02/21/14 11:00am
02/21/2014 11:00 AM

First Parish Church is seeking tenants to renovate the historic Northville building. (Barbaraellen Koch photo)

In the course of its 182-year existence in Northville, Grange Hall on Sound Avenue has undergone various reincarnations: It’s been a place of worship, a school, a social hub for local farmers, and, most recently, a meetinghouse for several different groups.  (more…)

04/12/13 8:00am
04/12/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | With parishoners Mary Ann Musumeci of Middle Island (left) and Rita Allen of Jamesport, Pastor Dianne Rodriguez lights altar candles during First Parish Chruch’s first service at Grange Hall.

First Parish Church in Northville is getting a new lease on life thanks to a new tenant dedicated to preserving the building’s rich history.

On Sunday, April 7, Community Baptist Church began holding services at the 109-year-old church. The congregation finalized a lease agreement last week with United Church of Christ, which owns and maintains First Parish Church, located at the corner of Church Lane and Sound Avenue.

Dwindling membership and finances almost caused First Parish to shut its doors for good.

The lease agreement gives the small UCC parish the freedom to hold services without the financial burden. The UCC congregation now meets at Grange Hall, another historic First Parish-owned building, directly across Sound Avenue.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The outside of First Parish Church in Northville.

Community Baptist Church Pastor Joshua Fryman called the lease agreement a blessing. He described the two-year-old congregation as an independent group unaffiliated with any religious organization. Before renting First Parish Church, Community Baptist didn’t have a house of worship to call its own. Instead, members gathered for services in the basement of Polish Hall in Riverhead and later moved their Sunday services to Grace Episcopal Church in Riverhead.

“I told our folks we really needed to pray for a building because I don’t want to be the nomadic Baptist church.” Pastor Fryman said. “I want to find a place to put our roots down. Most of our folks come from the North Fork, so it’s been a blessing.”

One of the features that drew Pastor Fryman to the church is the building’s dynamic history. First Parish Church dates back to 1829, when the parishioners of Old Steeple Church in Aquebogue split from that congregation after deciding it did not follow the Bible’s teachings closely enough. From that, the Strict Congregational Church was born. It held services at Grange Hall until 1831, when the first church building was constructed.

The church was rebuilt twice due to fire. In 1877, a disgruntled former minister burned the building to the ground, according to Riverhead historian Richard Wines. It was destroyed by fire again in 1901, when the church steeple was struck by lightning.

With the support of wealthy local farmers and other parishioners, the current church was completed in 1904. The building was modeled after the Cleveland design plan, which was popular in the 1900s and emphasized asymmetry, Mr. Wines said. Decorated with richly colored stained glass and oak pews, the church boasts one of the oldest working organs on Long Island. The Hook & Hook organ is one of two in working condition on the North Fork, Mr. Wines said. The other is at Orient United Methodist Church.

Up until 1957, the church was known as Sound Avenue Congregational Church. At that time Protestants seeking spiritual and political freedom divided branches of Christ’s church, resulting in the formation of United Church of Christ.

While the UCC started strong in Northville with more than 50 members, parishioners have slowly trailed off, according to First Parish Pastor Dianne Rodriguez. The farmers who once helped finance the church have dispersed, Mr. Wines said, leaving the church without its core following. Pastor Rodriguez says the UCC in Northville has about 15 parishioners.

But the congregation will still have a presence in the iconic church, the pastor said. Community Baptist Church has agreed to allow First Parish to hold special events there, such as weddings.

Community Baptist Church will hold a community day Sunday, May 5, at 11 a.m. to introduce the church and building to the public.

cmurray@timesreview.com

07/12/11 8:41am
07/12/2011 8:41 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Darrius Strickland, 13, of Greenport, (left) and Marcus Bartlett, 14, of Riverhead enjoy feeding the sheep during a summer camp field trip to Garden of Eve farm in Northville last Thursday.

When First Parish Church began its campaign to save The Grange in Northville  this year, The Rev. Dianne Rodriguez not only envisioned a resurrection of the structure, but programs that would make the old Sound Avenue building a true community center.

On July 5, another goal toward that end was achieved with the opening of the six-day-a-week Grange New Life Summer Day Camp for youths from Riverhead and Greenport, from ages of 3 and 14.

Under the direction of Crystal Anderson, 25 children from the two communities are being bused to The Grange to participate in games, arts and crafts, theater, dance, physical education, photography and field trips.

Ms. Anderson was the driving force behind the Forever Young Foundation to revitalize Greenport’s Third Street basketball court in honor of her cousin, Corey Freeman and his friend, Jefferson “Naquawn” Treadwell, both killed in separate motor vehicle accidents in 2010. Through various activities there, she raised several thousand dollars, some of which was put to use cleaning up the site. The balance was turned over to Greenport Village for continuing efforts to revitalize the court.

Ms. Anderson’s charge from First Parish Church’s Spiritual Renewal Center is not only to create the summer camp program, but to lay the groundwork for ongoing youth programs to operate at The Grange year-round.

“At first I was a little hesitant,” she said about tackling the job. But now she says the building has brought her much peace.

As children played downstairs toward the end of the first day, painter Angel Colon worked upstairs on the large room that once hosted the First Universalist Church congregation, which now holds its services at the Jamesport Meeting House.

Members of the National Grange met in the hall in the early 20th Century to discuss farming. The circa 1831 building has also served as a school and as the original sanctuary of the First Parish Church.

While renovations are ongoing, the building’s face-lift has come a long way thanks to the support of area merchants and public contributions. Workers continue to complete the renovations as children’s laughter fills the hallways, thanks to the summer camp program that runs through Sept. 2.

“I thought it was going to be boring,” said Isaiah Brumskill, 10, of Riverhead. But after a kickball game, he decided camp wasn’t so dull after all and was looking forward to coming back the next day.

“It was really fun,” agreed his friend, Anthony Williams, 9, of Riverhead.

“I didn’t expect it to actually come together,” Ms. Anderson admitted, saying she was waiting for someone to come and take it all away.

“But what God has for you, no one can take away.”

Ms. Anderson expected a Spanish-speaking counselor to join the staff last week and said she’s determined to learn Spanish so she can work effectively with Hispanic children.

“The recession has hit us hard,” Ms. Anderson said, noting that many families couldn’t afford the more than $700 other community camps charge. Campers at The Grange are charged $475 and Ms. Anderson wants to assure no child is turned away for lack of money.

She’s hoping to hook up with Long Island Cares to help assure the campers have breakfast and healthy snacks available since some come from homes where money is tight.

She’d like to foster an anti-bullying campaign and provide kids who feel they don’t fit in a place to air their emotions.

“We want to give this building new life and a new heartbeat,” Ms. Anderson said.

jlane@timesreview.com