Clarke Withers was the architect of this acclaimed religious
structure build for the First Presbyterian Church which came to be
know as Calvary Presbyterian Church when two congregations
eventually re-united. This 1858 building was Withers' first
commission to design an American church. Here he created a
landmark example of his personal principles and preferences in church
architecture. At the time there was debate about the
appropriateness of classical "temple' style buildings for Christian
worship. Withers asserted: "It seems to have been the
prevailing ides that the ancient heathen temples are the best
models for our churches, instead of which they are really the
worst; for, in the first place, the portico, with its monotonous
repetition of columns - copied perhaps from the Parthenon - made
of wood and painted white, is inconvenient; it neither
affords protection front the sun, nor the pitiless blast of a
winter storm; and in the next place, to reach
from original Architect's drawing
the church it is
necessary to clime some eight or ten steps, rendering it extremely
difficult for the old and infirm (for whom it should be the first
duty of the church to care) to ascent...Windows are long so that
even on the darkest days...it would be almost impossible to sit in
the church with any degree of comfort...(The steep medieval roof
is) more adapted to the climate in shedding the rain and
snow..."Gothic architecture is most suite for churches (and)
has the advantage over every other in its application to all sites
and requirement...and if properly built cannot fail to impart some
feeling of respect and awe."
Withers so succeeded that when this edifice was completed, it's
perfect proportions, well-focused interior space, the multi-toned
stone work and slate patterns earned critical acclaim in The
Crayon, the era's prestigious art journal. Description
of Withers' correct Gothic church was meant to be a corrective
critique of churches build before the "enlightened"
Newburgh example. The Ecclesiologist, which ignored
American church architecture, said that while "the building
was intended for the Presbyterian community ... it is hoped that
the ere long it may pass into other hands."
interior details include geometric middle-point design,
alternating round and polygonal columns, gothic arcades with
exterior wall buttresses, clerestory windows of alternating
Jerusalem (6-point) and Bethlehem (5-point) rondelle star shapes,
pattern glass and stained-picture windows; Withers' gift window
with ornate "W" is in the south east corner. Our
gated-pews of yellow pine, rafter woodwork, wooded baptismal font
and kneeler are all original. The reredos was a memorial
given in 1884. The Christian Education Wing replaced the
original hall and study in 1956.
expressed a Pugin-Ruskin concept forcefully stating that "If
we would that our works should live after us ... we must work with
TRUTH..." thus he advocated honest materials,
unconcealed masonry, nothing imitation or sham, for such
"would only deceive man, for God it cannot deceive."
philosophy/theology of place, space and use have influenced the
life and intention of this durable building and congregation who
have withstood the changes of time and neighborhood proclaiming
faith and permanence in an area of neglect and now revival.
Withers' "heaven-pointed spire" and the prevailing wind
vane point hope and directions through all times.
is located within historic Old Town Cemetery glebe-lands dating to
pre-Revolutionary settlement of this area. Considerable
community restoration efforts have been made to preserve this
important burying ground, particularly the one-of-a kind Robinson
here for more information on the Old Town Cemetery) Being a trustee of the glebe, Calvary's pastor
and congregation are supportive and very involved in keeping up
the preservation of this land.
Edison, personally persuaded reluctant Trustees to
try electricity, making this the first electrified church in New
York State. However, we retained gas fixtures through the
turn of the twentieth century "just in case!" An
organ was installed in 1860 and was replaced by the current
E. Skinner instrument, a gift, in 1937, well-used, well-tended,
and well-loved. (See the section on our pipe
organ) The building's acoustics compliment the church's
tradition of great music for worship, concerts and events.
are by American Artists (see the section on our
windows) and many are based on the Bible story illustrations
of Hofmann, familiar to us from 1950 Sunday curriculum. especially
the boy Jesus in the temple, the Good Shepherd, and calling the
"Fishers of Men."
of the Structure as originally built:
building is in early geometrical style of Gothic art and composed
of a nave with clerestory, north and south aisle, a tower and
stone spire at the east end of the north aisle, and a porch on the
south. A lecture room and a minister's room are provided at the
west end of the building. The walls are of blue stone lain
in random courses, and gray stone dressings to the copings,
windows, doorways, buttresses, water-tables. The pews are of
yellow pine and afford comfortable accommodations for 830
persons. Dimensions of the internal building are:
is 97 ft. long, 60 ft. high and 25 ft. wide
are 84 ft. long and 7 ft. wide
lecture room is 11 ft. long and 26 ft. wide.
tower is 20 ft and 8 in. square at the base, height is 63 ft
making, with spire and cross, a total of 135 ft. from the
ground. The extreme length of the building, including
lecture room is 1159 ft and is 85ft. wide, including porch.
The total cost of the building, with interior fittings complete,
including land, iron fence, bell etc was $43,750. The A. Geo.
Jardine & Son organ which was installed in September
1860 cost $3,000.
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