When a grand dame with a very public profile acquires a major facelift, while never leaving the spotlight, it attracts quite a bit of attention.
The Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge, one of the township's most noticeable landmarks, is undergoing a six-week repainting project that should culminate in the 170-plus-years-old church presenting a bright new facade in the center of town.
New gilting is reportedly planned for the top of the historic building, which remains very much a part of community life in Basking Ridge in the 21st century. Afterward, "It should be gorgeous," said Pam Smith, a church administrative assistant.
Anyone who entered the center of town last week was greeted by a rather startling sight of the familiar church, which stands in prime location at the head of the town green, at 1 E. Oak Street at the head of the town green. The front is covered in scaffolding and netting and, of course, workers busy at the job.
The repainting project began last week, and is expected to continue about six weeks, Smith said.
Until then, those who are accustomed to seeing the architecturally distinguished building looking elegant may get an upfront look at what's going on to make church's face look even more beautiful.
The following account of the history of the current church building, and previous church buildings on the property, is on the website for The Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge:
"Shortly after the first Scotch-Irish farmers settled in Basking Ridge — about 1717 — they erected a log house of worship on the site of our present church.
In 1731, John Ayers deeded to the trustees of this church one and a half acres 'on or near the middle of which now stands a house built and intended for the exercising of religious worship in.'
Current church and white oak believed to be over 600 years old on historic registry
By 1749, the congregation erected its second meeting house. It was of frame construction, and was enlarged in 1803. When this became too crowded, the building was sold and removed, and in 1839 a new church in classic Greek revival architecture, was constructed of brick. This structure was enlarged in 1869 and altered in 1908. In 1960 the pulpit and choir areas were changed to the present arrangement. The sanctuary, church yard and oak tree are listed in the National Register of Historic Places."
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