Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church’s first worshippers gathered in a 17th century hut-like meeting house where religious services were announced by drum beat and musket-toting men stood outside to protect against Indians and other trouble.
Today the church’s building on Montauk Highway stands as an example of Greek Revival architectural style, as well as other influences, and represents an important page in the community’s history. State officials last month recommended the church be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Our church has been greatly honored by New York’s decision to include us in the state’s registry of historic sites and to nominate us for federal registration,” said the Rev. Peter Sulyok of Bridgehampton. “Our listing recognizes the relationship of the church to the community and its architectural significance.”
Sulyok said the church has about 200 members, including some from families that have been part of the congregation for more than 10 generations.
The current structure, built in 1842, is the third building that has housed the congregation. The second was constructed in 1737 to replace the thatched-roof meeting place built in 1686.
“Part of the church’s merit for registry is the seamless merging of the several architectural styles in vogue during the 19th century into a beautiful structure,” said Ronald E. Brackett, a member of the church, and chairman of its historical and restoration committee. “The most readily recognized is the Greek Revival, common at the time of construction and then repeated later in the century.”
Brackett said the rear addition, portico and porte cochère entry were completed in the late 19th century and reflect several contemporary styles of that time.
“There was a renovation in the 1960s,” Brackett, a Water Mill resident, said as he walked around the sanctuary. “But the general appearance, most of it goes back to the 1840s, with some modifications after that.” Additions over the years resulted in Greek Revival and Federalist elements being incorporated. Some of the wood from the second church structure was used to construct the current building.
“It looks like one church, but they integrated a lot of styles,” Brackett said. “Most of the architectural forms of the 19th century wandered some way or another into this building. There are very few churches of this background and appearance in the state. It’s considered to be rather remarkable.”
“Today” show host Matt Lauer and his wife, Annette Roque, were married at the church in 1998.
“We chose it because it is right across the street from the place where we had one of our first dates,” Lauer said in an interview last week. The date had been at Karen Lee’s restaurant.
“It was one of those dates where everything clicked, and I walked Annette home right past that church,” Lauer said. “It had symbolic meaning to us, and we liked the minister there very much. It just seemed like a natural choice.”