The historic First Reformed Church in Fishkill celebrated its first 300 years of ministry this month with cemetery tours, re-enactments of a 1941 radio play about a Revolutionary War counter-spy tied to the church’s history, and more. Today the church is active, hosting the Fishkill Food Pantry and Children’s Community Services, with preschool and after-school programs. The church also provides space, fundraising, or other support for: a Boy Scout troop, Alcoholics Anonymous, Crop Walk, Samaritan’s Purse Shoeboxes, Webster House, and Camp Warwick. People come from around the world to visit the historic church and to study its history.
In 1716, under the direction of the Classis of Amsterdam, two Dutch Reformed Churches – one in Poughkeepsie and one in Fishkill – were started to benefit settlers who did not want to cross the river to New Paltz or Kingston to attend church. In the beginning, the churches had buildings, but no pastor. In 1730 the churches issued a call for a pastor, but there was no one suitable in this country, so a representative went to Holland looking for a pastor to be paid annually: 70 pounds New York money, a house in Poughkeepsie or Fishkill, firewood, a horse, bridle and saddle, a pasture, a fenced garden, and an orchard planted with 100 fruit trees. The first pastor came in September 1731 and served for two years before moving to Albany. It took eleven years to find the next pastor.
During the Revolution, in 1776, the 4th New York Provincial Congress met at Fiskhill Reform Church, writing some of the New York Constitution there. Two of the delegates were later among those who helped draft the Declaration of Independence. Later in the Revolution, the church was used as a prison by the Continental Army.
Walls of the original building were torn down for a major expansion in 1785. There would be several other changes throughout the building’s history. The building is a perfect example of an upside-down boat; and some have said the sanctuary is one of the most significant non-residential 18th century buildings in New York, if not the country.
In 1964, the Christian Education Building was constructed, and in 1991, the church purchased the DuBois House. The building, named after the church’s founding elder, was likely built in the 1700s and served as the hearing room for court proceedings, presided over by one of the nation’s first Supreme Court justices. Today the building houses the church parlor, offices, and a meeting space. In 2001 the church property expanded again with the purchase of a former restaurant behind the cemetery which today houses the church’s Fishkill Food Pantry.
For more information on the church today or its rich history, visit fishkillreformed.org.