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National Historic Landmark status granted to First Presbyterian Church of Stamford

The First Presbyterian Church of Stamford garnered some attention Thursday by earning the designation as a National Historic Landmark.

News 12 Staff

Feb 20, 2021, 2:59 PM

Updated 1,218 days ago

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The First Presbyterian Church of Stamford garnered some attention Thursday by earning the designation as a National Historic Landmark.
"We are delighted by the designation we have received," says Rev. David Van Dyke, of the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, which is also known as the Fish Church.
Highland Green Foundation Board Member Wes Haynes says, "This building was designated on the basis of its architectural significance. It joins a very exclusive club with Monticello and the Pettus Bridge--a major civil rights landmark--a wide variety of places that are important to the story of the United States."
The chapter in Stamford began in the mid-1950s with a daring vision for First Presbyterian's new building.
"The people here said we need a new expression of the Christian faith and the worship of God for a new world and a new age," says Van Dyke.
Haynes says the church was designed by innovative architect Wallace K. Harrison, who was also the architect of Rockefeller Center and the United Nations building.
It was on this project that Harrison pioneered the use of hand-worked pieces of glass into the walls. It was the first in the United States and became widely used after.
"It was featured in Life Magazine, it was hailed as lofty and luminous at the time and it was featured in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art," says Haynes.
Van Dyke says, "One of my favorite things in ministry is to bring someone into this room for the first time who's never seen it and nine times out of 10 there's a kind of audible gasp as they walk in those back doors."
The hope is the new designation will allow more people to experience the artistry and imagination, bringing tourists, potential members and those interested in helping preserve the church's historical heritage.
"It shines a spotlight on us as a very special place," says Haynes.
National Historic Landmark status also means the church will qualify for a number of grant programs. It's a welcome designation as the church launches a $7 million capital campaign to preserve the main structures, the sanctuary and the tower.


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