Remarkable $1 Deal Saves Historic First Presbyterian Church From Demolition

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In the past few decades, the Historic First Presbyterian Church has experienced a reduction in mass attendance and has had extensive church repairs, which has led to the possibility that the historic structure would be demolished. However, a charitable organization has agreed to lease the facility for $1 annually to undertake the required improvements.

 $1 Deal Saves Historic Church

MSN reported that the old chapel in Mercer County desperately needed substantial repairs, but the church did not have the funds to pay for them. The building, which had been constructed in 1867, immediately after the end of the Civil War, was at risk of being destroyed. Kathleen Jordan, president of the nonprofit organization Friends of 1867 Sanctuary, which was established to keep up the structure's maintenance and operations, said that a different option came up: Preservation New Jersey, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to safeguard historical places in the state, agreed to lease the facility for a dollar a year to carry out the necessary repairs. P

According to Jordan, Preservation New Jersey reached an unusual 50-year leasing deal with the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 2012. Because nearly all of the repairs were finished in March, the agreement to lease was terminated two decades earlier than originally scheduled. The property was returned to the Presbytery of the Coastlands, which is responsible for the administration of Presbyterian churches in the region at this time. Moreover, Kelly Ruffel, who serves as the executive director of Preservation New Jersey, referred to the event as "absolutely a win." It's a unique, nationally recognized building, and the architecture is exquisite," the director added. The church does not utilize the rehabilitated structure regularly, which now has its services across the street, although the congregation periodically uses it. In addition, it is available for rental for various events and performances, including weddings.

On the other hand, Community News reported that the history of the Christian church, from the beginning until the founding of the Ewing Presbyterian Church, is depicted in stained glass windows that were put along the center aisle in 1967 to celebrate the building's 100th anniversary. The windows and doors both have arched openings that give the appearance of being Romanesque Revival in style. The remaining stained glass is reportedly an antique.

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Brief History of First Presbyterian Church 

The First Presbyterian Church of Ewing was built in 1867 and characterized in the Romanesque Revival style. It has a brownstone facade, tall round-arched windows, arcaded corbels, buttresses, and a central tower. An article from New Jersey Historic Trust stated that on the original site of 55 acres, there was four structures total, including an active cemetery, a former manse built in 1880, and a modern fellowship hall. After the house of worship was forced to close in 2007 due to structural issues, the Presbytery of New Brunswick took over responsibility for the maintenance of the church. 

The Presbytery has granted the group that applied an agreement to lease the Sanctuary for the next fifty years, and they are already working to make necessary repairs to the building. With the assistance of the grant awarded in 2012, funding for a study of the potential to build an environmental policy center at the site would be possible. A complete structural study and the development of building and design documents to address the building defect were partially funded by a Trust grant awarded in 2009.

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