By Bob Allen
The fraternity reportedly purchased the church building and adjoining structure for $300,000. Organized in 1795, First Baptist was the second church in the Hudson River port village established by Dutch immigrants. Due to dwindling membership, the congregation recently decided to sell the church house built in 1846 and unite with nearby Mount Ida Community Baptist Church.
First Baptist is one of several vacant church buildings in the Central Troy Historic District, described as one of the best-preserved 19th-century downtowns in the country and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The purchase adds the building worth an estimated $388,000 to the tax rolls, since its previous owner was tax-exempt.
The fraternity commonly known by its nickname, FIJI, has wanted to move off campus for some time in order to attract more members. The 24,000-square-foot location including the church and a former school building will accommodate more of the 40-plus current fraternity brothers than the former on-campus residence, along with space for dining, social functions and study.
The fraternity first sought a zoning variance in January 2013 and the sale went through that December. Items including an 1847 church bell, a Steinway grand piano and pipe organ were sold at auction in March 2013.
According to its mission statement, “Phi Gamma Delta exists to promote lifelong friendships, to reaffirm high ethical standards and values, and to foster personal development in the pursuit of excellence.” The fraternity seeks to “provide opportunities for each brother to develop responsibility, leadership, scholarship and social skills in order to become a fully contributing member of society.”
The fraternity has over 8,500 undergraduate members in 135 chapters. The University of Arizona recently banned the group from campus until April 2019, citing alcohol, hazing and other violations.
According to local media, most people in Troy seemed to be in favor of the fraternity purchasing the building, including neighbors who have been posting “no trespassing” signs on their property to deter homeless people loitering in the neighborhood.