach Orangeburg Pacolet Parks Pawleys Island Pendleton Pickens Piers Pinewood Pinopolis Plantations Pomaria Port Royal Post Offices Prosperity Ravenel Restaurants Ridgeland Ridge Spring Ridgeway Rivers Roadside Oddities Robert Mills Rock Hill Rockville Rosenwald Schools Salters Saluda Santee Savannah River Site SC Artists SC Heroes of the Alamo Schools Seneca Shrimp Boats Society Hill Spartanburg Sports Springs St. George St. Helena Island St. Matthews Stateburg Stores Sullivan's Island Summerton Summerville Sumter Sunset Sunsets Synagogues Town Clocks Trains & Depots Trees Trenton Troy Turbeville Ulmer Union Wadmalaw Island Walhalla Walterboro Ware Shoals Waterfalls Water Towers Wedgefield West Columbia Westminster Winnsboro Woodruff Yemassee York