A Brief Historical Sketch of
Tucked on a peaceful corner between the Federal Courthouse and the Governor’s Complex, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church is a well-kept secret at the corner of Lincoln and Calhoun Streets in the Arsenal Hill neighborhood. St. Timothy’s is the third oldest Episcopal parish in Columbia, dating to 1892, when Columbians strolled through Sidney Park and traveled in trolley cars and horse-drawn carriages.
St. Timothy’s was founded as a mission to provide a Sunday School for the children of Arsenal Hill and began in one room with three children. They learned music and sewing, making and giving garments to the poor. The mission also offered cottage lectures and Sunday night lectures. As membership increased, St. Timothy’s moved in February 1893 to a renovated house on Lincoln Street. By 1895, the mission had purchased a lot on Lumber Street (now Calhoun) between Gates and Lincoln and built a chapel. St. Timothy’s grew rapidly with the completion of the chapel, which was later enlarged.
In February 1911, the chapel, free of debt, was consecrated by Bishop William Guerry. In May 1912, St. Timothy’s Mission was admitted into union with the Diocese of South Carolina. Church members then purchased a lot at Calhoun and Lincoln Streets with plans to move the chapel to this lot until a new church could be built. On the night of July 12, 1912, before it could be moved, the newly-improved chapel and all of its contents were destroyed by fire. Members met in close quarters until 1914 when the present-day church was completed, a year after its cornerstone was laid. The first service held on February 1, 1914. In 1943, St. Timothy’s Mission became a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and on January 2, 1944, it was consecrated. The wooden parish house behind the church burned in 1948, and the current brick parish house was dedicated on February 5, 1950, at a cost of $28,000. The Women of the Church purchased the lot behind the parish house at a cost of $2,000.
St. Timothy’s church building is constructed of granite in the Gothic style. It has been affectionately described as “an English country-gothic style of church – a simple, unadorned little jewel.” Two gardens complement the exterior of the church. The Seay Garden, adjacent to the parish house, was dedicated in 1982 to Edna Cannon Jacob Seay, a devoted member who was christened, confirmed, married, and buried from the church.
In 2006, Beckham Garden was designated an official Affiliate Quiet Garden and dedicated to the memory of The Rt. Rev. William A. Beckham, sixth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina and beloved friend and supporter of St. Timothy’s, by Bishop Dorsey Henderson. The Quiet Garden movement was begun by Philip Roderick, an Anglican priest working in the Diocese of Oxford, England, and nurtures low cost, accessible, outdoor space for prayer, contemplation, rest and inspiration in a variety of settings, such as private homes, churches, schools, prisons, and hospitals all over the world. Beckham Garden was the first and only Affiliate Quiet Garden in South Carolina. The centerpiece of Beckham Garden is the Rodgers Fountain, given in memory of founding members John Bryan Rodgers and Hattie Radcliffe Rodgers and their children Annetta, William, Susie, and John.
The beauty of the building’s interior is enhanced by its fifteen stained glass windows, designed and constructed by Mayer Studios in Munich, Germany and installed by Nicholas Wager of New York City. Mayer Studios has stained-glass installations all over the world, primarily in Ireland, England, New Zealand, and the United States. Only a few churches in South Carolina have Mayer windows, and St. Timothy’s is the only church in the midlands area. The large stained glass window above the Altar was given by the Women of the Church in memory of loved ones. The twelve windows in the nave depict the life of Christ, beginning with the annunciation of the Virgin Mary and ending with the Resurrection. These windows were given as memorials by various individuals and families. Both the large window over the Altar and the twelve smaller windows were dedicated on January 25, 1959. In 1974, two large stained-glass windows were installed in the transepts of the church, depicting the Ascension of Christ and Christ and the Children. Both were dedicated on January 26, 1975.
The sanctuary’s brass work includes the large Altar cross, the brass pulpit which carries the monogram for Christ, and the brass lectern in the shape of an eagle, the symbol of St. John Wooden furnishings include the Baptismal font and the walnut cradle, used to rock newly christened babies and welcome them into the congregation in the early days of the church.
In 1895, a pedal organ was acquired for the original chapel, and Miss Grace Gibson served as the first organist. This organ was destroyed in the 1912 fire, along with all other furnishings. The first pipe organ was installed in 1924, a Moeller Op. 4543, that was secured from Trinity Mission in Olympia. It was a 2-manual pipe organ with nine ranks of pipes, mixture, and tremulant. It was later given to Resurrection Lutheran Church on Moss Avenue, and St. Timothy’s purchased the current Wicks organ in 1963. It is a 2-manual organ with 14 ranks of pipes, two mixtures, and tremulant.
St. Timothy’s has often been called the “Governors’ Church.” Because of its proximity to the Governor’s Mansion, many sitting governors, including Governors Richard W. Riley, Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. and Marshall Clement (Mark) Sanford, Jr. frequently walked down Lincoln Street and worshipped here.
In 2018, the beautiful crepe myrtle that is the anchor on the Calhoun Street side was recognized as a Treasured Tree by the City of Columbia.
As Arsenal Hill has lost its residential character, St. Timothy’s has changed with the times. No longer a neighborhood parish, its current members hail from all areas of greater Columbia. While some are third and fourth generation members, most are not. They remain united in St. Timothy’s mission of outreach and service. One of the significant ministries of the church is assisting those within in the shadow of its steeple, particularly the homeless. St. Timothy’s continues to be a vital part of the Arsenal Hill neighborhood and the City of Columbia, providing a respite for worship and contemplation while also serving those in need within and beyond its doors.
• Long-term contributions to the Arsenal Hill neighborhood
• Country Gothic architectural style
• 15 stained glass windows created by Mayer Studios in Munich, Germany and installed by Nicholas Wagner of New York City
• Beckham and Seay Gardens
• “Governors’ Church”
• First and only affiliate Quiet Garden in SC
St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
Founded in 1892 as a Sunday School for the children of Arsenal Hill and third oldest Episcopal Church in the city, the original chapel was destroyed by fire in 1912. The cornerstone for the current Gothic-style church was laid in 1913. The sanctuary contains stained glass windows created by Mayer Studios in Munich, Germany. Beckham Garden, adjacent to the sanctuary, is the only Affiliate Quiet Garden in SC.