Building
   

Significance



DRC June 02

 
There are plenty of old buildings in the eastern United States - in fact, there are hundreds of 19th-century buildings in the small city of Newburgh. You might well ask, "What is so special about the former Dutch Reformed Church that it deserves restoration?" We believe this building has major significance for three reasons - aesthetic, historical, and symbolic.

  Aesthetic Quality

Quite simply, the former DRC is a beautiful work of architecture. The monumental exterior, scrupulously modeled on ancient Greek sources, stands like a beacon overlooking the majestic Hudson River. With columns over 30 feet tall, the structure aspires to a grandeur quite "over the top" for the modest community it served.

The interior is even more impressive, with a soaring, sparsely decorated space - roughly a double cube - that provokes gasps of astonishment in most first-time visitors. The size, proportions, light and decor combine to create an immediate sense that this is a special place.

"Few extant Greek Revival buildings in America can rival the Dutch Reformed Church in its distinguished pedigree, bold design, and striking siting." - Landmark application.



  Historical Significance

The former Dutch Reformed Church is historical significant on several counts. It is an outstanding example of the Greek Revival style, which came to symbolize American aspirations in the early 19th century. It is also the last extant example of the work of A. J. Davis that largely preserves his artistic vision, according to architectural historian William Krattinger. The DRC is "the greatest surviving ecclesiastical commission of America's greatest architect of the era" according to J. Winthrop Aldrich, former Deputy Commissioner of Historic Preservation, New York State.

In 2001 the DRC was designated a National Historic Landmark - the highest recognition possible for a historic structure.



 

Symbolic Value

Finally, the former DRC has symbolic value. When asked to describe his intentions, architect Davis declared: "The ediface ... will henceforth serve as a conspicuous and characteristic landmark, indicative of the taste, discrimination, and sense of classical beauty, of the inhabitants of Newburgh."

Davis understood that flattery never hurt while the backers were seeking funding! But his statement was true enough - the building captured the view of passing steamers, and it remained an object of civic pride for years.

The building's neglect and decay since 1967 have made it a symbol of the city's decline. Now, with city fortunes finally rising again, the restoration of this "jewel in the crown" will make the A. J. Davis temple once again symbolic in a positive sense.