1720 Sumter Street1720 Sumter Street
By the 1820s or 1830s, First Presbyterian Church purchased this land and built a two-story lecture hall, which ministered by white and Black congregants on different floors. In 1838, the church officially organized the Sabbath School for Colored People as a separate but affiliated component of the white First Presbyterian Church, which continued to meet at this site. In 1860, the church appointed white seminary student George Whitfield Ladson to minister to the congregation, which included 34 Black members. Ladson continued in this role until his death in 1864. The lecture hall burned in the 1865 fire, and after the Civil War First Presbyterian built a chapel for its Black members on the same site, named Ladson Memorial Chapel in honor of the late young minister. The Ladson congregation severed its ties with First Presbyterian in 1874 and two years later named Mack Johnson as its first Black pastor. Born into slavery in Fairfield County, Johnson had recently received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Howard University. He served as pastor until his death in 1921.
In 1895, an arsonist burned the church’s sanctuary, but by then plans were already underway to build a new structure for $8,000. Completed in 1896, this Romanesque Revival was designed by architect D.G. Zeigler. In 1940, brick towers replaced the original wooden pyramidal towers and a belfry.