Historic Campbell Chapel AME Church

Visit Old Town Bluffton’s oldest surviving church.

Photo by Glenn Hanna

The charming and beautifully maintained Campbell Chapel AME Church sits proudly on Bluffton’s Boundary Street. It is the oldest sanctuary in Old Town Bluffton. The modest Greek Revival style church was constructed in 1853 as the Bluffton Methodist Church. The church was acquired by the African Methodist Episcopal congregation for $500 in 1874. The cast iron bell that still hangs in the cupola was installed by the new congregation. The bell is stamped with “B.N. & C.in 0” on the yolk. It was produced by Blymyer Norton & Company, which made bells from 1867-1873. The historic one-story church has a three-bay façade with a double-door entry flanked by two windows. The front portico is supported by four tapered square columns.

The church is covered in board and batten siding that was probably applied during the 1874 renovation by the new owners. A 9’6’’ cupola sits on the roof ridge above the front portico. The wing on the right side was a 1966 addition.

Campbell AME Church is significant for its ties to the Bluffton African American community during and after Reconstruction. Nine freedmen purchased the building in 1874. Several of the founders were farmers who prospered in the years following the war.  Once purchased, the new congregation altered the building and made improvements that made the building distinctly their own. During Reconstruction, the church served as a church, school, and outreach for the greater community. The church stands as a reminder of the way Bluffton’s freedmen formed a new society in the aftermath of the Civil War. Their changes to the church reflect the booming local economy and the desire to update the building to keep up with new construction in the area.

 According to the 2018 National Register of Historic Places application, “The building represents the history of a people anxious to start a new life of freedom and demonstrate a successful start to that new life through the purchase and modification of this church building. Through the safe environment that this church provided, African Americans in late 19th century Bluffton were educated, formed a community structure, and assumed their place in American society.”

A new, modern worship center was constructed just next door in 2004. This state-of-the-art building has a fellowship hall and sanctuary complete with a balcony. The original church is still functional and in use. For more information on attractions in the South Carolina Lowcountry visit southcarolinalowcountry.com.

Historic Campbell Chapel AME Church
23 Boundary St, Bluffton, SC 29910


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