As the saying goes, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” First Congregational Church has a proud history of shaping the world around us and acting as an agent of change. We hosted the 1852 Albany Convention, shared our pulpit with great theologians, and even changed the course of the urban growth in the City of Albany by establishing a church in a community ignored by other denominations because it was too remote. Now our rich history is being recognized in a very public way.
In 2013, we undertook an initiative to organize our archives and develop a clearer picture of our history. With records dating back to 1850, many of the original documents in our archive were of significance on the regional and national levels. With that in mind, we began a dialogue with representatives from the State Office of Historic Preservation. Out of those discussions, we developed an application to place our church building on the New York State Register of Historic Places. After a great deal of research and fact-checking on our part, our application was discussed by the Review Board at a meeting in March. John Dennehey (Church Historian) and Rebecca Partridge (Deaconate) attended the meeting on behalf of the church to meet with officials and answer questions.
We are pleased to announce that our application was unanimously approved in 2014. Officials remarked at the care we take in maintaining our church and praised our ongoing commitment to our history. We also learned that our application received support from Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, City Historian Tony Opalka, and Assemblyman John McDonald. A press announcement later made by Governor Cuomo was followed by news articles and media attention highlighting our church’s historic designation.
So now we are on the State Register of Historic Places… but what does this mean?
One of the concrete benefits (no pun intended) is that we are eligible for preservation programs that will ensure our history is accessible to future generations. We are also afforded a level of protection from demolition and projects impacting our property.
However, the most important benefit of designation is that it recognizes our contribution to local and regional history. For over 160 years, our church has provided spiritual fulfillment and outreach in our community – and our church building is the physical representation of that mission. Although 405 Quail Street was on the outskirts of the city in 1917, church leaders hired a prominent architect and used a brand-new architectural style. Our building makes a bold statement that we are committed to giving the best to the community and that we will “make a joyful noise.”
Designation ensures that our rich history is not only recognized, but that it will also be celebrated.