Historic church can now be enjoyed by all again

info@islandpacket.comNovember 26, 2013 

A new historical marker in downtown Beaufort is an appropriate addition to the recently restored mother church of Catholicism in this area.

St. Peter's Catholic Church is to be commended for carefully restoring its original church building, long after it moved to larger quarters on Lady's Island.

The older church, built in 1846 and now restored, helps tell the story of Beaufort, along with the tombstones outside.

It is a story of immigration, perseverance by people outside the mainstream of society, religious tolerance, war, education, prayer, art, interesting personalities, the influx of the military, an evolving economy, craftsmanship, and mighty acts of God in the form of hail, wind and flood.

The historical marker, unveiled last week, says it is the oldest Catholic church in the county, built and given to the diocese by Michael O'Connor, a native of County Cork, Ireland, who migrated to Beaufort in 1822 when Irishmen were looked down upon nationally.

During Union occupation in the Civil War, the church was used by Abolitionists as a school for formerly enslaved children.

In 1988, when the parish moved to a 30-acre campus on Lady's Island, the historic church was used as a house of prayer with someone there praying around the clock, every day of the year.

In 2006, when it became known that some rehabilitation work was needed, a full restoration was begun by preservation contractor Beekman Webb and parishioner and architect Rob Montgomery. It now looks as close as anyone can make it to the original Greek Revival church on Carteret Street.

Special thanks go the parishioners, and all who contributed to this project. They have given the community a great gift. The church is once again open for special services, small weddings and funerals, and free tours.

This comes at a time that the Port Royal Elementary School is seeking to become part of the National Register of Historic Places.

And it coincides with a similar effort for a historical marker at Beth Israel Synagogue, 401 Scott St. The synagogue, completed in 1908, has gained National Historic Register recognition. A marker and dedication are planned.

The Catholic church and the synagogue are important foundations for the community, and it is good to see them being appreciated.

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