It all started with a log meeting house erected next to a majestic oak tree in 1717. In 1731, John Ayers, one of the very early settlers, deeded 1½ acres surrounding the meeting house to the Trustees of the church thus creating the property of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. This meeting house served the growing congregation until 1749 when a new frame church was built on the same site.
The new frame church was about 55 feet long by 35 feet wide with the pulpit on the north. It had 52 pews on the floor and 26 in the gallery. After a religious revival starting in 1803, the sanctuary became so crowded that it had to be enlarged on the north side by twenty feet. Twenty eight pews were added downstairs and 12 in the gallery at a total cost of $2,629.67. In 1809, the front of the church was faced with brick, and poplar trees were set around the churchyard in 1811.
In 1839, the old wooden church was torn down, and one of brick was built in its place and continues as our sanctuary today. On a slab over the west door entrance to the sanctuary, there is the following inscription which proves that our congregation has worshipped on the very same piece of ground since the early 1700s: “This church was rebuilt AD 1839, on the site of the former one reared in AD 1749 where stood the Ancient Log Church near the beginning of the last century.” The new building was dedicated on February 5, 1840. The sanctuary was almost square, and contained 52 pews downstairs and 26 pews in the gallery. The pews on either side of the pulpit were called “Amen Pews” and all had doors on them.
In 1869, a storm tore off most of sanctuary’s tin roof and left some of it hanging in the old oak tree. The roof was then covered with slate which is the same slate roof that we have today! At the same time, the sanctuary was enlarged to accommodate a total of 118 pews. In 1907, work was begun to build an addition off the rear of the sanctuary; this was made possible by a gift from elder Samuel Childs and designed by the noted architect George B. Post. This expansion was closely followed in 1910 by the donation of 4 acres to the rear of the church by William Childs which completed the grounds of the church and cemetery area we see today.
As our community and congregation grew after WW II, the need for expanded church facilities grew with it. In 1949, Calvin Hall was constructed under the sanctuary providing additional church school classrooms. This was closely followed by the construction of a new Education Building (Westminster Hall and classrooms now serving Tree House Preschool) and Memorial Chapel in 1954.
During 1967, the erection of the new Church House became a reality. It replaced the old Church House, one of the early houses of the village which had been inadequate to serve the need for additional office and meeting space. The new Church House was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Harris Willits and is in continuous use by church staff, for committee meetings and by many community organizations. Dedicated in 1968, Church House will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary next year!
As we celebrate our 300th Anniversary this year, we give thanks to the many dedicated people whose time, talent and generosity have created the magnificent campus that we enjoy today. It is now our responsibility to maintain our campus for the many generations which will follow.