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Zion Episcopal Church and Cemetery

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1851, 1880s. South side of East Congress St. between South Mildred and South Church sts.
  • Zion Episcopal Church and Cemetery
  • Zion Episcopal Church and Cemetery

“Zion stands with hills surrounded” applies as well to this attractive Gothic Revival church as to the Biblical Zion. An imposing tower capped by a tall, dormered broach spire is the dominant feature. Paired lancet windows above the entrance and along the side walls of the brownish brick structure provide a convincing Early English Gothic flavor. Zion may have served as a model for the smaller Trinity Episcopal Church in Shepherdstown ( JE24), built several years later.

Charles Town's first Episcopal church, which replaced St. George's Chapel ( JE8) west of town as the parish church, was built in 1816–1817. It, in turn, was replaced in 1847 by a building that burned to the ground a year later. The present church was consecrated December 6, 1851. According to Bishop Peterkin's post–Civil War account, the church “was sadly disfigured by the Federal soldiery,” but John T. Trowbridge, who saw the church in 1865, told of far more extensive damage:

The hand of ruin had smitten it. Only the brick walls and zinc-covered spire remained uninjured. The belfry had been broken open, the windows demolished. The doors were gone. Within, you saw a hollow thing, symbolical. Two huge naked beams extended from end to end of the empty walls, which were scribbled over with soldiers' names, and with patriotic mottoes interesting for proud Virginians to read.

The church was restored after the war, but it was not until the 1880s that the present steeple was built. Renovations during the next decade included removal of the side galleries and painting and frescoing of the walls.

The graves of approximately seventy-five members of the Washington family lie near the southeast corner of the tranquil churchyard, east of the nave and chancel.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.


What's Nearby


S. Allen Chambers Jr., "Zion Episcopal Church and Cemetery", [Charles Town, West Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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