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Click on any image
below to open a story:

1666 Old First
1 Dutch Reformed Church 1666

The first church in Brooklyn

OF cow
2 Deacons Cows

What was the importance of cows to the church?

Second Church built in 1766
3 Second church, built 1766; church of Martinus Schoonmaker, the last Dutch speaking Domine.

Domine Schoonmaker was a patriot who was pursued by the British.

1776 church illustration by Elizabeth Sleight 1808


Rev James M. Farrar_Old First Reformed Church_Brooklyn
4 Reverend James M. Farrar

Click on his image to learn about Rev. Farrar and the family in Park Slope, 1890s

Old First Reformed Church_Brooklyn_1891
5 Old First: architect's rendering ca 1888 before construction commenced

Built after the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, Old First's building reflected the dreams and wealth of the community at that time. Rev. Farrar was pastor.

[ illustration to come ]

6 F.E. Parshley's photograph of Old First from "American Architect and Building News" _ April 29, 1893

 

Beginnings of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands and New Amsterdam

The Reformed Dutch Church was founded as part of the official Protestant church of the Netherlands. The word “Reformed” denotes the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, led by Martin Luther and John Calvin, which swept throughout Europe. This Reformation separated these churches from the Catholic Church in Rome, and was the origin of all Protestant churches of today.

In the early 1600s, Dutch explorers began to investigate the Hudson River lands. By 1614, a permanent settlement was established on what is now Governors Island. In 1625 a majority of the settlers moved to a larger island across the bay, which was called Manhattos by the Indians; the Dutch called it Nieuw Amsterdam.

At this point the colony took hold and, in 1628, a Dutch Reformed congregation was founded (now the Collegiate Church); this makes us the oldest continuing Protestant denomination in North America. The first Jewish congregation in the New World was started the same year. An early gift from the Reformed Dutch Church to the Jewish congregation (one learns on a tour of Shearith Synagogue on Central Park West) was a huge mill stone used to grind their grain. It is one of two stones still on display as a reminder of times past.

729 Carroll St
@ 7th Av
718 638 8300
Reformed Church | Park Slope, Brooklyn
sptitle

The Reformed Dutch Church of the Town of Breukelen is our official name but everyone calls us “Old First.” We are one of the original congregations in New York City, born with the early Dutch settlers of this country.

Our Beginning in Dutch Breukelen

Breuklen Dutch Reformed ChurchOur congregation was established in 1654 along with churches in Flatbush and Flatlands by order of Governor Pieter Stuyvesant. The three churches operated as “collegiate” churches, sharing Domine (Reverend) Theodorus Polhemus as pastor. In 1660 the Breukelen group broke away and had its own pastor, Domine Henricus Selyns, but when he returned to Holland four years later, Breukelen resumed its relationship with the other two churches lasting until 1805. These three original churches celebrated their 350th Anniversary in 2004.

At first, worship was conducted under the trees, then in a barn. In 1666, the first church edifice, shown above, was built in the town of Breukelen in the middle of a highway, now known as Fulton Street.

OF 1776

This building was replaced 100 years later and included a burial ground on land which is now occupied by Macy's, on Fulton between Lawrence and Bridge Streets, shown above and to the right. The burial ground has since been transferred to Green-Wood Cemetery.

By 1805 the growth of the church necessitated larger facilities and a building, shown at right, was erected on Joralemon Street, the location of which was where the x bank stands today [confirm this].

Within 30 years, this new building was also outgrown. It was razed and rebuilt on the same site in 1835, illustrated below. The land under the new church became quite valuable and the congregation was once again rapidly growing so the property was sold, and the original congregation split.

Old First 1805 on Joralamon Street

image
Old First Reformed Church etching 1891spIn 1886 a chapel was completed at Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street, but the rapid growth of Park Slope and the church's membership necessitated plans for a larger church to be built within a few years. The church building, as it stands today, was dedicated on September 27, 1891.

An 1894 newspaper account (New York Times) gives the seating capacity as 1,200 stating that, "…the church was full of a Sunday morning". Beginning in the 1930s and continuing on through until the neighborhood revival in the 70s, Old First experienced a decline in membership and attention to the building. It has since begun a renewal on both fronts.



Old First Time Line

Old_First_Brooklyn_timeline

Over 400 years of Old First history and pastors are documented
click here _ to see a large Time Line (pdf)


Further Resources

This Website:

We have posted images of memorial windows donated by families of Old First at the time of the consecration of the new building in 1893:

North Transept South Transept Single Lancets

    Schenck
    Van Orden / Gaul
    Lott

    Suydam
    Cortelyou
    Spence
    Kissam / Ryerson
    Mason
    Rickerson

Google Books:

History of the First Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Breuckelen, now known as The First Reformed Church of Brooklyn, 1654 to 1896
, compiled by order of the Consistory, 1896. Includes History of Old First, family histories of noted members, information about the building, sanctuary and stained glass windows, for starters.

Libraries:

Old First Dutch Reformed Church of Brooklyn, New York: First Book of Records, 1660-1752, Holland Society of New York, Scholarship Committee; Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983. This is a complete translation of the oldest records of the Reformed Church in Brooklyn. Locate a copy in a library near you at Ex Libris/World Cat, which also lists places to purchase any available copies. The original records are at the Archives of the Reformed Church in America located at the New Brunswick Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey, which holds many other Reformed historical volumes as well.

Family History Research: New Brunswick Theological Seminary
Guide to local church records of the Reformed Church in America and to genealogical resources housed in the Gardner Sage Library.

For Purchase at Church Office (as available):

Growing Up at 398 President: A Remembrance of Life at the Beginning of the Century, by Helen Graham Farrar, edited by Rebecca Mlynarczyk, 1991. In Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Old First Reformed Church, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 1891-1991.

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