The Building’s History
Today’s building consists of a number of additions to a structure dedicated in 1859 and designed in the Norman Gothic style by Syracuse architect, Horatio Nelson White. The original structure contained ornamental stained glass windows and frescoed walls and ceilings. The entrance at that time was on the west side of the sanctuary, facing the intersection of Warren, Madison, and East Onondaga Streets.
Having outgrown the capacity of its original structure in 1869, the congregation initiated a remodeling effort, with Horatio White again as architect. This project resulted in the original structure’s becoming the transept and a new structure, running north and south, to become the nave. The renovated church was dedicated on March 22, 1871.
In 1889 the church underwent repairs and renovation, including the installation of a new ventilation system, modernization of the wall treatment, carpeting, and new windows.
In 1923 the original steeple was removed from the north end of the nave due to structural deterioration and replaced with a much shorter steeple. In the late 1920s the existing church was renovated (including the reconstruction of the chancel in Colonial Revival style) and an addition for offices, meeting rooms, and classrooms was built. Charles H. Carpenter of Rochester was the architect.
In the 1970s, the Sanctuary underwent yet another renovation to reflect the evolving values of the time. The pews were unbolted from the floor, allowing for greater flexibility in worship style. The hierarchy of the chancel, with its high pulpit for clergy and small lectern for lay readers, was subverted when both pieces of furniture were removed. The Communion table was moved from the chancel to the same level as the congregation, along with the lectern, which all speakers in the service now share.
Plymouth Church was placed on the National Registry of Historic Structures in 1997.
In 2009, a broken water main on the street in front of the church flooded the lower level, leading to a complete refurbishment of the spaces on that floor.
In 2016, the congregation undertook another renovation of the Sanctuary, replacing its decades-old carpeting with a tile floor and redesigning the chancel for greater flexibility. At the same time, an elevator was installed to make the basement, first, and second floors fully wheelchair accessible.
The church’s Möller pipe organ was built in 1930. According to an assessment conducted in 1986 by Nelson Barden and Associates, of Newton, Massachusetts, this organ is considered to be a significant example of a symphonic type of organ that was popular in the 1920s. That assessment noted that the organ retained all of its original pipes and concluded that it was “virtually irreplaceable” in terms of its monetary value.
The Stained Glass Windows
The church’s stained glass windows date from 1859 and 1871.
In 1997 the church commissioned a study to determine their condition. Based upon that assessment the church prioritized for restoration the Good Shepherd window facing East Onondaga Street and the Tripartite windows facing the intersection on the southwest side of the sanctuary.
The restoration and installation of protective coverings were supported with funds from the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Environmental Protection Bond Fund, from the New York Landmarks Conservancy Sacred Sites Fund, and with matching funds from members of the congregation. Crawford and Stearns provided architectural direction for the project. Contractors were W.L. Kline, Inc, and Rose Viviano for the Good Shepherd window and the Jerome Durr Studios for the Tripartite windows.
The Good Shepherd window was removed from its frame for restoration in June 1999 and re-installed and dedicated to the pastorate of Harvey Pinyoun in November 1999. The restoration of the Tripartite windows was conducted on site and completed in May 2000.
In April 2000 the Preservation Association of Central New York gave Plymouth Church a Preservation Merit Award for the restoration of the Good Shepherd Window