Niagara Gazette

Opinion

December 16, 2013

HIGGS: More on the earliest Falls churches

Niagara Gazette — Last time you read about the beginning of organized churches in Niagara Falls at the time of the merger between the villages of Niagara Falls and Suspension Bridge. We found that the oldest organized church building still in use today was the First Presbyterian Church.

Let’s learn a little bit about the building itself, which gained local landmark status in June of 2004 from the Historic Preservation Commission of Niagara Falls. The city council gave its approval in July of that year. It is located at 311 Rainbow Blvd. The commission’s website states: “The First Presbyterian Church was constructed of native stone in a Gothic Revival style with certain architecture features that resembles the earlier Romanesque style. The foundation was built of uncut stone. The exterior wall is made of rough-faced stone 2-feet thick. The church is three stories high and consists of the sanctuary and chancel, fellowship hall (formerly known as chapel), and a number of additional administrative rooms and offices including a kitchen and dining room.

Renovations and additions began during the early to mid-1900s. From the Historic Preservation website, I found that in 1869 the church was out of debt and began extensive repairs in 1871. A large addition was built in 1879 at the rear for the Sunday school, moving the youth out of the church basement. This addition is now known as Fellowship Hall and the Sunday school raised $1,490 to help build the hall. It also began a fundraiser to help pay for future remodeling.

In 1902, the sanctuary was doubled in size with the addition of another building effort on the south side of the church. A ceiling dome was also added to the sanctuary. This remodeling was finished in 1903 and started up again when the steeple was removed in 1914 and parapets were installed. In 1921 major work was done in the solid rock basement to add more room and to expand the Fellowship Hall (then called the chapel) to the north. A new Skinner organ was purchased; it’s still in use today, and a stained glass window was added to the sanctuary. Dedication of the chapel, organ, and window was performed on consecutive Sundays in 1922.

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