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.