First meetings were held in the log school house on what is now Prospect St. This building was used until 1831, when a wooden church building was erected at the corner of First and Falls Streets. The small wooden structure had no steeple with the bell displayed out front. That bell still rings in the current church bell tower. The building was later sold to the Methodists when the present church was erected out of native stone in 1849 at a cost of $8,000, including the cost of the lot. John Goddard researched the architect who designed and supervised construction of the building as part of a National Register application.
The original Board of Trustees of the "First Presbyterian Society of Niagara" included some of the area's most prominent citizens and founders of Niagara Falls. In addition to the original five organizers was Augustus Porter, Samuel DeVeaux, Ira Cook and Ziba Gay. Judge Porter was the first permanent white settler of the area, and along with his brother General Peter Porter, owned Goat Island and all the lands in the area. The famous Native American, Chief Red Jacket and General Lafayette were frequent visitors to the Porter household.
The Rev. Horatio Parsons was the first regular pastor, and when Judge Samuel DeVeaux established the Sunday School in 1827, Mrs. Parsons, who was also the village schoolmarm, became the Sunday School teacher.
Miss Lavinia Porter, Judge Augustus Porter's daughter, donated her home at 162 Buffalo Ave. as the church's Manse in 1855. No longer owned by the church, the house still stands.
In 1879 a large addition was constructed at the rear of the church to house the ever-growing Sunday School. Originally called the Chapel,we now call it the Fellowship Room and it is largely in its original form. A growing congregation necessitated the enlargement of the Sanctuary in 1889 when a large addition was constructed on the south side of the church.
The beautiful stained glass window now in the Fellowship Hall originally faced the Sanctuary and was dedicated in 1922. Other major improvements include a new addition to the Chapel, the front entrance and a considerable change in the basement. This all resulted in a Library and the Fireside Room, as well as other added Sunday School classrooms. The Sanctuary was totally renewed in 1957 including new pews and an enlarged choir loft and newly-placed organ console.
Members of First Church have been instrumental in founding several of the other churches in Niagara Falls. Among those was the "Presbyterian Church" at 10th & Niagara Ave. in 1853; and those members also founded the Congregational Church at 822 Cleveland Ave. - however, in 1867 those persons asked to be re-admitted into membership at First Church. In 1893, Pierce Ave. Presbyterian Church was born in faith and prayer, when 20 of the original charter members brought their letter from the Mother Church. The Pierce Avenue church closed late in the 20th Century.
In the late 1920's the spirit again moved First Church to mission work at home and led to acquisition of property in the DeVeaux and Evershed sections of the city for branches of First Church. Third Presbyterian was merged into First Church and the new facility on 59th St. was named Bacon Memorial Church, in honor of Rev. Albert S. Bacon, who was pastor of First Church from 1890-1925, the longest serving pastor in the church's history.
In 1970 the church was scheduled to be demolished as part of the city's Urban Renewal program. Fortunately, the congregation's fight to save the building was successful and this magnificent facility still proudly stands as the symbol of Niagara's oldest church.
Many of our church records have been archived and are available for viewing on the Internet. Here's a link to the History site with this information: Link to public church records.
A description of the history of the church building - rather than a history of the congregation - can be found on the Niagara Falls Historic Preservation web site. Here's a link to the information.
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF
NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK