Historic Structure Report
||In Fall 2002,
the Newburgh Preservation Association commissioned
a Historic Structure Report (HSR) - a detailed inventory
and assessment of the DRC's history, design, condition,
and suitability for restoration.
NPA awarded the contract to Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects of Albany, New York. The firm has restored several major treasures, including Monticello, Poplar Forest, the 1667 chapel in St. Mary's City, Maryland; and the New York State Capitol in Albany (see Mesick portfolio of projects). They have won numerous awards.
Guided by partners John Mesick and Jeffrey Baker, with architect Elizabeth Martin, the firm delivered the HSR on April 10, 2003.
The Dutch Reformed Church Historic Structure
1. Table of Contents, Forward, Executive Summary (pdf, 120K)
2. History of the DRC, by Bill Krattinger (pdf, 1.3MB)
3. Exterior - Exisiting Conditions (pdf, 1.1MB)
4. Interior - Existing Conditions (pdf, 1.1MB)
5. Measured Drawings (pdf, 2.8MB)
By J. Winthrop Aldrich
New York State Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation (1994-2003)
The year 2003 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Alexander Jackson Davis.
What better way to honor this master of American architecture than to celebrate, rehabilitate and bring back into public use one of his greatest surviving buildings, the Dutch Reformed Church in Newburgh, New York? That is what this report helps to advance, and we wish the work Godspeed."
"When the Church was erected in 1835 it was sited on a bluff with its imposing portico facing not the street but the commanding view down the Hudson River towards the Highlands Gorge and its scenes forever associated with the nation's struggle for independence and the birth of the republic. Several blocks to the south is the Hasbrouck House in which General Washington in 1783 firmly rejected the suggestion that he become king. The choice of the Greek Revival style for the Church is therefore not surprising: Americans looked to ancient Greece for the origins of democracy, and the austere nobility of such a structure linked piety and nationalism with civic aspiration, pride and confidence in the community's future. Burgeoning river commerce and manufacturing were already impelling the Village of Newburgh well on its way to becoming a city.
Davis himself championed the style for its "grandeur ... simplicity ... elegance ... harmony", and as quoted in the following pages the local press in 1835 hailed the effect of the new building as seen by those traveling on the Hudson: "... the gigantic portico ... will henceforth serve as a conspicuous and characteristic landmark indicative of the taste, discrimination and sense of classical beauty of the inhabitants of Newburgh."
This magnificent but now woebegone landmark is the greatest surviving ecclesiastical commission of America's greatest architect of that era. The Ionic columns of the monumental portico continue to do their assigned task, waiting for us to do ours. The long wait is now ending. While the City of Newburgh, owner of the structure, places a high priority on its needs, the State of New York has made a matching grant toward the urgent task at hand, and the National Park Service has weighed in with funds through the Hudson River National Heritage Area administered by the Hudson River Valley Greenway, it is time for all of us to collaborate in resurrecting the Church as an inspiring place of public assembly for the people of Newburgh.
The preparation of this historic structure report is an essential first step in the careful but urgent actions needed to advance the enterprise. It has been accomplished in the excellent fashion we have come to expect from the preservation architecture firm of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects. Their clients are the City of Newburgh's attentive officials and the devoted, energetic members of the Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee of the Newburgh Preservation Association. Encouragement and assistance for these collaborative efforts continues unabated from William Krattinger of the State's Historic Preservation Office. All deserve the public's thanks.
The next step is acquisition of funding for preservation and conservation planning. The importance of this cannot be overstated - - because of the significance of the structure to our nation's heritage, its visibility as an emblem of our vanishing landmarks, the degree to which it is at immediate risk, and the necessity to do the job right.
In 2002 the Church was honored with the coveted distinction of National Historic Landmark designation by the Secretary of the Interior. It is situated amidst New York's second largest district on the National Register of Historic Places - - 2,400 buildings, one third of the City - - in which the handiwork of noteworthy architects survives along with splendid streetscapes, parks and historic river views. During the 19th century Newburgh was called the Queen City of the Hudson. In the 21st century, in the Queen City, it is architecture that will reign, that will provide the key to a rebounding local economy and property values, an incentive for reinvestment and rehabilitation, a spur to heritage tourism and an enhanced sense of place and quality of life. Just as the Reformed Church was hailed in 1835 as being emblematic of Newburgh's prosperity and civic pride, it is no exaggeration now to say that the fate of the Church may be seen as a metaphor for the fate of the City. Together they will rise again and reclaim their throne.
- J. Winthrop Aldrich