By Grace Nichols for The Island Eye News
The AME Church on Sullivan’s Island, which used to be located on Central, opened during the 1800s. It is a rich part of the island’s liturgical history. “It was a beautiful sanctuary,” said Alice Ravenell, the church’s former secretary, as she recalled the red carpet that lined the old white wooden building. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed in 1989 during Hurricane Hugo, but out of the rubble following the storm stood two church pews that at the time were purchased by Jimmy Carroll, the mayor of Isle of Palms. Carroll felt that “it was the right thing to do” when deciding to donate the pews to Battery Gadsden Cultural Center when they otherwise may have gone to waste. Once they found their new home in Battery Gadsden, the pews were restored there by two Sullivan’s Island natives Clarence McLauren, who once attended the church with his family, and Hal Coste, another longtime resident. Coste noted there was some rot on the legs of the church pews. After about a week of work, in which the duo “reconditioned them and repainted them,” they were back to their original condition. One of the pews’ most notable qualities is the beautiful leaflike detailing on the sides. “We want to honor the ancestors of the church,” continued Coste, when asked about the main purpose of the project.
The Battery Gadsden Cultural Center has plans to put bass plaques on the pews dedicating them to the families that were part of the church. Moreover, the restoration of the pews serves as an avenue to help preserve and commemorate a memento of Sullivan’s Island’s history.