Celebration of former Church's Historic Landmark Designation set for Sat., Nov. 3
NEWBURGH, N.Y. (October 15, 2001) - What serves as a most conspicuous and characteristic landmark, indicative of the classical beauty of Newburgh? The answer, according to the 1835 writings of architect A. J. Davis, would be: the Dutch Reformed Church on Grand Street.

The inspiring Davis-designed former church building was recently designated a "registered National Historic Landmark," therefore its owner, the City of Newburgh, and the all-volunteer Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee, are hosting a celebration for the dedication of landmark status.

The ceremonies begin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 3, in front of the church and progress with an architectural tour of the sanctuary, followed by a community reception at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum located at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street.

The achievement of National Historic Landmark status is a triumph for the future of the bulding. Many community and regional leaders are eager to participate in the celebration, because the designation is a strong indication that the edifice will have a positive future.

The one o'clock festivities will begin with the first of three musical presentations, "Of Thee I Sing America" performed by student choir members from South Junior High School, under the direction of Dovetta Beamon. Newburgh City Manager Harold J. Porr III will serve as the master of ceremonies. Following the National Anthem, as performed by soloist Patricia Sofokles, and the Pledge of Allegiance, as led by Imam Salahuddin Muhammed, of Newburgh's Masjid al Jihad al Akbar, brief remarks will be heard from distinguished federal and state elected representatives.

Mr. James R. Pepper, Assistant Regional Director, Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service, will comment on the historical significance of the building and will present a custom bronze National Historic Landmark plaque to the City of Newburgh.

Accepting the plaque on behalf of the city will be Bernadette Castro, the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The N.Y.S. O.P.R.H.P. operates nearby Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and is also part of Newburgh's "East End Historic District."

Mr. J. Winthrop Aldrich, Deputy Commissioner for the N.Y.S. O.P.R.H.P., and architectural historian William Krattinger from the agency's Field Services Bureau, will comment on the architectural significance of the 165-year-old Greek Revival-style masterpiece.

Mr. James Hoekema, the Chairman of the Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee, will note the recent progress toward saving the structure from further deterioration and the challenge of fully rehabilitating the former church.

The final speaker will be Franklin and Marshall College Prof. David Schuyler, a Newburgh native and the author of Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing.

After the benediction, City of Newburgh Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lillie Howard will sing a medley of "God Bless America" and "God Will Take Care of You." The recessional will be "Let There Be Peace On Earth" sung by the South Junior High School choir members. Before the ceremony there will be a demonstration of the fine acoustics in the former sanctuary as the South Junior High School choir members warm up.

Following the outdoor ceremony, there will be a tour of the church's remarkable interior conducted by the author of the National Historic Landmark nomination, William Krattinger.

Immediately after the ceremony, a reception will begin at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, 94 Broadway.

The ceremony and the reception are co-hosted and co-sponsored by the City of Newburgh and the volunteer members of the Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee. The reception sub-committee, chaired by Elaine Axelrod, features light refreshments and live music. A special exhibit of original maps of the Village of Newburgh (1800-1865) and companion exhibits of the era are on display at the Karpeles through the reception.

The imposing church was designed by the nationally prominent architect Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892). His temple-like reformed church, designed with a monumental pedimented Ionic portico and sited at the edge of a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, was intended to form the centerpiece of an Acropolis-like collection of civic architecture. This church represents the first and still finest example of Greek Revival architecture in the city. Today it is the only extant Greek Revival church by A.J. Davis that retains its integrity. Its architecture is distinguished by an exceptionally bold and skillfully designed composition featuring a dramatically scaled entrance.

Over the past four decades, fewer than 2,400 National Historic Landmarks have been designated throughout the fifty states. Newburgh's Dutch Reformed Church was one of only fourteen new National Historic Landmarks designated by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton this summer. Once designated, the National Park Service commits to assist in the preservation of these irreplaceable properties through the National Historic Landmarks Assistance Initiative, which offers technical assistance to the stewards of the landmark properties. National Historic Landmarks are the authentic places where Americans can experience our history first-hand.

The City of Newburgh plans to continue working cooperatively with the federal and state governments - and with the Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee of interested citizens - to bring the building back into prime condition for public uses. The Restoration Committee has created a website at www.newburghdrc.org with information and photographs on the building and its background. The committee can also be reached by telephone at 845-569-7393.

Admission to the ceremony, tour, and reception is free and open to all. In case of rain, the public is encouraged to bring umbrellas.

The former Dutch Reformed Church is located 132 Grand Street, at the corner of Third Street, just one block north of the ample parking lot that serves Newburgh Free Library.