Dutch Reformed Church
to be Dedicated as National Landmark

By Ann Kuzmik

Mid-Hudson Times, October 25, 2001
(reproduced with permission)

What do the Brooklyn Bridge, the White House, the Empire State Building and Newburgh's Dutch Reformed Church have in common? They are all National Historic Landmarks.

Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton declared the Dutch Reformed Church a National Historic Landmark on Aug. 7, along with 13 other sites. Fewer than 2,500 historic places have this national distinction.

According to a government website, National Historic Landmarks are places where historical events occurred, where prominent Americans worked or lived, that represent ideas that shaped the nation, provide important information about the past, or are oustanding examples of design or construction.

"The Dutch Reformed Church is nationally significant as an outstanding, largely intact Greek Revival style church designed by Alexander Jackson Davis. ...it is the last Greek Revival style church directly attributable to Davis that retains design integrity consistent with the architect's original intentions," states the website.

The public is invited to attend a celebration at the Dutch Reformed Church on Saturday, Nov. 3 beginning at 1 p.m. Dignitaries from all levels of government are expected to attend. New York State Department of Parks, Historic Preservation and Recreation Commissioner Bernadette Castro will accept the designation from a representative of the National Parks Service on behalf of Governor Pataki and the City of Newburgh. City Manager Harry Porr will be master of ceremonies. David Schuyler, author of "Apostle of Taste," will be the guest speaker. Following the ceremonies, a reception will be held at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum at 94 Broadway.

The Dutch Reformed Church was designed by Alexander Jackson Davis in 1835, and built in 1837. In Davis' own words, it was created as a testimony to "the refined taste, discrimination, and sense of classical beauty of the inhabitants of Newburgh."

Since dodging the bulldozers during urban renewal, the old church has waited patiently for a savior. First Lady Hillary Clinton buoyed restoration hopes with her 1999 visit to Newburgh that led to a "millennium grant" award of $125,802. The amount, while welcome, was sadly short of the projected repair cost of $3-5 million. Work was done to "shore up" the building and protect it against intrusion and the elements, but the church remained at risk.

William Krattinger, of the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, wrote the nomination for national landmark designation under the direction of Deputy Commissioner Winthrop Aldrich. Both have had a long-time interest in the church. Krattinger, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Jackson, felt drawn to help save the famous architect's sadly dilapidated legacy.

After hearing Krattinger's eloquent proposal at Washington's Headquarters last February, Carla Decker and John Lonczak formed an ad-hoc citizen's committee to save the church. Today, the Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee, under the auspices of the Newburgh Preservation Association (NPA) , acts in an advisory capacity to the City of Newburgh, which owns the building. James Hoekema took over as chair for Decker. Now, with the national designation, the group is poised to raise the necessary funds for the restoration.

The national designation opens the doors for federal grants and other funding. An initial step is for a Historic Structure Report to be done, Tom Hughes, site manager of Washington's Headquarters, Newburgh's other National Historic Landmark, explained. The committee has selected John Mesick, of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson and Baker to prepare the document. His firm's credits include restoration of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Annandale on Hudson, among others.

The future plans for the church, once restored, include public use of the 400-seat auditorium and stage for musical performances, readings, dance performances, theatre productions, workshops, symposia, lectures, panel discussions, gallery exhibitions and civic meetings. Suggestions are welcome on possible uses for the building.

If you would like more information, or would like to help save Newburgh's newest National Historic Landmark, visit the NPA's Dutch Reformed Church website at www.newburghdrc.org.