Mugdock Castle was once sacred.
The stone facade's stained-glass windows and raised chimney that used to hold a steeple are reminders of its holy past.
But worship is long gone for the structure at 1401 Middle St. on Sullivan’s Island. It and the castle-like structure accompanying the building are now privately owned and have seven bedrooms for long-term renters who want an ocean view.
Like Mugdock, several churches across the Charleston region still stand, but they aren't houses of worship and prayer. Instead, they have been repurposed as homes, restaurants and museums.
Mugdock Castle, named by the owner after a 14th-century citadel in Scotland, was the original home to Grace Episcopal Church, an 1813 chapel of ease on Sullivan’s Island. Damaged during the Civil War, it was rebuilt by 1891 and named Chapel of the Holy Cross, according to the property’s website.
Fort Moultrie took over the site in the early 20th century and used it as a post chapel. The Holy Cross congregation moved down the street and established another edifice on Middle Street in 1908, which still stands today.
The old church was sold to a Lutheran congregation in 1948 until they outgrew the chapel, and it was eventually purchased by a private individual and converted into a residence in the early '70s.
Today, the original sanctuary mirrors a common area, featuring a couch, kitchen, counter and tabletops. A north tower was added to the property several years ago where long-term renters stay in bedrooms that overlook the Atlantic Ocean from the island.
A similar situation happened to a former house of worship in Mount Pleasant. Hibben Methodist Church sits at Hibben and Bennett streets in Mount Pleasant’s Old Village. It was eventually acquired by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but the building was sold in 2005 for $800,000 and now features a one-story, four-bedroom dwelling.
Reddit Andrews, an AME minister and real estate agent, said retrofitting structures is not a new trend. He said people simply like living in unique homes.
“There’s a kind of person that’s looking for a cool space,” he said.
Andrews said he recalls agents who’ve sold fire stations to homeowners who wanted a pole in their dwelling. He added that some churches in North Charleston and West Ashley have been sold to residents, as well.
Living in a sanctuary would be particularly special for Christians, Andrews said. The building themselves aren’t holy, but they represent a sacred space because they are where God’s children assembled for worship.
A believer could purchase a small church, for example, and convert certain areas into their personal prayer closet.
Typically, small churches serve best when they're repurposed as a single residence. Larger edifices have been known to be reused for office suites, college buildings and apartment complexes.
Other Charleston churches have been transformed into entertainment and informational venues.
5Church, a restaurant on North Market Street., is inside a former house of worship.
After the restaurant moved in several years ago, the owner added features such as banquettes and Sun Tzu’s "The Art of War" painting to the ceiling while maintaining the structure's integrity.
The restaurant renovated the building's stained-glass windows, frames and wooden floors. The building still looks like a church.
“We worked hard to try and preserve it as much as we could," said owner Patrick Whalen.
On Spring Street, the former St. James United Methodist Church now serves as a museum.
For some congregations, selling their property is a way to generate money and move elsewhere. Several congregations on the peninsula have cashed in, or at least tried to, on their properties since gentrification, parking issues and high-maintenance costs have forced them out of downtown.
The New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church, at Charlotte and Elizabeth streets, attempted to sell its building several years ago for $4.25 million to a developer with the suggestion that it could be converted to a large house or apartments, but the proposal received backlash from area residents.