It started out as one copy Bill Fitzpatrick had printed for his own coffee table.
But when his wife and friends saw how beautifully it told the stories of some of South Carolina’s disappearing historic churches, they encouraged him “to do something with it.”
“These are the places, these churches, that can tell the story of our state,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Through the temples and churches and the forgotten places, there is the story of South Carolina.”
All those places, all those stories are condensed down to 264 pages. Eventually, he showed the book to fellow historic preservation enthusiast Mike Bedenbaugh with the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation.
“[I said] ‘It’s all yours. I don’t want a profit by this. I’ve already received everything that I could possibly want in life with this journey. Could you use this? Could we use the profits to save some of these rural churches that could otherwise be forgotten?'” Fitzpatrick described the conversation.
Fitzpatrick’s journey to the state’s disappearing sacred spaces started when he sold his company and had four years to kill before he could work again. His wife told him he could not spend the time sitting around the house.
“I thought, ‘well, I’ll grab my camera and go out and sharpen my photography skills,'” he said. “It became kind of a one-man journey. Over the course of four years I ended up finding a better way to travel among our state’s historic landmarks.”
Fitzpatrick published E-books for other travelers to find the historic sites he visited. Then something hit him:
“It was absolutely the churches and the temples that resonated among my travels of tens of thousands of miles,” he said. “I’d look at these forgotten structures that have so much history and I thought, ‘I have to go back and focus on the churches. . . that’s where the origins of my church interest came is from the greater journey among the landmarks and then seeing these beautiful and forgotten places, in many respects, and I thought, ‘I have to go back and spend more time with them.'”
Fitzpatrick said it was difficult to narrow down about 600 options to 75 for the book. He did not just take photos and document the history of the churches; he attended services and met the remaining members who still attend. Some churches have less than a dozen members.
“I really began to love the photographs and the really rural churches that have been forgotten,” Fitzpatrick said. “The evocative places that we all pass when we get off the main roads to, say, Fairfield County or McCormick County or Georgetown County. We see the place. It resonates and we want to know more about it even as a casual traveler. And those are the ones I was drawn to.”
Fitzpatrick said his “passion” going forward for the next 10 to 20 years is helping save many old churches otherwise destined to be forgotten.
“I’m pleased to be working with Mike Bedenbaugh to try to make a difference with some of these sacred spaces in the state,” he said.
Click here to order your copy of South Carolina’s Sacred Spaces. Fitzpatrick is also giving lectures throughout the state. Click here for a schedule.