Niccolls Memorial Presbyterian Church
Services for a small congregation began under the pines on the shores of Fourth Lake when Dr. Niccolls visited here in the summers of the 1890’s. Early residents, guides and summer campers came by boat to attend worship services at Niccolls Point. From that early beginning without a building, our church has grown, and in 1997, we celebrated our 100th anniversary.
In a meeting at the local schoolhouse in 1897, plans were made to build a sanctuary and a manse. This first church building is just down the street from the current church and is now an apartment building which has been known as the Adirondack Echo building for many years. Around 1918, a new building was erected on the current church grounds. Included in this construction was a gymnasium for expansion of the educational program of the church.
Over the next 40 years, the church’s activities increased as the congregation grew. A men’s club was formed that put on Father & Son Banquets, a choir became active in the church services, a fellowship of young people was formed, and the active women in the church formed three organizations: The Ladies Auxiliary, The No-Nicer Club, and The Twigs. The pastors held worship services in the communities outside Old Forge, including services at lumber camps.
In 1960, a major improvement project was implemented to renovate the existing building. In 1968, a home around the corner from the church was purchased as a new manse. In 1972, we celebrated the church’s 75th anniversary, and the congregation again authorized plans for renovating the church building. $75,000 was approved for the construction of a new sanctuary. Because of the hardship caused by the construction activity at the building site, St. Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Church shared their facilities with us. This was reminiscent of 1897 when both churches were being built and members of each congregation helped each other with construction. One of the things that must be said about this community: it has never been divided because of religious beliefs.
Community outreach has always been important to the congregation of Niccolls Memorial Presbyterian Church. Space and encouragement have been provided for weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-anon. Community groups such as AARP make use of the facilities. The sanctuary is used for concerts by the Community Chorus and by the Arts Center/Old Forge. A Thrift Shop has been established which not only provides low cost clothing and household items to many area residents but also supports a radio ministry, seminary scholarships for members pursuing calls to full-time Christian service, disaster assistance, and support for the Community Transportation Service. The church supports a Food Pantry to assist local families with supplemental grocery items.
In the 1980s, a Women’s Fellowship was formed as a local branch of Presbyterian Women of the Presbytery of Utica. In the 1990s, the music program was enhanced with the purchase of hand bells and the formation of a bell choir and with the installation of a new electronic organ.
This accounting of our church only touches on the spirit and enthusiasm of our congregation. There is a spontaneous energy evident in all we do. This is a friendly church in a visitor friendly community in the Adirondacks. We enjoy the blessings of nature with four seasons of spectacular beauty, and have maintained that “under the pines” atmosphere.
Church history by Louise Watson and Elizabeth V. McDowell