Dutch Reformed Church
The Greek Revival-style Dutch Reformed Church, designed by Alexander Jackson Davis in 1835, is one of Newburgh's most iconic buildings. The church stands on a bluff, about 250 feet up from the Hudson River. At the time of its construction, its position was especially prominent, unobstructed by the modern buildings that would be built later. Modeled on ancient Greek temples, it features a columnnar porch with stately 37-foot Ionic columnns carved from wood and painted to look like stone. The interior is spacious, and tall windows let in ample natural light. Substantial work has been done to restore the church, but it still requires extensive renovations to return to its original appearance. The World Monument Fund named it one of the 100 Most Endangered heritage sites, and in 2016, it appeared on the "7 to Save" listed compiled by the Preservation League of New York State.
Backstory and Context
The gigantic portico, and lofty dome…will henceforth serve as a conspicuous and characteristic landmark, indicative of the taste, discrimination, and sense of classical beauty, of the inhabitants of Newburgh.
(Quoted in "Early History," Newburgh Dutch Reformed Church).
Inspired by the acropolis in Athens and other Greek temples, he designed the building to be truly awe-inspiring and monumental, a statement of Newburgh's importance. The "lofty dome" he mentions was removed in 1843.
Davis, for his part, was one of the top American architects of his day. He partnered with Ithiel Town from 1829 to 1835 to build numerous public buildings such as the North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana state capitols. Davis then began his own architectural practice. Over the course of his career, he produced designs for both public and domestic works in a wide range of styles: Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate. One of his best-known projects is the Gothic Revival-style Lyndhurst mansion, located in Tarrytown, New York. An accomplished artist, Davis also created designs and illustrations for A.J. Downing's 1850 book The Architecture of Country Houses (1850) and journal The Horticulturist.
In 1967, final services were held before the church was closed. Efforts to conserve the building soon arose. In 1971, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2001, it became a National Historic Landmark. Work to restore the church is still underway.
"City Seeks Developer for the City Club, Dutch Reformed Church and Waterfront Property." Newburgh Restoration. November 30, 2016. Accessed March 08, 2017. http://newburghrestoration.com/blog/2016/11/30/city-seeks-developer-for-the-city-club-dutch-reformed....
"A Closer Look: Dutch Reformed Church." World Monument Fund. Accessed March 09, 2017. https://www.wmf.org/project/dutch-reformed-church.
Peck, Amelia. "Alexander Jackson Davis (1803–1892)." The Met: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. October 2004. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/davs/hd_davs.htm.
"Seven to Save: 2016-17." Preservation League of NYS. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://www.preservenys.org/seven-to-save---2016-17.html.
Photo credits: most photos retrieved from the Newburgh Dutch Reformed Church website: http://www.newburghdrc.org/hist/hist.htm and http://www.newburghdrc.org/hist/hist2.htm. First photo by Daniel Case retrieved here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dutch_Reformed_Church,_Newburgh_NY.jpg.