by Anna Louise Bates, PhD, Church Historian
In 1960, the New Paltz Methodist Church had occupied its new church building for more than thirty years. During that time, the congregation had grown from 370 members in 1932 to 413 in 1960. Besides Sunday services, the church featured multiple Sunday School classes for all ages from infants to adults. Those students crowded the church’s small spaces. For years, the church appealed to the New York Conference for funds to construct additional space for their growing Sunday School and multiple clubs and committees.
The Education Wing of the New Paltz United Methodist Church is a thriving example how a determined community can accomplish big things. Members and trustees knew in the late 1950s that the Methodist Church building had outgrown its capacity. The growing Sunday School had twenty teachers and 160 pupils. Church clubs such as the Epworth League, the Double Forty Club, The Ladies Aid Society, Women’s and Men’s clubs and many others occupied every available space at the church every night of the week.
The church began appeals to the New York Conference for expansion funds, but knew that most of the cost of the planned education wing would fall on the church’s membership. A Building Committee formed in 1958 to survey the needs of the church and Church School relative to inadequate building facilities. A highly successful Crusade for Funds commenced in 1959.
The church contracted the Schneider Brothers to build the new addition. The bulk of the expense for the new wing was covered by member gifts and pledges, amounting to more than $22,000. Of the $50,000 plus cost of the construction project. The New York Conference contributed $5,000. The balance was financed at the Huguenot Bank. (New Paltz Methodist Church 1962)
The new wing was consecrated on May 21, 1961. More than 250 people attended the ceremony.
The New Paltz Independent bragged that the new addition featured: “[A] two-story brick and cement block building … attached to the main church structure by a glass enclosed breezeway. It houses Sunday Class facilities, making available rooms in the church for a music room, church office and pastoral study.” (New Paltz Independent 1961) Besides the new wing, the church also purchased a nearby property that would eventually house the “Cave Inn,” a social gathering place for students. That building is now the New Paltz Hostel.
In 1962 the Sunday School teaching staff numbered nineteen, serving more than 160 pupils each week. By May 1962, a short year after the new wing opened, the church planned a canvass of its members to raise funds to pay off the mortgage on the new wing. “It is anticipated,” wrote the Kingston Daily Freeman, “that this campaign will see the complete retirement of the debt on the education wing completed last year.” (Kingston Daily Freeman 1962)
The education wing today houses a church-run play school. In 2018, the wing was dedicated to parishioner Helen Karsten, whose work helped initiate the play school in 1968.