Building Has Been Closed for Repairs for 15 Years
A landmark church in Bensonhurst that has been closed for repairs for 15 years will reopen its doors with a celebration next month that will include a special worship service and tours of the historic 190-year-old building.
The New Utrecht Reformed Church at 1827 84th St. will throw open its doors and welcome the community for a worship service on Sun., Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. The front of the church building faces bustling 18th Avenue.
The Georgian-Gothic church was originally built in 1828, a time when Bensonhurst was mostly farmland.
In 2003, when the building was showing serious signs of deterioration, the congregation decided to stop holding Sunday services in the sanctuary until repairs could be made. Since that time, services have been taking place in the Parish Hall, a center built in the 1890s that is located on church property.
The reopening of the church was announced by Susan Hanyen, vice president of the consistory, the church’s governing board, in a letter to congregation members and to members of Friends of Historic New Utrecht, a group of volunteers who promote the history of the church and the surrounding neighborhood.
“What a better time to have a church building reopen than at Christmas,” Hanyen wrote. “We are filled with gladness.”
To coincide with the reopening of the church, the congregation will host its annual Live Nativity on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. featuring actors portraying Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men and shepherds. In past years, the Christmas scene has also featured goats, sheep and other animals.
The pending reopening of the historic church is an important moment for the entire Bensonhurst community, according to Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11.
“The congregation of New Utrecht Reformed Church and the Friends of Historic New Utrecht should be congratulated on the re-opening of the church’s sanctuary. This building has historical and educational importance to our community, which was built by the first immigrants, the Dutch settlers who formed the Town of New Utrecht, dating back to the 1600s,” Elias-Pavia told this newspaper via email.
Local residents who visit the church on Dec. 16 will find much to see and marvel at. Thanks to major renovations, the sanctuary now boasts a new cedar shake roof, a barrel vaulted interior ceiling and upgraded electrical wiring, according to Hanyen.
The church still has its original early pews, which are contained in white-painted boxes, giving a congregation member a sense of privacy.
In her letter, Hanyen wrote that repairs are still taking place but that enough work has been completed to make the church usable again. Work still needs to be done on the organ alcove, she wrote.
While the current church was built in 1828, the New Utrecht Reformed Church actually dates back to the 17th century. The church was founded by Dutch settlers in 1677 and was originally located on what is now the corner of 16th Avenue and 84th Street.
Stones from the original 16th Avenue church were used to lay the foundation of the church on 18th Avenue.
The land on which the New Utrecht Reformed Church sits also has a place in history. It is the site of one of the original Liberty Poles, flagpoles that were erected during and immediately after the Revolutionary War.