About Our Name
The Town Clock is located in the steeple of the First Reformed Church of New Brunswick. The steeple was begun in 1827 and completed in 1839. In 1828, the “town” of
New Brunswick paid $500 to install a clock in the steeple. The Town Clock continues to be owned and operated by the city of New Brunswick and was recently converted to a
digital clock to adjust to time changes automatically.
Town Clock CDC used the Town Clock as inspiration for its name. Though contained within a house of worship, the Town Clock is owned by the community, the City of New Brunswick.
Town Clock CDC wishes to allow for more of the building space of the
First Reformed Church to serve the community with purpose.
Who Was Dina?
Dina lived in the Old Dutch Parsonage (Somerville, NJ) with her husband, the Reverend Johannes (John) Frelinghuysen, who died in 1754. Frelinghuysen preached at First Reformed Church, as well as other churches in the region.
Dina's strength and spirituality attracted the attention of the young Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, who courted and later married her. He served in many churches as a pastor. After the Revolutionary War, he was called to serve the First Reformed Church of New Brunswick, where the couple worked together to establish Queen's College (precursor of Rutgers University), of which Hardenbergh was the first president. After Hardenbergh’s death in 1790, Dina continued to be an influential spiritual leader in New Brunswick.
Dina's resolve in times of difficulty and
service to the community reminds the
First Reformed Church of its historic roots.
Her namesake is an inspiration for this project, which provides homes for women who fight for a better life for themselves and their families.
This is an image of a doll created from the likeness of Dina Van Bergh.
Why Here? Why Now?
In 1971, a man set fire to the sanctuary of
First Reformed Church, angry that the church was providing sanctuary to his partner,
who was a victim of abuse.
The fire destroyed much of the historical sanctuary, including the chancel area and most of the historical stained glass windows. Over the past few years, the congregation of the First Reformed Church has diminished in number. Thoug still a vibrant community, they no longer have the resources to maintain a historical building of the church’s size. The fire’s destruction and the dwindling congregation numbers could have been seen as signs of a church that is at the end of its days. However, they proved to be the catalyst for many new opportunities.
Pictured on left: The historical interior sanctuary of the First Reformed Church
Concerned congregation members and community leaders came up with a creative solution to address their problems in a way which could help solve a greater social issue, one which affected their own church. While some faith-based organizations support and fund affordable housing and adaptive reuse efforts, Town Clock CDC was the first to integrate affordable housing into a sanctuary space.
Though the church was originally destroyed for providing sanctuary for a victim of abuse, its rebuilding ensures that the space is used as a worship space while providing sanctuary for survivors of domestic violence.
The Town Clock, located in the steeple of the First Reformed Church, is owned, operated and maintained by the city of New Brunswick. However, it is physically located inside of the church. With that spirit, Town Clock CDC uses the facilities of the historical First Reformed Church to provide direction for the greater community of New Brunswick. When the resources of the public, private and faith-based realms are combined,
great things are possible.
Pictured on right: Dina's Dwellings today
The historic interior sanctuary of the First Reformed Church