Up until the early 1900s, the congregation of First Congregational Church was located in a church on Beaver and Eagle Streets downtown. However, during the early 1900s, downtown was becoming a little less “residential” and a little more industrial with warehouses, halfway houses, and hotels. As a result, much of the city’s population, including many of our members, were moving out of the city into more rural areas.
At the same time, a Sunday school had been formed in the countryside on Seneca Street (which originally merged with Ontario Street right around Woodlawn). The Sunday school needed a church and First Congregational had long been recognized as having the best Sunday School program in the city. With this in mind, our “mission” became one that involved our minister and a few members coming out once a week to lead the Sunday school on Seneca.
At that time there were a few houses in the neighborhood but not much else. Trolley service didn’t extend this far and the area was being described as the rural countryside. Churches did not exist anywhere in this part of the city because frankly it was too risky to try and make a congregation out of just a few houses.
Quickly recognizing a need, our church members took a risk (after much deliberation and careful consideration) and decided to relocate the church into a new building in the countryside with members traveling into the rural area for services.
Admittedly most congregations building a countryside church would like build something modest, inexpensive, and small… however First Congregational did just the opposite. We hired Fuller, one of the most prominent architects in the region, to design a church that was unlike anything else in the city.
At that time, the “Greek Revival Design” was the latest rage in architecture but nobody had completely used this style for buildings within the City of Albany before Fuller applied it to the design for First Congregational Church. Furthermore, the construction used “cutting edge” technologies for our columns, structure, and used all local businesses (some of which are still in business today).
When First Congregational formally opened its doors at 405 Quail Street in 1917, it made headlines and the rest is history.
A side note worth mentioning - only 2 items from the former church were taken to be installed at our current church building. The baptismal font (dedicated in 1916) and our church bell (dating to the late 1800s). The significance of these two items? The baptismal font symbolizes rebirth and renewal while the bell remains a symbol of calling the community to worship and fellowship.