History of the First Unitarian Society of Westchester
In the Beginning The origins of the First Unitarian Society of Westchester (FUSW) began in the 1850s with Sunday services held in a private home in Yonkers, New York. By 1856, the crowds became too large for the space, and all interested religious liberals were invited to attend services at the Getty House Lyceum. Unitarians alternated Sundays at the Lyceum with the Universalists, and many individuals were drawn to both types of services. In late 1857, the Unitarians called their first minister, and the next year the church applied for a certificate of incorporation from the State of New York. A Gothic Revival-frame church building on North Broadway in Yonkers was dedicated in the autumn of 1861. The church remained in that building until 1965, when it moved to its current location in Hastings-on-Hudson.
Remembering the Flood On Sunday, April 15, 2007 a late-season Nor’easter overtook the region. At FUSW, members of the congregation divided their attention between the service, presented by the Social Action Committee, and the thunderous, sheeting water clearly visible through the large window behind the pulpit.
We’d had floods before—the worst one in memory had come in the mid 1970s when the minister had to be rescued by police and removed from the building in a small boat. But since that time work had been done to make the building less vulnerable to the elements. Now, as the creek at the back of the property began to pour out of its banks, it became clear that it was time to end the service and get out of the building.
Our Longer History We can trace the origins of the First Unitarian Society of Westchester (FUSW) back to Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus Cleveland, who moved to Yonkers, NY, in 1853. For many months, the couple hosted Sunday services in their South Broadway home for families with Unitarian sympathies. By 1856, the crowds became too large for a private home, and all interested religious liberals were invited to attend services at the Getty House Lyceum. Various liberal Christian ministers were invited to conduct the services. The first Unitarian sermons were preached on July 6, 1856, by the Rev. Samuel S. Osgood, pastor of the Church of the Messiah (now the Community Church) in New York City. The services were attended by 200 listeners from as far away as Irvington and Fort Washington.