AJ Williams-Myers African Roots Center
Earliest Known Example of Reinforced Concrete Construction in New York State
This church is a very early example of a revolutionary construction technique that eventually transformed the appearance of cities all over the world. The use of cement dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, but it wasn’t until the early 19th century that industrialized nations began mass-producing the material. Kingston, with its abundance of limestone, and its proximity to the Hudson River, was an excellent spot to start a cement business. In 1845, the Newark Lime & Cement Manufacturing Company began removing and burning limestone from behind the Ponckhockie section in the eastern part of Rondout. In 1870, reflecting the late 19th-century paternalistic view many companies took towards employees, the company erected this chapel as a non-denominational Sunday school for its workers’ families. Built of poured concrete constituted from locally mined natural cement and crushed bluestone aggregate, the structure incorporated rudimentary iron-reinforcing rods and plates in its buttresses, and an ingenious cold-air conditioning system installed within the walls. Foreshadowing the giant skyscrapers that would eventually be built with reinforced concrete, a towering 220-foot tower originally adorned the front of the church. The unfinished surface of the concrete tower deteriorated rapidly however, forcing its removal in 1965.
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