Our congregation had its beginning in 1842, when Thomas Hunt of Brooklyn bought a tract of 177 acres on what was then called Rumson Neck. He decided to start a commercial venture a village to be called Port Washington, and to build several small houses, a hotel, a dock and a church, wanting to take advantage of the economic opportunity offered by the steamship line operating on the Shrewsbury River to New York. The church was built for the summer guests of Mr. Hunt’s Port Washington Pavilion Hotel. This first building was a non-denominational church and it still stands today, known as Bingham Hall, which is now owned and operated by the Borough of Rumson, having been sold to the town of Rumson in 1956.

  In 1861 the congregation became Presbyterian, and in 1875 became known as the Oceanic Presbyterian Church. As the area grew, so did the church begin to grow, helped along by the growing economy of the post Civil War era. By the 1880's the congregation had outgrown its original building (Bingham Hall), and under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Knipe, a new church was built in 1886 on land donated nearby by Dr. Ehrick Parmly, a local dentist. On November 21, 1885 the building of the sanctuary began for a sum of “five thousand seven hundred and thirty dollars.” The sanctuary, built in 1886, is constructed in one of America’s most original and beautiful architectural styles, the “Shingle Style.” It is also one of the first buildings designed by renown architects Hastings and Carrere, formally of the New York firm of McKim, Mead, and White. The firm’s best known building is the New York Public Library. At Hasting’s death in 1929 he was hailed as one of the great American architects of his time, with his firm being responsible for many of the finest buildings in recent decades in America.”1 This is the same sanctuary that we still worship in today. Over the years the congregation has renovated the property, adding a Manse in 1905 and an education building with a hall in 1955. The sanctuary, however, has remained untouched in many ways. In 1985-86 the exterior of the building was restored, and the pews were removed and refinished along with much of the wood on the interior of the building. We continue to work on improving the upkeep of our historic building and are currently talking with various historic architects about the future upkeep and care of the sanctuary.

Of course, a congregation is not just a building, but the people who worship in it. Over the years the congregation has been led by 17 different senior pastors and various associates, each bringing with them a different flavor and leadership to the congregation. Some were scholars, other teachers, some stayed for a long time while others for only a brief time. Our congregation has grown in numbers over time, changed in our demographics, and grown along with our community. What was once a small, country church to a small number of persons has grown to be a much larger congregation, serving a community that is now minutes away from New York City by ferry, a town that is very much tied in with the world. Throughout the years, even as we have increased in numbers, our congregation has always remained a place of hospitality, be it for those coming from other countries, to long-time members of the community, a place of welcome for all, a place of education, service, and growth in faith.

Our congregation’s history continues to grow with each day and we invite you to join us on our journey of faith as we continue to write our congregation’s history together.

1From a report on the architecture of the santuary written by Mrs. Mary Lou Strong; December 6, 1999. We are grateful to her work on gathering architectural information about our sanctuary.

First Presbyterian Church
East River Road at Park Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 399
Rumson, New Jersey 07760
Phone: (732) 842-0429
Fax: (732) 933-4918

Themes of the Scotts Confession given in memory of Jean Wrightson, 2001.