No. 59 May 2006
The authoritative source on early churches in New Jersey

ISSN 1543-3250



   
      About this site
We've created a database and photographic inventory containing more than a thousand of the 18th & 19th century churches in the state and add to it each month. We solicit all contributions and suggestions from visitors.

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& Builders

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index to the articles

Highlights

Last month's feature
Jeremiah O'Rourke, architect

Book reviews
How the Other Half Worships

Can you identify this church?

Paterson - German Presbyterian

Vintage photo of the month

Vincentown - Trinity

           Endangered churches
A dozen at-risk buildings are noted. Submit your nomination for the most endangered churches in the state. We will research the submissions and feature a church now and then, and keep people informed of the status of the building.

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Do have additional information about any of the buildings in this article? Or perhaps an old photograph or an article that can enrich our knowledge? Please submit that information for the benefit of other visitors.

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Feature of the month

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This month's feature is a modest experiment—an attempt to offer a little more depth or, in this case, breadth, to a topic but still work within the conventions of a website. I've wanted for some time to call attention to a handful of the state's interesting old churches, but the self-imposed constraints of a website are hardly conducive to illustrating and discussing 30 or 40 buildings. So I designed a booklet that can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF, and I will use this page merely to tell you about what's in that booklet.

Although I usually try to focus on an architectural style, a region, or a theme that provides some unity to the churches I illustrate and discuss, sometimes there is no theme that links churches I'd like to talk about. That's the unifying concept here—churches I'd like to call your attention to, favorites of mine, if you will, like the two Methodist churches in Califon on the left. I have no intention of anointing a select few as “the Great Churches of New Jersey,” partly because that is not my role, but mostly because we don't really have many I would describe as “great” when you compare ours with Boston's, New York's, Philadelphia's, or Chicago's, for example. But we do have a remarkable variety of more modest churches and meetinghouses, and they are worthy of attention and respect.

In deciding which of the almost 1,200 I have photographed ought to be included I made some criteria explicit: I would include only buildings that were (1) essentially unchanged—no additions, external improvements, aluminum siding, etc.; (2) of an unusual design or setting, or with unusual grace, proportion, craftsmanship, or influence; and, (3) an exceptional example of a common design. I also added a fourth criterion, a personal one, which is how well does it photograph? There are several here that I have visited a dozen times, simply because as the season or the light changes I am confronted with a different building.

I did not give a thought to being politically correct in my selection; there was no attempt to balance geography, denomination, or style. Not all major denominations or counties are represented in this compilation. I went through my database county by county looking for churches I had graded A or A+, and I looked at every image I have scanned—about 4,000 so far. I started with a list of 24, but continued to add churches until I was nearing 50, and then I pared it back a bit. As it turned out, more than half are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is not entirely surprising. Some of the churches here are representative of a cluster of others—the Quaker meetinghouse in Crosswicks, for example, and the Methodist church in South Dennis will have to stand in for a score of buildings that are perhaps equally worthy.

At the end of the month I'll see how many people downloaded the PDF. The file is a little more than 3MB, so it's a long download with a dial-up modem. If there is sufficient interest (enough to justify the several days it took to put together the booklet) then I'll probably do so again when I need the extended “space.” If not, the experiment was nevertheless worth doing, for I am still trying to understand how to use this medium to reach and engage an audience, and a dearth of responses will provide a clear message. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this experiment, I'd be pleased to hear from you.
                                                                                              — Frank L. Greenagel


If you are serious about photography, I invite you to take a look at a new website devoted to the art of photography. The emphasis is on composition and the traditions of drawing and painting that informs much of the best photography. It addresses two basic questions: what do I point my camera at? and where do I stand? http://thinklikeaphotographer.com

The website has been optimized for Mozilla's Firefox browser instead of Internet Explorer. Firefox is superior in compliance to web standards, usability, performance, and is not nearly as susceptible to security problems. I have urged all my friends and family to make the switch. Firefox is an open source program, which means it is free. You can download it at www.mozilla.com. EWeek Magazine calls it "the best standalone browser available today and generations ahead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer."

 
 

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Copyright 2006 Frank L. Greenagel