The Very Beginning
It was May 1871. A small group of potential Presbyterians met for worship on the third floor of Avery’s hardware store down in Old Katonah. They continued to meet through the heat of summer. That was before air conditioning and even before attic fans. They really wanted to have a Presbyterian Church.
Creation of The Church
By 1872, they were seven members strong, and the new congregation was organized by the Presbytery of Westchester on November 17th. At considerable debt, a church building was constructed on Church Street in Old Katonah, about a mile north of our present church. It was dedicated on December 21, 1874.
They called John Eastman to be the first pastor. He was ordained and installed on July 8, 1875, and he began a fine twenty-year pastorate. The church grew, and in 1880 they built a manse on River Road, about 2/10 of a mile to the north of the church. A Sunday School room was added in 1892, and the church prospered.
Although survey teams had been in the area since 1875, and there were many rumors, it was not until the site of the new Croton Dam was announced in 1891 that the truth became known; the village of Katonah stood in the way of New York City’s new reservoir! The buildings were condemned! The village had to give way to the water created by the dam.
The New Church
In spite of the disruption, those Presbyterian really wanted to maintain fellowship and mission. The congregation then numbered about 100 persons. Two choice lots were purchased in the center of the new village of Katonah. It was 31 Bedford Road, the present church site. Although the old church building was sold and dismantled, the manse was moved to a new foundation in 1898, 7 years after the announcement of Croton Dam. Currently, this building is called “the church house”, and serves the needs for Christian education and administrative space. On the adjacent lot, a new church building of Brewster granite was built on a cornerstone dated 1899. It is shown here as it looked while under construction.
During construction, a temporary chapel was built and worship continued there until the new church was first occupied on July 9, 1900.
Growth of The Church
The church family grew and grew. In 1950, the congregation numbered about 300. As a new manse, a house adjacent to the church building on Edgemont Road was purchased so that the former manse, now “the church house”, could be put to use as a church school building. By the mid-1950s a building campaign was under way. The proceeds were used to finish the basement of the church to create “Fellowship Hall”, and to build an addition joining the church building and the former manse to create new classrooms. Presently the church library and classrooms are housed in this added area. The renovations were dedicated in 1958.
Arrival of Rev. Bruce R. White
On February 1, 1971, one hundred years after the very first meeting took place in Old Katonah, Rev. Bruce R. White was installed as the twelfth pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Katonah.
In the mid-1980s, the congregation, numbering 400, outgrew the worship space! A renovation of the interior of the Sanctuary began. The chancel was moved back, the ceiling of “Fireside Room” was raised and the room became “the Transept”. The church library was moved to the present location from “Fireside Room”. Pews were switched to chairs to coordinate nave and “Transept”. During the construction, the worship services were held in the basement, “Fellowship Hall”. Dedication was in February 1986. After twenty-nine years Rev. Bruce R. White and his wife Pat happily retired to Cape Cod. Bruce’s long tenure and outstanding ministry were celebrated by the community as well as his grateful congregation in the autumn of 2000.
A current photograph of the front of our church building is testimony to the strong foundation laid by former generations in our church.
On the western wall of the Sanctuary behind the choir is a stained glass window of an angel. It is in memory of Rev. Eastman’s wife, Lucy King Eastman. The windows in “the Transept” came from the old church. The church is a gift which comes to us from those that went before, and it is also a gift from us to those who will come after us. It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
We are proud of our roots and committed as Christians to serve the Lord in even greater capacity today and in the future here in Katonah and throughout the world.