As historic buildings go in Huntington, Old First Presbyterian Church on Main Street stands apart as the only public building that survives in the town from the Colonial period.
The church was established in 1658, just five years after settlers from Sandwich, Massachusetts, made the area home. Its sanctuary has been on the same parcel of land since 1784.
With all that history — and expectations that it will continue on for generations — the church needed a full face-lift.
To that end, a million-dollar capital campaign started earlier this year. So far, $600,000 has been pledged, including three grants totaling $120,000, said John Collins, a church trustee and chair of the building committee.
“The building is never going to be maintenance-free; it’s an old building, a huge building, but the goal is to have less maintenance going forward,” said Cindy Samuels, president of the trustee board and head of the capital campaign.
In 2007, church trustees commissioned a study to look into restoring, replacing and preserving all areas of the church. About a year later, church leaders began working to put a cell antennae in the steeple to raise funds for its repair. But the cell antennae deal fell through.
“When the cell tower deal died, we knew we had to raise money ourselves, and we’re an aging congregation so we realized we needed to do it now,” Collins said.
Included in the restoration projects are replacing two flat roofs on 1950s building additions; renovating the kitchen; and updating meeting rooms, including the elegant Fiske Room used for Bible study, prayer groups and receptions.
Also getting an update is the parish hall, which features a raised stage and enough room to host small concerts and luncheons. The floors already have been refinished, as have painting and updating lighting.
Scaffolding now surrounds the steeple. Its $300,000 renovation should be completed by mid-January, Samuels said.
“The structure is perfectly sound,” Collins said. “We’re preserving 80 or more percent of the original exterior trim. All the trim, moldings and shingles and louvers are being carefully repaired and refinished and reinstalled.”
The next projects are to address plumbing problems and outside repairs to steps, sidewalks and the parking lot.
The church was built by an edict of Duke’s Law, which said, among other things, that all towns needed to have a church that could accommodate at least 200 people. Locals picked the most prominent place in town: the top of what was known as East Hill. The sanctuary is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Samuels and Collins cite the church being part of the fabric of the community for more than 230 years, serving both its 400-member congregation and the community at large, as a reason they think the $1 million goal will be met.
“We’re still serving the community through use of the building to a variety of organizations, thrift shop, our Thanksgiving program where we feed families for an entire week,” Samuels said. “So there are a lot of things going on here; we’re a very active church.”
CHURCH’S CAPITAL CAMPAIGN
To make a donation to the Old First Presbyterian Church Capital Campaign:
Make checks payable to Old First Presbyterian Church
Mail or bring donations to 125 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743
For more information, call 631-427-2101