Dutch Reformed Church
Built between 1835 and 1837, the Dutch Reformed Church in Newburgh, New York, sits on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River and is a reminder of the wealth that came early to settlements in New York. Newburgh may be somewhat forgotten today, but the town served as George Washington’s headquarters during a pivotal point in the Revolutionary War and the area’s prosperity allowed the congregation to hire a famous and prolific architect to design its church.
Alexander Jackson Davis (1803–1892) created an early example of Greek Revival architecture for the Newburgh’s Dutch Reformed Church. Davis told a local newspaper that the church’s portico, seen from the Hudson River, “will henceforth serve as a conspicuous and characteristic landmark indicative of the taste, discrimination, and sense of classical beauty of the inhabitants of Newburgh.”
The mid-20th century brought a period of socioeconomic decline to Newburgh, leading the congregation to vacate the church in 1967. Since then the vacant structure has faced inadequate maintenance, vandalism, and threats of demolition. In 1998, former First Lady Hillary Clinton announced the award of a Save America’s Treasures grant for the church and in 2001, the building was named a National Historic Landmark.
How We Helped
Following Watch listing in 2006, WMF supported the design for the roof restoration, and in summer 2009, we launched a field school program at the Dutch Reformed Church, in partnership with the City of Newburgh, the National Park Service, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh, and the Newburgh Preservation Association.
Twelve high school students participated in the six-week, hands-on program, learning preservation techniques while making repairs to fire-damaged parts of the church and repairing and restoring windows and exterior architectural details.
In summer 2010, a second field school was held. Students continued to work on restoring window sashes and also built a staircase to provide better access to the church cellar, where the restoration work was being done.
Why It Matters
The Dutch Reformed Church is an important symbol of the role Newburgh played in the cultural, social, and economic development of the emerging United States. This project is a compelling example of the significant part preservation can play in the life of a community through teaching history, student and vocational training, and the connections that can be formed between civic and private organizations to preserve historic structures for continuing use.