Church of the Nativity

1859 –

Located in Union, the Church of the Nativity (consecrated in 1859) is a remarkably effective example of the “Ecclesiological” architectural style favored by the Episcopal Church in America and the Anglican Communion throughout the world in the 1840s and 1850s.

(Union). Located in Union, the Church of the Nativity (consecrated in 1859) is a remarkably effective example of the “Ecclesiological” architectural style favored by the Episcopal Church in America and the Anglican Communion throughout the world in the 1840s and 1850s. John D. McCollough, its rector, served as supervising architect for the small upstate church, using plans of St. Anne’s, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, obtained from the New York architectural firm of Wills & Dudley. Frank Wills was an English Ecclesiologist architect whose success designing churches in Fredericton had led him to set up a mail-order practice in church designs and interior furnishings in 1848.

Ecclesiologists, strongly influenced by the Oxford movement with its emphasis on sacrament and mystery, insisted on a return to architectural models of the late Middle Ages (a style that they called “Second Point Gothic”) for nineteenth-century Anglican churches. Their proposed designs emphasized pointed arches and windows, stone construction, flying buttresses, recessed chancels, and stained glass. The Church of the Nativity, the first stone Episcopal church in the state, had them all and an unusual bellcote as well.

The church, funded primarily by wealthy members of the congregation, cost about $16,000. McCollough carved its bishop’s chair, rector’s chair, altar rails, lecterns, and pews. When the church was consecrated, The Southern Episcopalian (October 1859) called it “an exquisite gem,” a judgment reflected by its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Bainbridge, Judith T. “Building the Walls of Jerusalem”: John DeWitt McCollough and His Churches. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 2000.

Pearson, Lennart. “The Church of the Nativity and the Frank Wills Connection.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 100 (July 1999): 241–54.

Thomas, Albert Sidney. A Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, 1820–1957. Columbia, S.C.: R. L. Bryan, 1957.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Church of the Nativity
  • Coverage 1859 –
  • Author
  • Keywords Union, Ecclesiological, architectural style,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date August 9, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 10, 2019
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