The Little Chapel, built in 1823, was designed in the Federal style by architect Robert Mills, a South Carolinian famous for his design of the Washington Monument, the US Treasury Building, Landsford Canal, and numerous SC public buildings. Erected as a stable and carriage house for Ainsley Hall mansion in Columbia, SC, it eventually became the property of the Presbyterian Church and was used by the Columbia Theological Seminary. In the Little Chapel Woodrow Wilson’s father taught classes and there the future United States president was confirmed and accepted Christ in 1873. In 1886, David Bancroft Johnson requested the use of the Little Chapel as a classroom for the inaugural academic year of Winthrop Training School. Permission was granted by the Presbyterian Church and the Little Chapel became the birthplace of Winthrop as an institution. With pleas from Winthrop Alumnae, the Seminary Board of Directors presented the Chapel to Winthrop on May 7, 1936. Plans were then set into motion to transport the building, brick by brick, to the Winthrop campus in Rock Hill, SC. On the morning of September 29, 1936, a long procession of cars and trucks set out from Columbia with 36,000 numbered bricks, massive hand-hewn timbers, and other building materials. Chaperoning these materials along its route to Rock Hill were such Winthrop dignitaries as Winthrop president, Dr. Shelton Phelps; former Winthrop president, James Pinckney Kinard and his wife, Lee Wicker Kinard; Mrs. D. B. Johnson, widow of Winthrop’s first president; and 55 representatives of Winthrop’s numerous alumnae chapters. The reassembling of the chapel on campus took several months and was completed in the early spring of 1937. A formal dedication of the Little Chapel was held on May 29, 1937 with numerous prominent South Carolinians present, including Archibald Rutledge, S. C. Poet Laureate and 4 of 5 living members of Winthrop’s first graduating class of 1887. The Little Chapel remains a historical focal point on Winthrop’s campus as a reminder of the institution’s beginnings and as the final resting place for David Bancroft Johnson and his wife, Mai Rutledge Smith Johnson.
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