First Column, First Window

 
  Photos of the Work   Start Dutch Reformed Church On Road to Restoration
Tulip Sale Helps Funds Efforts

 
      Newburgh's historic Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) is taking a big step toward its eventual restoration. A "first column" and "first window" are being restored through donated private services and grant funds.

"First column, first window," marks the beginning of the restoration of the Greek Revival building's distinctive decorative architectural elements. The City of Newburgh, which owns the former church, has made stabilizing repairs since 1967 when the congregation vacated. In 2002, the non-profit Newburgh Preservation Association (NPA) commissioned a Historic Structure Report, forming the basis for all later restoration efforts.

Local developer Gerry Sanchez is donating the services of his company, Polonia Development & Preservation Services, to restore one of the four 37-feet-high columns which grace the front of the DRC. The work is being done according to specifications from the National Park Service, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees all National Historic Landmarks. The DRC attained the prestigious national landmark status in 2001. Polonia will restore the wooden column and Ionic capital to its original appearance (simulating the stonework of an ancient Greek temple), as designed by Alexander Jackson Davis.

"This is a first-class building of national importance," said Sanchez, whose firm recently restored the facade of the Brooklyn Museum. "We are pleased to be able to contribute to the first steps in its restoration."

The National Park Service is also making repairs on the roof and gutters, upgrading basement pillars supporting the main floor, and restoring one of the building's huge windows to the way it looked after a second phase of construction in 1867-68. The restored window will include sections of the original rose-colored glass which suffused the interior with a warm glow, according to contemporary accounts. Jeff Finch, a Park Service restorer, marveled at the quality of the original construction, noting that the central mullion of the 28-foot window was made from a single piece of cedar.

Funding for the preservation work comes from several sources, including a Save America's Treasures grant, a Community Development Block Grant, a City of Newburgh bond, and a grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

"The restored window and column will give everyone a little glimpse of how beautiful the DRC could be once it is fully restored," according to Dick Bedrosian, president of Newburgh Preservation Association.

"The next step," said Jim Hoekema, NPA Secretary, "will be to develop a viable adaptive re-use plan for the former church that will pay for the restoration and guarantee its continued maintenance."