Charleston, South Carolina, has so much history and so many places to see that it’s mind boggling. To provide visitors with a little bit of Masonic history we offer a “Masonic Walking Tour of Charleston.” It starts at the Lodge Alley Inn located on East Bay Street and ends at St. Michael’s church at Ill. Frederick Dalcho’s grave.
Point A: Lodge Alley
Paved in Belgian blocks, the alley was created by
adjacent landowners to allow access from their homes on State Street to their ships and docks one block away on East Bay Street. It takes its name from the Lodge of Freemasons, first established in the alley in 1773. Lodge Alley is located in an area of the old walled city of Charleston where the French Huguenots once had warehouses and dwellings.
It was at Marine Lodge No. 38 that Charlestonians openly defied the British government before the Revolutionary War. On November 7, 1774, as a means of protesting the harsh treatment shown to Boston, Charleston’s Liberty Boys met in the Masonic lodge-room and constructed a“rolling stage” or parade float. Upon it effigies of the Pope, the Devil, Lord North ‘Prime Minister of Great Britain,’ and Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts were displayed. The appearance of the float came at the end of a three-day period known as Charleston’s “TeaParty,” equally important as Boston’s symbol of defiance to British oppression.
(As you exit Lodge Alley, turn to your left on State Street, walk to the next block, Queen Street, turn to your right, and walk halfway down the block to Philadelphia Alley.)
Point B: Philadelphia Alley
This was originally named Kinloch Court but changed to Philadelphia Alley in 1810 by William Johnson who owned much of the property in the vicinity. He renamed it Philadelphia Street in admiration of the city where he had been held as aprisoner during the Revolutionary War.
This historic street is much the same as it was when first built. About one-third of the way down the street look, upto your left and you will see aview of the steeple of St. Philip’s church over the brick wall. Also see if you can spot the rock in the street with the outline of a metal carriage wheel etched on it.
(As you exit the street turn to your left on Cumberland Street, go to Church Street and turn left again.)
Point C: St. Philip’s Church
St. Philip’s church was first erected at the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets between the years 1681 and 1682. The building was constructed of black cypress with a brick foundation and was usually referred to as the “English Church.”
As Charles Town evolved into a prosperous colonial city, the need for a new church grew. As early as 1711 the Assembly authorized “a new church built of brick with atower or steeple, and a ring of bells therein.” A decade later the brick church was still incomplete. The Assembly passed another bill in December 1720, which empowered the Commissioners to determine what the church would look like. To raise the money for this church, the bill also called for “An additional duty of three pence per gallon to be laid on rum, and five pence per gallon on brandy and other spirits.”
On December 27, 1762, and again in December 1784Right Rev. Robert Smith presented to the Masons of Charles-Town aMasonic sermon that he called “Charity Sermon for the Masons No. 100.” This sermon is the earliest documented Masonic sermon of its kind presented in Charles-Town. Right Rev. Smith established the College of Charleston and the Society for the Widows and Orphans of the Clergy, which still exist today.
Rev. Frederick Dalcho, M.D., 33°, one of the founders of the Mother Supreme Council in 1801 and its second Grand Commander, was a member of the Society for the Widows and Orphans of the Clergy. On Christmas Day,1805, he and Mary Elizabeth Threadcraft were married in St. Philip’s Church. During the summer months of 1814 Bro. Dalcho officiated at the church as rector.
In the graveyard of St. Philip’s church you will find the grave of Ill. Brother James Moultrie, Sr., 33°, another founder of the Supreme Council.
(As you leave St. Philip’s church head towards the intersection of Broad and Church Street.)
Point D: Corner of Broad and Church Street Site of Brother Charles Shepheard’s Tavern, also known at various times as Swallow’s Tavern, the City Tavern,and the Corner Tavern. Many important Masonic events occurred here, including the organization of Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, F.&A.M., and of the Mother Supreme Council in 1801.
The first record of atheatrical season in Charleston, and one of the first in the country, was announced in the South Carolina Gazette of January 11, 1735. A tragedy called The Orphan, or the Unhappy Marriage, by Thomas Otway, would be presented in the “Courtroom.” The courtroom was the long room of Shepheard’s Tavern, which was rented for several years prior to 1738 to the provincial government for meetings of the court, since the province had no suitable building because the Governor and Council could not agree on where one should be built. The use of the same room for court sessions and entertainment was not unusual.
Shepheard’s Tavern was also one of the city’s post offices. In 1773, the first Chamber of Commerce in America was formed there, and banquets were given for arriving Royal Governors. The St. Andrew’s Society and other fraternal organizations in the city held their meetings and dinners at Shepheard’s. After the name changed to the Corner Tavern, it hosted meetings of the Sons of Liberty during the Revolutionary period. The tavern building was demolished in 1928 for the construction of the classic-style Citizens and Southern Bank. It is now a private office building.
As you stand onthis corner try to imagine what it must have looked like back in 1801, when the Supreme Council held its first meeting. The streets were made of dirt,there were no traffic lights, power lines did not exist, and no cars travelled up and down the streets.
(When leaving Broad and Church Street go towards Meeting Street to St. Michael’s Church)
Point E: St. Michael’s Church St. Michael’s church was completed in 1761 and is the oldest church edifice in Charleston. It was built on this same spot as the first St. Philip’s Church. The clock and ring of eight bells in St. Michael’s steeple were imported in 1764 from England. When George Washington toured through Charleston in 1791, he attended church services at St. Michael’s. During 1811–1812, Ill. Frederick Dalcho and his wife owned pew number 89.
St. Michael’s church has a rich Masonic history. Bro. Frederick Dalcho was the Assistant Rector and superintendent of the Sunday school children. Following a number of part-time associations with St. Michael’s, he was retained as an assistant minister on February 23, 1819. In 1824 he and others established The Charleston Gospel Messenger and Protestant Episcopal Register,a monthly journal of the Church’s activities. His monumental accomplishment at this time was An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the first published history of any diocese in America.
After the installation of the Grand Lodge officers, a procession was formed and paraded to St. Michael’s church where Bro. Dalcho, Grand Chaplain, delivered the Divine Service. His sermon was based on John 12:36, “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” Dalcho remarked in his sermon that Free-Masonry, like the Religion of the Redeemer, is eminently calculated to dispense “peace on earth, and good will towards men.”And if the moral and religious state of the community in which it flourishes, be not increased and refined by its influence, it must be charged to the perversity of the Brotherhood, and not to the principles of the Institution. The general application of its principles and practice to the spiritual and temporal welfare of men cannot be doubted. It binds its members by the strongest sanctions,“to do justly, tolove mercy, to walk humbly before God;” and to “love the Brotherhood.”
Ill. Bro. Frederick Dalcho, M.D. and his wife are buried in the graveyard of this historic churchyard. His grave marker preserves his life’s accomplishments: “Assistant Minister\Of St. Michael’s Church\Historian of the Diocese\Sovereign Grand Commander\1816–1822\ Of The Supreme Council, 33°\ A.A.S.R. Of Freemasonry\Southern Jurisdiction\U.S.A.”
(The “Masonic Walk” ends here.)