Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Palm Sunday 4/17 Concert: Help Restore The Historic First Presbyterian Church of Newtown

The historic First Presbyterian Church of Newtown proudly extends an invite, and encourages your help. ALL are invited to the church's Easter Concert & Restoration Fundraiser on Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 2:00 PM. The church adult choir and youth will present For Such A One As This, a moving and beautiful musical presentation of the Easter story. The Organist and Choir Director is Kiyomi Kimura.

The church is at the south side of Queens Blvd & 54th Ave in Elmhurst, near the Grand Ave subway entrance. For more information, contact Church Historian Marjorie Melikian at (718) 897-5668. Rego-Forest Preservation Council is committed to assist the church in a restoration cause, and Chair Michael Perlman can be contacted at unlockthevault@hotmail.com

This church is endangered not by developers which have undermined the integrity of historic religious institutions in recent years, but is endangered, since it is in need of some major repairs to its 1895 building, including restoration of its intricate wooden doors, weatherproofing, electrical work, roofing, refinishing, the cleaning and repair of stained glass, and the installation of historic-style railings around the church's stoop. Similar repairs are needed for the adjoining 1931 Church House. Restoration is often costly, particularly for many religious institutions citywide, but the salvation of a historic religious edifice is priceless.

There is no admission fee, and a free-will offering will be collected, to benefit the restoration and upgrades of one of Queens' greatest "Landmarks at heart!" The church and its bell are symbols of the lost history of Queens, and have withstood the test of time. Your help is most crucial towards preserving this historic site for future generations to cherish. Please help by spreading the word, and bringing your family and friends. 

If you cannot attend this restoration fundraiser concert, & would still like to help restore a site with 17th century Newtown roots, please send donations to:

First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Building Fund
54-05 Seabury St, Elmhurst, NY 11373.
("Building Fund" must be noted on the check.)

Historic Overview

The First Presbyterian Church of Newtown is a greatly intact Gothic brownstone masterpiece from 1895 with a bell tower, stained glass windows, a pitched roof, and elaborate woodwork. The church’s congregation dates to 1652, making it one of New York City’s earliest extant. Originally a community church, it officially became Presbyterian in 1715. The church was founded in the wilderness (now Elmhurst) of the Dutch Colony of New Netherlands, and has survived war, invasion, and religious and political persecution. In 1924, the church faced another hurdle. Queens Boulevard was slated to be widened by the city, and therefore, the sole hope of salvation was transporting it. Teamwork resulted in an engineering marvel, as the 5 million-pound church was moved 125 feet.

The church has a bell which dates to 1788, and was installed in its 4th church building erected in 1791, just after the American Revolution. This replaced its 3rd church, which was desecrated by British soldiers and demolished. The bell survived the destruction of that church by fire, and the moving of the present church a half-block in the 1920s, which caused the loss of its original huge steeple. The bell was originally in an edifice on a single-lane dirt road, with horses going by. The current church was built on a double-lane dirt road. Both the single and double lanes form what is now bustling Queens Blvd. The bell has witnessed significant historic moments in Queens. A rare and unique history of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, published by Church Historian Marjorie Melikian of Rego Park, NY: http://www.fpcn.org/history/

Postcards and photo documentation by Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council & Queens VP of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, is below and on flickr:

Interior of the Gothic sanctuary towards the altar.

Looking out from the altar towards the balcony.

One of the church's many enriching stained glass works.

The 1895 First Presbyterian Church of Newtown is moved during the 1920s, and Queens Blvd is expanded to its current size today. The congregation and riggers worked diligently to spare the church from demolition, and this could potentially be the largest and heaviest building ever moved in New York!
A rare glimpse of rural Queens Boulevard with the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown & humble frame houses. The church's original huge steeple doubled the height of the building, and was sacrificed during the move. ~ Courtesy of the Michael Perlman Postcard Collection.

More stained glass beauty of the 19th century. They sure don't make 'em like they used to!

Spiritual scenes transcend from the artist's vision to reality.

An 1895 Gothic masterpiece is a one & only encounter on Queens Blvd! Visualize farmland with frame houses mere steps from this edifice 115 years ago.

John Goldsmith Payntar left $70,000 in his will for the new 1895 church building. "Payntar Memorial" is inscribed above the entranceway. Stained glass windows and Gothic ornamentation create an empowering entry, which is complemented by its hand-carved wood doors with intricate brass handles. These are a few of many authentic features which merit restoration, before they are lost forever.

A closer eye on the Gothic facade with stained glass overlooking Queens Blvd.

The charming 1931 limestone & brick Church House annex on Seabury St consists of recreational facilities, performance space, and classrooms. It is also in great need of restoration and upgrades.

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