Photo credits: Doug Persons and Colleen Lais
First Church History
Nice article on November 13 in the Times Union: "Faces of Faith: Restoring an Architectural Gem in Albany"
Founded in 1642, First Church is the oldest church in upstate New York. The Dutch fur trading post of Fort Orange was incorporated as Beverwijck ("Beaver Town") in 1652 and named Albany in 1664, after the English seized the Dutch colony of New Netherland and renamed it New York. Albany was chartered as a city in 1686 and made state capital in 1797.
A more descriptive history about the ministry, the ministers, the congregation and the church can be found in the book written in 1988 by Robert S. Alexander, Ph.D. titled Albany's First Church and Its Role in the Growth of the City. This book is available through the church office.
1609 - Henry Hudson sails from The Netherlands on the ship "Haelve Maen" (Half Moon) and explores the river, which is later named for him, as far as current Albany.
1624 - Dutch West India Co. builds Fort Orange, appoints "comforter of sick" to read scripture and a sermon on the sabbath.
1642 - Minister is recruited for colony of Rensselaerswyck; elders and deacons are elected; first worship service is held Aug. 17.
1656 - Blockhouse church is built at modern State Street and Broadway in Beverwijck ("Beaver Town," renamed Albany after English conquest of New Netherland in 1664).
1686 - Church receives title to pasture lands in part payment for loan to the newly chartered city of Albany; church rents out pasture lots.
1689 - Church begins mission to Mohawk Indians, continues until 1738; 332 Indians are baptized by 1763.
1715 - Stone church is constructed around the blockhouse church, which is then dismantled.
1720 - Church is incorporated as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in the City of Albany.
1771 - Dutch Reformed churches form general body (synod) independent of the Classis of Amsterdam; Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in the U.S.A. is incorporated in 1819, renamed Reformed Church in America in 1869.
1777 - Prayer meetings during British invasion of upper Hudson Valley; church is hospital for American soldiers injured in battle of Saratoga.
1782 - English is first regularly used in worship; some Dutch services continue until 1790.
1782 - General George Washington meets with the Consistory to thank them for the church's support during the war.
1785 - Church joins Classis of Albany (formed in 1772); Synod of Albany is established in 1800.
1787 - The church "pastures" are subdivided into building lots and offered for sale; last church-owned lots are sold in 1854.
1797 -99 - New brick church building ("North Church") is built on North Pearl Street; stone church is demolished in 1806.
1811 - Second new church building is completed on Beaver Street.
1815 - Beaver Street church separates from the North Church, incorporates as "Second Reformed Protestant Dutch Church".
1830 - Church is remodeled; lecture hall and consistory room are constructed.
1856 - Church establishes a board of trustees to manage the church's property.
1858-59 - Renovation of church includes brownstone entrance, stained glass windows, central heating, new lecture hall, enlarged organ.
1881 - Second Reformed Church constructs new church building on Madison Avenue.
1895 - First Church consistory approves use of grape juice for communion in place of wine.
1903 - First Church sends a missionary to India, Alice B. Van Doren, who continues work to 1951.
1910-13 - Sanctuary is redecorated following Tiffany Studios design: green stained-glass windows, green walls with stenciling, chancel woodwork, and wood-glass screen at rear.
1918 - Joint boards (elders, deacons, and trustees) approve first annual budget.
1938 - First Church and Madison Avenue church merge, forming a new corporation called "The First Church in Albany"; pew rents are discontinued.
1939 - Old lecture hall is demolished, and new parish house is constructed.
1940 - Renovation of church includes sanctuary painted white, dark oak reredos in chancel, widened choir loft, restored towers, sandblasted brick walls, new copper roof.
1942 - Church celebrates 300th anniversary; hosts RCA General Synod; welcomes Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands on visit to Albany.
1948 - Austin organ (4 manuals, 64 ranks, 4000 pipes) is installed as World War II memorial.
1966, 1972, 1977 - Church purchases adjacent properties for parking and an urban park.
1972 - Spotlights are installed to illumine church facade and towers.
1973 - Congregation elects first woman elder and deacon, as permitted by changes in RCA Book of Church Order.
1974 - Summer drive-in worship service begins; Clee Park is dedicated; First Church is placed on state and national registers of historic places.
1988 - Parish house is expanded for new offices, lobby and an elevator.
1992 - Church celebrates 350th anniversary, hosts RCA General Synod.