Over 200 Years on the Hill
A snippet of history
It was over 200 years ago when the Onondaga Religious Society (now the Onondaga Hill Presbyterian Church) was organized in a tavern near the then-brand-new Onondaga County Court House on “the Hill.” Tradition says the founders included several prominent citizens – Joshua Forman, who is credited with the development of the Erie Canal; Jasper Hopper, County Clerk; Oliver R. Strong, John A. Ellis, Jonah Ellis, John Adams and Jonas C. Baldwin They quickly chose their first pastor, The Rev. Dirck C. Lansing, a 21-year-old Presbyterian minister, who preached his first sermon in November of 1806 to the fledgling congregation of about 35 members. Later, Rev. Lansing became widely known including his work as a founder and teacher at the Auburn Theological Seminary.
We do not know exactly where the Onondaga Religious Society held its meetings in the early years – probably in homes and in the tavern where the church was first organized. The still-forested community was small – just a few frame buildings and a smattering of cabins which stretched along the new, but frequently traveled, Seneca Tnpk. It was fifteen years before they built their first church sanctuary in 1819 on Makyes Rd., a block or so south of the Court House where the present-day Onondaga Hill Presbyterian Church is still located. The new building was a white-framed, Christopher Wren style structure, reminiscent of those in New England. Its steeple could be could be seen for miles around. But, disaster struck 100 years later in 1919 when a devastating fire raged out of control.
Only the horse sheds in the rear of the church could be saved although members and neighbors tried valiantly to save it with water from near-by hand pumps and a bucket brigade. Within about two years, the congregation replaced the OHPC building with a modest one-story Sanctuary including several special memorial windows. This is the current church building, but with a remodeled interior and a number of additions including a large Youth Education center and a connecting Narthex.