Congregation Shari Emouna | Bikor Cholim
Young Men’s Hebrew Association

424 King Street, Mechanics Union Hall

The Mechanics’ Union No. 1 was a fraternal and mutual-benefit organization established about 1868 by men working as “mechanics” (mechanics were tradesmen, such as brick masons and building carpenters). In mid-1886, the Union bought a brick building on this site and began renovating it as a meeting hall. The earthquake of August 31, 1886, shattered the structure, prompting the Mechanics’ Union to start over with new construction. Dedicated in June 1887, the handsome three-story building had large open rooms on the upper floors that could be rented to lodges, clubs, business and social groups.

One of the organizations that found a meeting place here was Congregation Shari Emouna (translated literally as “Gates of Faith,” but known locally as “Perfect Faith”). It had been founded in 1886, when a small number of members of Brith Sholom left that congregation, unhappy over its toleration of what they regarded as lapses in adherence to Orthodoxy. The group first met in the back of F. W. Stender’s dry goods store at 489 King Street, then moved to rented rooms in the new Union Hall. By 1897, Shari Emouna’s congregants had reconciled with Brith Sholom and ceased meeting as a separate group. Another Jewish organization, Bikor Cholim, listed as meeting here in 1894, was a society dedicated to visiting and taking care of the sick.

The Young Men’s Hebrew Association of Charleston also met at Mechanics’ Union Hall beginning about 1887, prior to its formal chartering. Interest in the club fluctuated over the years. In 1903, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association was revived and enrolled more than 100 members. The organization then leased a large space at 232 King Street, upstairs above Cohen & Company, leaving the smaller Mechanics’ Union Hall, which was razed in the twentieth century.