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The beautifully austere wooden churches of Columbia County, N.Y., are the focus of this summer’s exhibition at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society Museum. Photos courtesy RJHSM

The Glory of Columbia County’s Wooden Churches

During the 19th century in America, two distinct architectural styles flourished side by side: the classical style of Ancient Greece and the Gothic style of Medieval Europe. But, unlike their classical and European antecedents built in stone, the characteristic architectural forms of each were revived and translated into wood, the nation’s most abundant material. 

Though used in both civic and domestic architecture, both styles also found vivid expression in numerous rural churches dotting the American countryside. 

In 2003, Arthur Baker published “Wooden Churches: Columbia County Legacy” full of photos and descriptions. That book inspired this summer’s exhibition at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society Museum, “Revived In Wood: Greek and Gothic Revival Churches of the Roe Jan Region.”

The show explores aspects of the Greek and Gothic styles, as seen in 17 wooden church buildings remaining in the five towns of the Roe Jan area: Ancram, Copake, Gallatin, Hillsdale and Taghkanic in Columbia County, N.Y. 

The exhibition, featuring photographs, objects, models, antique tools and photography equipment, documents, mementos and memorabilia will be on view in the historic Old Copake Falls Church, which is now the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society Museum. An exhibition catalogue and guide to the churches will be available for purchase. The show will remain on display until October on Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m.

For more details, go to www.Roeliffjansenhs.org or send questions to roeliffjansenhs@gmail.com. Roeliff Jansen was an early explorer of and settler in Columbia County; he discovered, in 1632, a major tributary of the Hudson River that is called the Roeliff Jansen Kill.

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