The First Congregational Church Society of the Town of Canandaigua, NY, with the leadership of nine men and women and the inspiration of Zadok Hunn, was incorporated in 1799. Services were held in homes and barns under the spiritual leadership of the first “settled” minister, Rev. Timothy Field, a young Yale graduate, who served from 1799 to 1807.
Thirteen years later, in 1812, with a membership of about forty communicants, the Society erected the present stately meeting house much as you see it today. While the plans were brought from New England, the architect is unknown. The roof trusses were made of hand-hewn wooden beams, fastened with wooden pegs, and the exterior walls were made of bricks from Phelps. NY. The imposing Federal-style building, with its Ionic pilasters, wheel windows and pediment swag of teakwood is a testimony to the courage and faith of that small body of sturdy inhabitants. The arched portico and the gold-clad barbless feather weather vane atop its domed bell tower set it apart from the early New England church – truly unique! (Bell Tower was renovated in 2019 – see photos here.)
The construction cost of $12,996.31 was borne by the congregation. Funds were raised by subscriptions. A total of $5,000 was pledged — one-third in cash and two-thirds in cattle and grain. A mortgage covered the remaining $8,000.
The interior, with its enclosed box pews, amber glass windows and horseshoe balcony, still carries the pioneer concept of worship. The magnificent pipe organ was built in 1882.
Skillfully, new Christian Education space and handicapped seating have been added as the congregation remains “loyal to their past by keeping their faces toward the future.” We strive to balance our strong heritage with the reality of the 21st Century.
Designated as a National Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1958, the original building exterior remains unchanged after the addition of the adjoining Gothic Revival chapel constructed in 1873.
In 1993 the church members were proud recipients of the coveted Tender Loving Care Award bestowed by the Landmark Society of Western New York, recognizing the meticulous care and outstanding preservation of the oldest public building in western New York State.
Pictured below is church member, Don DeSmith with his family, at the site of Rev. Zadoc Hunn’s first church, in Beckett, MA, where he was ordained circa 1766. Rev. Hunn was Mr. DeSmith’s great grandfather x 5. He started our church, First Congregational, in Canandaigua and 8 others in Ontario County.