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The Buildings of Malone: The First Congregational Church

Posted by thedarwinexception on April 4, 2007

Coming into Malone along Route 11 your eye will immediately be drawn to the imposing and overwhelming sight of the commanding spire of the First Congregational Church reaching far above the tree line. This building is arguably the most impressive and majestic in Malone, and provides a beautiful welcome for those who find their way to this end of Route 11.

The current building sits on the same spot as two previous incarnations of the First Congregational Church that came before it. In 1823 the members of the Church, who up until then had been meeting in the school building, voted to erect a building of their own. Selection of the site on East Main Street was considerably influenced by the desire to have at least one important building in the village located East of the Salmon River and the bridge that ran over it. At the time all pubic buildings, including the school and the court house, were on the hill West of the river and the bridge. The land on which the church was to be erected was deeded to the First Congregational Church for this specific purpose by Hiram Horton, the proprietor of the grist mill. At this time the church membership was 130 and the population of the town was approximately 2,000.

The corner stone of the first stone building was laid on May 30, 1826, with Masonic ceremonies conducted by Clark W. Williamson, Master of Northern Constellation Lodge No 148. Within the stone were deposited newspapers of the day, corn, oil and a lead plate engraved for the occasion with the inscription:

“Laid by Northern Constellation Lodge No 148, Malone, May 30th AL 5826 – AD 1826 – Ind USA 50th Clark Williamson, Master: Steven Van Renssealer GMSNY: DeWitt Clinton, Governor, SNY John Q Adams, Pres. USL Rev Ashibel Parmalee Pastor Cong Soc Oren Moses Sculptor.

This plate was recovered from the corner stone when the first building was torn down and is now preserved in the Masonic Temple. The building was of stone, with a typical New England spire at the north end. The dimensions are variously given as 60 X 70 feet and 60 X 80 feet. There were 80 box pews in the sanctuary, with benches around three sides, facing a high pulpit at the north end. The pews were sold outright to the members to finance $8,000 building costs. The pulpit was entered by a flight of winding stairs of about a dozen steps. The choir sang from the south end. For many years accompaniment for the choir was provided by a bass-viol. The building took two years to accomplish and was dedicated on February 7, 1828 when Rev O.P. Hoyt, of Potsdam, preached the dedicatory sermon. A window from this church building is now preserved in the entrance vestibule to the chapel.

This first building stood until 1851. The congregation voted on August 23, 1850, to build a new edifice to be located either on the same site or upon Arsenal Green. The site on the Green was not available. The church therefore proceeded to purchase 32 feet of land from L. A. Moses at the south end of the original lot at a cost of $150. Acquisition of this additional land permitted the second building to be set some 30 feet father to the south, thus eliminating an encroachment upon the road the first building had created. The last service in the first building was held March 30, 1851. On March 31st, demolition was started. During the building of the second church services were held in the court house.

The second building was of brick, manufactured locally at a kiln east of the village. It was approximately 60 X 90 feet in dimensions and held 122 pews. Again the pews were sold outright to finance construction costs of $9,000, which included $800 for an organ. This building held living quarters and a vestry in the basement. The sexton occupied the living quarters. In 1863 Joseph Forley lived there and conducted a repair shop for umbrellas and parasols. His advertisement in the Malone Palladium stated that such work would be performed “in the neatest manner”. There were sheds for accommodation of horse and buggy while members attended services. During this period a cemetery was also in existence to the East of the church on the property now occupied by the Flanders School. The graves were moved to Morningside Cemetery when that cemetery was established.

The second building was used for many public meetings. During the Civil War period it was the scene of many patriotic gatherings, including the recruiting of volunteers for the Union Army. The first music festival of many which were held in Malone during the years to follow was held in the church. It’s bell was cracked in 1866 from vigorous tolling to mark the close of the war. A new bell was installed at a cost of $1,000, including the “trade in” value of the one which was a victim of the war effort.

The sanctuary was on the ground floor, with balconies on both sides. These balconies were used by the women on one side, men on the other in the Quaker style.

The second building fell into disrepair to such an extent that in the early 1880’s the congregation again considered a new building. It was estimated that repairs to the building would cost some $15,000, which was a most substantial sum at that date, and they would leave the architectural beauty of the building impaired. On May 23rd, 1882, the sum of $26,000 was subscribed at an informal meeting of the members towards erection of a new building. Formal meetings were called in July, August, September and December to consider plans and means in the new undertaking. On February 24, 1883, a contract was made with Orville Moore for construction of the Church and Chapel for a specified sum of $36,373. Work started in April 1883. During the period of construction the Congregation occupied Lawrence Hall for services. Lawrence Hall was located in the Ferguson House which stood at the corner of East Main and Elm Streets. The block was the scene of one of Malone’s most destructive fires a few years later and was
replaced by the present stone block built by the Howard’s after the fire.

The architect was Tristram Griffin of Boston, Mass, who also designed the old Academy building now occupied by the Junior High School. The organ was made and installed by Hook and Hastings, Boston, at a cost of $3,000, one half paid for by the ladies of the church and the other by Albert Andras. The ladies also paid for the piano, carpets, chandeliers and furniture and contributed most of the cost of the furnace. The marble fount was a gift of the Richardson family. A new bible for the pulpit was given by Mrs. Fanny Parmalee Fitch, daughter of the Rev. Ashbel Parmalee. The Rose window in the chapel was given to the church by Eli Smith. Following the First World War an electric player and additional bell was added to the chimes by George S. Howard, as a memorial to his son Leslie who gave his life for his country during the war service.

The new church was dedicated on October 14, 1884. At this service the sermon was preached by Rev A. J. F Behrends, DD of Brooklyn. Following the sermon a historical sketch of the church was read by Mr. Ashbel Parmalee. Hon William A Wheeler then turned the keys to the building over to Mr. H. H Thompson, chairman of the building committee, who accepted them on behalf of the trustees. The buildings’ final cost was about $46,000. Some of the memorial windows were installed when the church was built. Others have been given in later years as family memorials.

The present building is a beautiful monument, proudly towering over the center of town, with intricate stained glass, triumphant porticos and resonant bells and chimes which can be heard for miles away every hour and half hour.

It truly is the grandest spectacle in Malone.

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One Response to “The Buildings of Malone: The First Congregational Church”

  1. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

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