The “Old Church” and Cupola Restoration Project
Early Days of Ebenezer
Ebenezer Lutheran Church, the first Lutheran congregation in Columbia, was founded in 1830 by fourteen members. Their first structure was destroyed by fire during the Civil War. However, a group of northern Lutherans provided funds to rebuild, and the brick “Old Church” was erected in 1870.
The Ebenezer Chapel, as it is known today, was designed by G.T. Berg, an architect recently emigrated from Germany. In 1856, Berg was brought to Columbia by John Niernsee to assist in the design for the State House, then being built. Berg remained a member of Ebenezer until his death.
The Chapel Through the Years
In 1900, a major renovation was completed that added the extraordinary stained glass windows, an intricate pressed-metal ceiling painted in four colors, and the interior walls were finished in pearl gray.
In 1931, the congregation outgrew the Chapel, which seats about 210 people. It was last used as a formal sanctuary in 1931, when the new Gothic church at the corner of Sumter and Richland was completed.
In 1948, the Old Church was renovated to become a Fellowship Hall, and in the 1960s, the Old Church became a coffee house for young adult members of Ebenezer Lutheran Church. In 1970, the Old Church was remodeled into a senior citizen’s center for use by the senior community through 1987.
Rededication of the Chapel
In 1993, Ebenezer Lutheran Church rededicated and restored the Old Church as a Chapel. The restoration was designed to make the Chapel useful while incorporating the original charm of the building. Air conditioning was added along with reproductions of the original hardware used on the doors. A new Communion rail, two chancel chairs, and the original Baptismal font also were added.
Since 1993, the Chapel has served as a more intimate setting for weddings, funerals, and special services, including the Wednesday 12:10 P.M. Services, Wednesday Evening Lenten Services, the Healing Service, the Epiphany Service, the annual Hospice Memorial Service, GraceWorks, and our children’s programs.
Restoring the “Old Church”
In 2016, a postcard of the original Ebenezer Lutheran Church was discovered in the Ebenezer Archives. For the first time in our generation, it was understood that the original design by G.T. Berg featured cupolas reaching up to the heavens from each of the towers that flank the Palladian windows of the Chapel.
In 2016, Ebenezer Lutheran Church was awarded a generous grant by the Richland County Conservation Commission to restore the cupolas that once existed on Ebenezer Lutheran Church.
On February 19, 2017, Ebenezer Lutheran Church hosted a gathering to celebrate the installation of the finished cupolas on the Chapel towers. The pieces were trucked in on flat bed trucks in 4 pieces plus 2 beautiful crosses and 2 cranes. Nothing says you are a thriving and growing church like construction barriers! Parishioners, workmen, and community members all gathered together to witness the installation of these beautiful, renewed pieces of historic architecture. As the service began, Pastor Mel lead the group in prayer and the cranes rose into the air with the cupolas topped by the crosses. As the first cupola was raised a crowd of 50 spontaneously sang, “Lift High The Cross.” Ebenezer’s “Old Church” is restored to its original beauty, all to the Glory of God.
Please enjoy the video above of this celebration of Ebenezer’s rich history in downtown Columbia.