The exterior of a church on the North Shore founded at the beginning of the past century could be around in perpetuity if town approval is granted.
The Old Centerport Methodist Church at 15 Park Circle and its property are being considered for landmark designation by Huntington Town officials following a recommendation from the town’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The church was built in 1901 and represents the period of Centerport’s history when the community was growing from a small isolated area to a popular summer resort. The exterior is a good example of the Carpenter Gothic style, which is rare in the Town of Huntington, according to the commission.
The town board has set a public hearing for Wednesday to consider the designation, which would apply only to the exterior.
Town board member Joan Cergol, who called for the public hearing, said the commission's recommendation is on target given the style of architecture.
“I support their conclusion,” she said.
Dave Clemens, 71, the church historian and Centerport resident, said he was baptized in the church. He said there were two Methodist churches in Centerport before 1900: One was for Methodist Protestants at 15 Park Circle and another was Methodist Episcopal located on the northwest side of the Mill Pond.
“One church only had a few members, and one church had a pastor who passed away, so the two Methodist churches decided to give up their individual congregations and buildings and combine,” Clemens said. “They took a vote in 1900 of the merged congregations to elect a joint board of trustees and it passed unanimously.”
The merged congregations raised enough funds to build a church and selected the site at 15 Park Circle for a new building. The church was designed by John D. DeVeau, who was a Centerport resident and architect. The builder was Theodore Sammis, who used the Carpenter Gothic style characterized by two large Gothic arched windows and 13 smaller arched windows.
The new church was dedicated May 12, 1901, and had seating for 250 worshippers. The total cost of the church was $3,520.
The congregation continued to grow over the years and soon outgrew the building. The church was deconsecrated in 1979, and the congregation moved and has worshipped at the former Centerport School at 97 Little Neck Rd. since then, Clemens said.
The building over the years has been used as an art gallery, office space and was recently sold with a plan to be converted into a funeral home. While the interior no longer has ecclesiastical details, the exterior remains as it’s always been.
“It’s appropriate now for the town and Centerport as a community to try to preserve these things,” he said.
Clemens said many homes that date back to 1900 or earlier on the south side of the Mill Pond have been severely altered or demolished and replaced so the area is losing some of its history.
“It’s a local historic landmark built by a local builder with money that was raised locally, and designed by a local architect,” Clemens said.
The hearing to consider the designation will be held during the regular town board meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
Some criteria for Huntington Town landmark designation:
- Possesses special character, or historic or aesthetic interest, or value as part of the broad cultural, political, economic or social history of the town, region, state or nation
- Embodies the distinguishing characteristics of a type, period, style or method of architecture or engineering
- Its unique location or singular characteristic represents an established and familiar visual or aesthetic feature of the neighborhood