Spanning the Sacred: An Investigation of Suspended Frame Vaulting Systems in Charleston, South Carolina

Morgan Emily Granger, Clemson University


This thesis explores and analyzes the structural forms and construction methods of the suspended frame vaulting systems of two nineteenth century church buildings in Charleston, South Carolina. The research documented the roof and vaulting systems of Grace Church Cathedral and the Unitarian Church of Charleston through photogrammetry and laser scanning. Following documentation, the buildings were analysed to develop framing schedules which chart the framing members, their frequency, dimensions, and joinery for each roof and vault system. This analysis allowed for an understanding of construction methods and demonstrated how the roof systems evolved over time. The thesis provides thorough documentation of the two structures, an analysis of their structural forms and construction systems, and establishes their significance.