Changing History: past to future

Click on the images below to explore the past, present and future of First Reformed Church.

The Town Clock CDC wants to play an important part in the future of First Reformed Church. The images below will show the church through various points in its history. As the church has changed in the past, it will continue to change in the future with the reconfiguration of the sanctuary into Dina's Dwellings, affordable housing for victims of domestic violence.


The congregation's first church.

Historic photograph of facade.

Historic photograph of side.

Historic photograph of interior.


Sanctuary Building

Present day interior.

Present day facade.

Present day side view.

The Graveyard

Photograph of the graveyard.

Another view of the graveyard.

The Steeple and Town Clock

The town clock is in the steeple.

The clock's mechanism.

Rose window from inside.

Church Buildings

The education building.

The sexton's house.

The Future Development

The future plans.

The congregation's first church Three Mile Run was located in the farmlands of present-day Piscataway. Built in the early 18th century, the church catered to Dutch immigrants who moved from New Amsterdam (now New York City) to the fertile farm land beside the Raritan River. A recreation of this chapel was built as part of East Jersey Olde Towne, located at 1050 River Road in Piscataway.

Image from Middlesex County Cultural Heritage Commission.

Historic photograph of facade. This photograph shows the facade of the church as it appeared in 1960. Though the congregation was founded in 1717, this church building was erected in 1812, making it over 200 years old. The church is six stories high, with its steeple. For a long time, the First Reformed Church was the tallest building in the city of New Brunswick.

This photograph was taken in 1960 by Jack Baucher a part of the Historic American Building Survey.

Historic Photograph of Side. This photograph shows the side of the sanctuary. Note the darkened stained glass windows that were created from the Tiffany studio. These windows blew out when the sanctuary was set on fire in 1971.

This photograph was taken in 1960 by Jack Baucher a part of the Historic American Building Survey.

Historic Photograph of Interior. The rear interior sanctuary, depicted, was completely destroyed in a fire in 1971. A man set fire to the sanctuary because his partner, whom he had abused, was seeking refuge there. All of the original details, including the wooden screen and pulpit were lost to the fire.

This photograph was taken in 1960 by Jack Baucher a part of the Historic American Building Survey.

Present day interior. The sanctuary had to be redesigned after the fire in 1971. Care was made to create historically sensitive details, such as the palladian arch over the altar. Without having to worry about upholding the integrity of the historic details, however, the sanctuary can be more easily converted to adaptive reuse.

Present day facade. Though the fire destroyed much of the church, the facade appears strikingly similar to when the Historic American Building Survey was conducted over fifty years ago.

Present day side view. From the side, however, you can see that none of the stained glass windows remain.

Photograph of the graveyard. This photograph shows the historic graveyard around the First Reformed Church. Many important people to the history of Rutgers and New Brunswick are buried here, including members of the Frelinghuysen, Hardenbergh and Livingston families. Recent work has been under way to restore many of the historic gravestones.

Another view of the graveyard. In this photograph you can see the variety of headstones, as well as how worn they have become over their centuries of standing beside the church.

The town clock is in the steeple. The Town Clock CDC gets its name from the Town Clock, which is located in the steeple of the First Reformed Church. This clock used to be the only one in the city, and helped guide all members of the community in its day. Today, the city of New Brunswick still owns and operates the clock. This partnership and codependence is what the Town Clock CDC wishes to emulate in its future redevelopment efforts.

The clock's mechanism. Here you can see the clock mechanism, located inside of the steeple. This part is operated and maintained by the city of New Brunswick and continues to faithfully tell the time.

The rose window from the interior. This photograph shows another detail, the Rose Window, from the interior. This window is one of the few remaining original pieces of stained glass from the church.

The education building. This photo shows another building, the Education Building, located next to the Church. This was built in 1920, and today holds space for church offices, a fellowship hall and smaller multi-purpose rooms that a variety of community programs use on a weekly basis.

The sexton's house. This is the nineteenth century Sexton's House, also part of the church property, located on Bayard Street.

The future sanctuary reconfiguration. The Town Clock CDC is working with the First Reformed Church and Women Aware to create housing for domestic violence victims, by reconfiguring the sanctuary. The worship space will be shrunk and elevated to the second floor, leaving ample space for about ten apartments on the first and second floors. Other common areas, multipurpose rooms, and a media center are included in this plan.

Image used with permission by architect Jeff Venezia of The Design Ideas Group.