Dutch Reformed Church Dedicated as Landmark
By Ann Kuzmik
Mid-Hudson Times, Nov. 8, 2001
(used with permission)

With Saturday's perfect Fall weather as a backdrop, the City of Newburgh celebrated its newest National Historic Landmark, the Dutch Reformed Church. A reception at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on Broadway followed the ceremonies at the old church on Grand Street.

Harry Porr, City Manager and Master of Ceremonies, welcomed the group on behalf of Mayor Marino, who was not able to attend. He acknowledged the many dignitaries and elected officials who were there, and praised City Archives/ Engineering Technician Betsy McKean, who coordinated the celebration, for her wonderful work with archives and projects, such as the Quassaick Creek Trail.

The event reflected the city's diversity, and its many faiths, Porr pointed out. Rev. Carlos Lantis, immediate past president of the Newburgh Preservation Association and pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church gave the invocation. Imam Salahuddin Muhammed, head of Masjid al Jihad al Akbar, led the large audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Howard B. Major III, Senior Pastor of Reformed Church of New Paltz and past president of the Reformed Church Mid Hudson Classes, gave the benediction.

The program was also a rich display of the city's musical talents. Patty Sofokles sang The Star Spangled Banner, and Newburgh's Cultural Affairs Commissioner, Lillie Howard perfomed God Bless America and God Will Take Care of You. The South Junior High Choir, under the directon of Dovetta Beamon, opened the ceremonies with Of Thee I Sing America. When they closed with Let There Be Peace on Earth, Tymisha Thomas brought the attendees to their feet applauding her solo.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey said he was "greatly moved and uplifted" to be there. The city's residents reached back to another democracy for inspiration when they built the magnificient Greek Revival structure, Hinchey pointed out. Now, he said, the historical designation represents not only a tribute to Greek architecture, but also a revival of Newburgh and the Hudson Valley.

Bernadette Castro, New York State Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, accepted the bronze plaque with the official designation from James R. Pepper, Assistant Regional Director of the National Parks Service. The national landmark status helps open the doors to funding for the church's restoration.

  "If the residents take care of historical preservation, one day, the historical preservation takes care of them," Castro remarked.   The Dutch Reformed Church is "a reflection of the people who built it...who felt excellence was what [they] deserved," Pepper noted.   He went on to praise William Krattinger, of the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Field Office, for writing a "truly outstanding nomination" for the church's national landmark designation.

Carmella Mantello, Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council, and Assemblyman Thomas Kirwan, also spoke.

David Schuyler, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College, and author of Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, was the guest speaker. He talked of the city's architectural masterpieces created by Downing, Vaux, Withers, and Davis, many of which fell to Urban Renewal.

"I hope this building will stand as a symbol of Newburgh's rebirth and a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit," said Schuyler.

The church has reflected the city's fortunes since it was built, said James Hoekema, president of the Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee.

"[It] will henceforth serve as a conspicuous and characteristic landmark, indicative of the refined taste, discrimination, and sense of classical beauty of the inhabitants of Newburgh," Alexander Jackson Davis, the church's designer, wrote in 1835.

In the latter decades of the 20th century, the church became symbolic of the city's decline. Now, said Hoekema, a restored church will be a symbol of the city's optimism.