Our church property currently includes the sanctuary, manse (pastor's house), and Social Hall. Below is a description of our current buildings. Other parts of our property, including the Corner House, the Old White Church, and our cemetery, have been demolished.

Brownstone Sanctuary

Our current brownstone sanctuary is the fifth sanctuary in our church's history. The building, which was dedicated on May 5, 1895, is modeled after the First Presbyterian Church of Cherry Valley, New York. John Goldsmith Payntar donated most of the funds for the construction of our sanctuary. The words "Payntar Memorial" appear over the archway to the sanctuary's main entrance.

The sanctuary was originally built on Hoffman Blvd. (later widened and renamed Queens Blvd.) on somewhat marshy ground which needed to be filled in with stone and dirt. John Goldsmith Payntar donated $70,000, most of the funds to construct the building. The building is Gothic style, made of brownstone and granite.

1920s sanctuary photo

The sanctuary was designed by Queens architect Frank A. Collins to fulfill the wish of the building's donor that it be modeled on an 1873 church in Cherry Valley, New York. The imposing edifice is significant as an example of high Victorian Gothic Revival style ecclesiastic architecture executed in granite and sandstone located in the Queens neighborhood of Elmhurst. The building is a rare example of a church designed by Collins. His career as the New York City Department of Education's deputy superintendent of buildings for Queens included overseeing the construction of some fifty school buildings in the borough. The sanctuary is also one of his largest private commissions.

The cornerstone, located on the northwest corner of the sanctuary, was laid in 1893. According to a contemporary newspaper, the cornerstone contained a time capsule meant to be opened at some future date. The cornerstone contains the following items in a copper box:

  • Bible
  • paperweight made of wood cut from the Mount of Olives
  • picture of John Goldsmith Payntar, donor of the money that built the sanctuary
  • souvenir coin of the 1893 Columbian Exposition
  • pictures of the church, Sunday School, and parsonage in 1893
  • anniversary sermon preached by Rev. John Goldsmith on his 30th anniversary in 1849
  • brief histories of the Sunday School, Women's Missionary Society, and Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor
  • copies of printed matter related to Rev. Jacob Mallman (FPCN's pastor at the time) and FPCN, including the invitation and program for the cornerstone laying
  • copies of the Newtown Register, Newtown Journal, and Newtown Sun
  • business card of Mr. Nash, who carved the cornerstone
  • sealed package from John Goldsmith Payntar's widow
  • The sanctuary originally had a tall steeple which doubled the height of the present building. The steeple cost $4,000.

A contractor in Utica, New York agreed to paint over the pulpit arch an emblem consisting of the Bible and palms. Some church members remember that around the 1940s, the area above the organ pipes was painted light blue with white clouds. Arthur Wrench, a former member of FPCN, did many of the paintings and other artwork currently in the sanctuary. The inscription above the choir loft, below the cross, reads "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

Bell: The 85-foot-high tower houses the old bell from the Old White Church. The bell was cast by Gerit Bakker, Rotterdam, in 1788. It seems to have been cast for a church in Maryland. The inscription on the bell is: "Fur die Evangelisch Lutherische Gemeinde fur Elizabet Stadt in der Grafchaft Washington Staate Maryland," which means, "For the Evangelical Lutheran Parish for Elizabeth City in the County of Washington, State of Maryland." In December 1999, FPCN rededicated this bell after a successful campaign to restore it. The bell sits in the tower today and is rung before every service.

Stained Glass Windows: For the sanctuary's construction, FPCN purchased a sample stained glass window from A. Passage. The other windows were made by noted New York City stained-glass artists Sellers & Ashley, practitioners of the opalescent style popular in the late 19th century and associated with Tiffany Studios, for whom both Benjamin Sellers and William J. Ashley also worked. They are typical of stained glass window design in the late 19th century. They have some of the opalized glass popularized by Tiffany. A memorial window to Dr. John Goldsmith, pastor of FPCN from 1818 to 1854, was built into the window in the back of the sanctuary (on the side now facing Queens Blvd.), below the figure of Jesus. The window was not part of the Payntar's original plan, but Payntar's widow approved the use of funds for it after Sarah Prall (Goldsmith's daughter) requested.

Stained glass

Organ: In 1907, FPCN signed a contract with Ernest M. Skinner Co. of Boston to build and install an organ. Originally, the organ was located in the tiny room to the left of the choir loft. Another organ, built by the Wicks Organ Co., was built in 1940.

Christian Endeavor Building (demolished): The sanctuary originally had a Christian Endeavor building which stood to the east of the bell tower. It served as a meeting place for the Christian Endeavor organization. When the sanctuary was moved in 1924, the Christian Endeavor building was demolished since the church hoped to build a larger educational building. The Christian Endeavor building was in fact later replaced by the current Social Hall. Evidence of the building can be seen in the sanctuary - a door on the east side of the narthex (behind a coat rack) leads to where the building would have been. The doorway is not visible from the outside (the side facing the garden in front of the church).

1924 Move

In the early 1920s, New York City decided to widen Queens Boulevard, then a two-lane road, to 12 lanes. The plans for the expanded road went straight through our sanctuary, then on the south side of Queens Blvd. The Old White Church (the sanctuary built in 1787) was then on the north side of the boulevard. The church was given three options: keep the sanctuary in its location as an island in the middle of the road, tear down the Old White Church and the cemetery, or move the brownstone sanctuary back the equivalent of 10 lanes of traffic. Public outcry over the possible destruction of the historic 1787 church and burial ground led the church to pick the third option of moving the sanctuary back.

The sanctuary’s steeple was taken down and its stones numbered for reassembly later. The moving contract specifies "removal of the spire to a point considered safe by the Engineer and later finishing it off to form a tower." The steeple seemed to leak and rot almost from the time it was built. Although the city paid some of the cost of the move, the church had to take out a mortgage of about $35,000 to cover the remaining expenses, a loan that took 30 or 40 years to repay for a move that it didn’t want. The costs became so high that the church could not afford to reassemble the steeple.

The move was considered an engineering marvel at the time, reported even in Scotland. The sanctuary, weighing an estimated five million pounds, was hoisted onto large greased logs that were turned with hand winches so slowly and smoothly that the movement could not be seen. Fortunately, the valuable 1895 stained glass did not break except in a few small areas. The logs that moved the church along also still exist, under the church basement.

Social Hall

The Social Hall, built in 1931, contains an auditorium (with a stage and a full-length basketball court), a full kitchen, offices, and several classrooms. It replaced the Christian Endeavor building and the Old White Church (FPCN's previous sanctuary, which was used for Sunday School classes).