Hidden behind the First Presbyterian Church at 31 N. Union St. in Lambertville is a gymnasium that has been serving the community for 60-plus years. It is home to Friday Night Roller Skating for younger children and “Friday Night Hangs” for adolescents in the winter months, as well as Boy Scouts, AA meetings, various church functions, as well as other community and athletic events.
Jim Troutman, president of the Lambertville Basketball Association (LBA) for the past 17 years, and whose organization uses the gym most days during the winter and beyond, helped push for the refurbishment.
“I’m 52 years old and I played on that gym floor when I was eight and nine years old. Back then, it was a cement floor, and it’s always been a cement floor. It’s the church’s gym and they’ve always allowed different kinds of groups to use the facilities, but a group of us has been moving to get a safer floor,” Troutman said.
According to First Presbyterian congregant and South Hunterdon School District Board Member, Craig Reading, the gym was created because the youth of Lambertville and New Hope had few options to keep them off the streets.
He explained, “The Church had a meeting in 1953 where they decided to raise the funds needed to build the gym over the defunct cemetery. No one had been buried in church cemetery since 1918, so they petitioned the state legislature and requested to have the cemetery occupants removed. They contacted all of the families that they could find and asked them what or where they wanted their family remains to be re-inturned.”
The current church building dates to 1854-55, with an expansion in 1892. The gym was finished in the fall/ winter of 1955-56.
“Not everyone was happy that the historical graveyard had been removed and a GYM replaced it. It actually split the congregation and many left the church because of it,” wrote Reading.
Roller skating started for the youth of the area in late summer of 1956 and has continued seasonally ever since.
The current floor refurbishments cost $50,000. The church invested $25,000 and requested the basketball program raise the other half. The basketball program is still looking to match the funds, however. For prompt payment, the church covered what the basketball association could not, and at time of this writing, the LBA has raised $15,000, and are still looking to cover the remaining $10,000.
Interested readers who would like more information or would care to donate to the basketball program, can email Jim Troutman at: email@example.com.
The final Friday Night Skate of this season will be Friday, March 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. The last Friday Night Hang is the same date, from 8 to 10 p.m.
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