2020 Preservation  Award Winner: Ebenezer Lutheran Chapel

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By: John Sherrer, Director of Cultural Resources

Cupola installation at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Columbia, S.C. Image courtesy of Ebenezer Church
Cupola installation at Ebenezer Lutheran Chapel. Image courtesy of Ebenezer Church

Each year, Historic Columbia presents Preservation Awards to celebrate the accomplishments of local property owners; professionals in the fields of architecture, construction and design; and leaders who champion preservation as an opportunity to support the Midlands’ economy and culture. These awards are given in the areas of Preservation Leadership, Preservation/Restoration, Adaptive Use and New Construction in a Historic Context.

The Ebenezer Lutheran Chapel Restoration and Cupola Installation 
1301 Richland Street 
Preservation/Restoration  

Owners: Ebenezer Lutheran Church 

Contractor: Don Blackstone 

Architect: Architectural Concepts

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Ebenezer Lutheran Church, ca. 1910. Image courtesy of Ebenezer Lutheran Church

The night of February 17, 1865 left the members of Ebenezer Lutheran Church with the grim prospect of replacing their place of worship. Like other buildings throughout downtown Columbia the Richland Street landmark was consumed in one of the fires that raged as Union forces briefly occupied the capital city. The unfortunate demise of their ca.-1830 sanctuary offered one congregant—Gustavus Theodore Berg—the unique opportunity to craft his vision for the church’s future. That vision came to fruition in 1870 with the completion of the congregation’s new $5,300 sanctuary. A well-known architect, Berg played a major role in much of the city’s post-Civil War rebuilding, in addition to the construction of the State House. Beyond Ebenezer’s distinguished new building, Berg contributed to his church in other ways, writing several volumes of sheet music for its liturgy. 

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Ebenezer Lutheran Church, ca. 1917. Image courtesy of Ebenezer Lutheran Church

Within three decades Berg’s design had fallen out of favor with Ebenezer’s members who extensively modified the church in 1900. Designed by the local architectural firm of Wilson and Edwards, this renovation involved adding two square towers, art glass and decorative brickwork to embellish the façade. Inside, a decorative pressed metal ceiling, among other elements, updated the sanctuary to reflect current interests. Although the ca.-1870 building ceased to be used as the primary place of worship after the construction of a Neo-Gothic church in 1930, this earlier, physical expression of the congregation’s faith remained a Richland Street landmark. 

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Congregants gather in the restored Ebenezer Chapel. Image courtesy of Ebenezer Lutheran Church.

Commitment to preserve this tangible link to congregations of yesteryear prompted current members to secure grant funding to reconstruct missing elements and restore character-defining details previously obscured by earlier renovations. Referencing historic photographs artisans reconstructed the twin towers’ missing cupolas, thus returning the building’s most notable exterior feature to its turn-of-the-century appearance. Inside, painters restored the sanctuary’s original four-color ceiling scheme—an aesthetic that had long been hidden. Thanks to these improvements, Ebenezer Chapel again inspires congregants and visitors who attend special services and events in this historic setting.

The 2020 Preservation Awards are made possible through our generous sponsors Boyer Commercial Construction, Brennan Works LLC, Columbia Development Corporation, Garvin Design Group, GBX Group LLC, Hood Construction Company, Inc., Lambert Architecture & Construction Services, Inc., PMC Property Group, Rogers-Lewis, 1x1 Design, Architrave, Inc., Cason Development Group, Honey River Catering, and Seed Architecture.