The Renaissance Foundation to host open house to celebrate centennial celebration

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Pictured Historic Bethal AME Church in Columbia, SC

Columbia, S.C. – The Renaissance Foundation of South Carolina will host the centennial celebration of Historic Bethel with an open house event on Wednesday, May 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1526 Sumter Street, Columbia, S.C. The open house will also feature Michael Allen, Founder & CEO of MOA Architecture, Inc, Greenville, SC, who will design a new interior space for the structure’s next 100 years.

Historic Bethel was built in 1921 at the corner of Taylor and Sumter Streets and designed by John Anderson Lankford, the first registered Black architect in the United States. Historic Bethel is one of three monumental Neo-Romanesque structures designed by Lankford remaining in South Carolina. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Heritage Tour Site. Historic Bethel is also listed in the Green Book of South Carolina, a listing of the state’s African American cultural sites inspired by the Negro Motorist Green Book, a guidebook listing safe spaces for African American travelers published between 1936 and 1966. In addition to serving as a house of worship, the building was the site of numerous mass meetings and planning sessions during the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-Twentieth Century.

In preparation of its revitalization for a new century of service, the Renaissance Foundation has selected MOA Architecture to create a design that both preserves the history of the structure and repurposes the interior space for a civil rights museum, performing arts amphitheater and cultural arts center.

“John Anderson Lankford was a trailblazer, but one hundred years later, less than two percent of registered architects in the United States are African Americans,” said Michael Allen, CEO of MOA Architecture. “I think it is a great example of why the mission behind these projects is so important. We have to continue to preserve African American history and create a platform that will help address the disparities that continue to exist.”

MOA Architecture is also heading up two other projects that have significance to South Carolina civil rights history. The first is redesign of The Echo Theater in Laurens, S.C. Originally a segregated movie theater, the building later operated in the 1990s as the “Redneck Shop,” which advertised itself as a Ku Klux Klan museum. That structure will be redesigned into a center for diversity and hope.

The second project is the restoration of the Mary McLeod Bethune historic home on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. Built in the early Twentieth Century, it was to home to Mayesville, S.C., native Bethune, a prominent African American educator and civil rights leader, from 1913 until her death. The National Historic Landmark is managed by the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation.

For additional information, please contact The Renaissance Foundation of South Carolina at (803) 733-5634, (803) 479-6039 or at joneskkj@bellsouth.net.

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