Historic Downtown Church to Become Steeple Center for Arts and Culture: 120 East State Achieves Significant Project Milestone

New Jersey Historic Trust Grants $3 Million to Non-Profit 120 East State for Conversion of 200-Year-Old Trenton Presbyterian Church into Community Space

December 6, 2023

Trenton, NJ (MERCER) – On December 5, 120 East State, a non-profit organization dedicated to repurposing historic buildings, announced that it has been awarded a $3 million grant by the New Jersey State Historic Trust. The grant will be used to transform the 300-year-old First Presbyterian Church of Trenton (FPCT) complex into the Steeple Center, a community-oriented performing arts center and a space for non-profit and for-profit entities.

The project has already received a $1 million donation from the First Presbyterian Trenton congregation. In addition, the New Jersey Historic Trust and the James Kerney Foundation have made early investments of $825,000 and $5,000 respectively in 2022. FPCT, listed on the National Historic Register, played a significant role in the Battle of Trenton on Christmas Day in 1776, and is believed to house the graves of American and Hessian mercenary soldiers.

Mayor Gusciora expressed his satisfaction with the project, stating, “Trenton is a historic city that we all love, and we want to preserve our history. I am pleased that First Presbyterian Church of Trenton will transform itself into the Steeple Center for Culture and the Arts. This is a unique opportunity to preserve this historic edifice for future generations and will certainly play a large role in the upcoming celebration of America’s 250th Anniversary. Special thanks are in order for The First Presbyterian Trenton congregation, New Jersey Historic Trust, and the James Kerney Foundation for their early contributions to make this project a reality.”

City Council President West Ward Councilwoman Teska Frisby also emphasized the importance of preserving the city’s history, saying, “When we come together, we can make great things happen, but we must recognize the greatness in our wealth. Our City is rich in its history, and that’s what we realize here. When we’re doing things to make sure our history doesn’t fall by the wayside, it makes a difference not just for me or you, but for everyone.”

Cherry Oakley, the Board President of 120 East State, expressed gratitude for the grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the support from the First Presbyterian Church and Coastlands Presbytery, whose lease allows the conversion to take place. However, Oakley noted that this milestone is just the beginning, and further support is needed to turn the Steeple Center into a reality. The main church building, which is almost 200 years old, requires renovation to ensure its viability.

Molly Dykstra, the Project Leader, estimated that the conversion of the historic church into the Steeple Center for Arts and Culture will cost approximately $25 million. This includes the renovation and construction expenses of the site as well as the development of 120 East State to effectively manage and operate the property. The project aims to contribute to the revitalization of the surrounding community by creating job opportunities for local residents and fostering connections between Trenton residents and visitors, all while preserving the historical significance of the property.

In conclusion, the New Jersey Historic Trust’s $3 million grant to 120 East State represents a significant step forward in the transformation of the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton into the Steeple Center. While the project has already received substantial support from various organizations, additional funding is necessary to ensure the successful realization of this community-oriented arts and culture center.

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