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United Presbyterian

Church of Binghamton

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First Presbyterian Church History

First Presbyterian Church is the second oldest church in Binghamton.  The photo on the left is taken from the Bell Tower of Christ Episcopal Church, which is the oldest church in the city by a few years.  

The present building is not the same one that the first members worshiped in. The first meeting house was built in 1819 and was dedicated on Jan. 1st 1820.  In 1831 Pastor Lockwood expressed a concern over the lack of adequate seating for the growing population. The congregation was so moved by his sermon on the subject that they raised $1000, and the length of the meeting house was extended from 50 feet to 60 feet. But the population of the area was growing steadily, as was Sunday morning attendance. So in  1860, the old church building was moved to the north rear corner of the church property, and construction began on a new and enlarged church.  The cornerstone for the new building was laid in 1860, and two years later when the building was completed, it was magnificent. There were 212 pews that could seat 1200 people. The architectural style was Romanesque; it was 85 feet in width and 130 feet in depth. The central tower measured 30 square feet at the base and stood 220 feet high, terminating in a finial bearing a weather vane with the compass points.

The dedication of the completed building was scheduled for Sunday March 23, 1862. But the dedication never took place. According to historian Dorothy E. Barnes this is what happened:

      “During the previous Sunday night, March 16, flames were discovered erupting from the old church building. The canal water was frozen and the only supply of water came from wells and cisterns in the neighborhood. In spite of all the efforts, the humble structure of well-seasoned white pine, dry as tinder, burned rapidly. A strong breeze from the north carried the flames directly against the splendid new building. Soon the tall spire was wrapped in one sheet of flame, and in a brilliant and sublime spectacle it sank within the walls of the new building, leaving only a shell of the pretentious new Presbyterian Church.” 

On April 26, 1863, just a little more than a year after the fire, the new sanctuary was completed and dedicated. There have, however, been changes and remodeling to the interior of the building since that time.