Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trinity Church

Trinity Church, located at 74 Trinity Place at Broadway and Wall Street, New York City, is a historic full-service parish church in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The Parish of Trinity Church was founded by the charter of King William III of England in 1697, and three church buildings have existed on its location. The original Trinity Church finished construction in 1698 and appeared modest in design. Unfortunately, this first church was destroyed in 1776 by a massive fire stemming from an American Revolution battle. The second church building was built in 1790 but it could not withstand subsequent harsh winters, and subsequently had to be torn down.
The present Trinity Church, designed by Richard Upjohn and consecrated on Ascension Day in 1846, is considered a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

At the time the church was built, its 281-foot spire and cross stood as the highest point in New York City.

Lower Manhattan has since grown up around the church, and it has been dwarfed by the large skyscrapers that surround it.

As you can see from the view of the picture at left, the World Trade Center towers, which were destroyed by an act of terrorism on September 11, 2001, were located only a few blocks NW from Trinity Church.

As you walk through the front gates surrounding the church building you will immediately see this sculpture to the left. This 18-foot tall bronze sculpture of a sycamore's tree's roots structure was made by the artist Steve Tobin. It commemorates the sycamore tree in nearby St. Paul's church grounds which is known as “the tree that saved St. Paul’s Chapel,” because it took the brunt of the damage from debris falling from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, while the chapel remained relatively unscathed. The artist saw the uprooted tree roots as a metaphor for our unity and our strength after the tragic events of 9/11.

As you walk up the steps at the front of the church you will see this plaque embedded in the floor in front of the entrance. It commemorates the visit on July 9, 1976, of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

Left front door

Right front door

The great bronze front doors of Trinity Church were designed by Richard Morris Hunt, and are a memorial to John Jacob Astor III, and were placed in 1896. They each weigh several tons and depict biblical scenes.

A view inside the church. The nave windows contain some of the oldest stained glass in the United States, and the Chancel windows were once the largest expanse of stained glass windows in the United States at the time of installation, The altar is made from sandstone and Italian marble, and was a memorial to William B Astor, a son of John Jacob Astor. Within the church walls are a Baptistery, an All Saints Chapel, a North and a South Monument Room, and a museum.

There are two organs -- one located in the Chancel and one in the Gallery. After the dust, smoke, and ash of 9/11 destroyed the pipe organ, it was replaced with a Marshall and Ogletree virtual pipe organ.

This is a door leading from the side of the church into the churchyard.

There are two churchyards on either side of Trinity Church which contain cemeteries. The burial grounds have been the final resting place for many historical figures including Alexander Hamilton, William Bradford, Robert Fulton, and Albert Gallatin since the Churchyard cemetery opened in 1697. A non-denominational cemetery, Trinity Cemetery is listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places.

The Northside churchyard contains the oldest grave in New York City, dated 1681, that of five-year-old Richard Churcher.


The best known of thousands buried in Trinity Churchyard, Alexander Hamilton occupies a place in the annals of the nation's history, and its historical imagination. He was the first treasurer of the United States and the founder of The Bank of New York, the nation's oldest commercial lender. His likeness appears on the ten-dollar bill. Wounded in a pistol duel with longtime foe Aaron Burr, Hamilton died in the pastoral care of the Episcopal Bishop of New York, Benjamin Moore, who was also the Rector of Trinity Church.


Known as “The Father of American printing,” William Bradford established the American colony’s first press, in Philadelphia, after his emigration from England in 1683. He became a fierce defender of press freedom. Bradford moved to New York in 1703, where he became a Trinity Vestryman. Under Trinity’s auspices, he created the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer to be printed in America in 1710.


While not the first to build a steamboat, Robert Fulton navigated the concept to practical success, with his boat Clermont traveling the Hudson from New York City to Albany in 1807.
Fulton married Harriet Livingston at Trinity on January 7, 1808. The steamboat pioneer is buried in the churchyard’s Livingston vault. A monument was erected to his memory by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1901.


A Statesman, Albert Gallatin served under the first six presidents of The United States as a member of Congress, author of the Treaty of Ghent, Minister to France, envoy to Britain, and Secretary of Treasury. He was a founder of New York University.

Some pictures of other interesting old gravestones in the Trinity churchyard:

Trinity Church is a beautiful and fascinating place, and I hope you will consider visiting it if you are in New York City.

I'll continue my "Day in Lower New York" blog next time with a visit to St. Paul's Chapel, Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use.

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Kathleen Grace said...

Oh Pat, you are singing my song! I absolutely LOVE old churches and cathedrals. The stained glass, the details, they are all so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this lovely church, I can't wait to see the next one:>)

CatHerder said...

Great pics. I LOVE the pics of the old stones...I live less than 20 minutes from the city...i really need to get off my butt! Thanks for the great post!

Edie Marie's Attic said...

Hi Pat!
I am loving your tour! My dad and I would wander cemeteries as my mom would attend to decorating the graves of family. We would search out the youngest and oldest, an odd activity but brings back fond memories of my dad. (I think part of it was to test my math skills in figuring out how long the person had lived!)
I'll be awaiting your next tour stop!
Hugs, Sherry

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

It reminds me of many of the cathedrals in Europe. Beautiful!
I've enjoyed the stroll around New York... I didn't even have to put on my hat and gloves.

Vee said...

Interesting historical connections Trinity Church has. Enjoyed the tour very much and was particularly intrigued by the reference to the Astor family. William Astor was John Jacob Astor IV's father. William's wife Caroline was the one who was so adamantly opposed to the engagement I wrote about this week.

It's interesting to see how the city has grown up around the church; the steeple is absolutely dwarfed. The information about the sycamore tree protecting the church is fascinating, too. I think that there are a lot of 9-11 stories that I've not heard before that are amazing.

Thank you, Pat, for another wonderful tour. I'll be along for the ride on any others!

Mrs. B said...

Another great post! Beautiful church. I just love learning al the history behind old buildings. I'm the type that stands and carefully reads each of the historic signs, or guidebooks when we travel to historic places. My husband rolls his eyes at me for this, but I just love that kind of thing!

Lisa's RetroStyle said...

What a tour! You are an amazing wealth of information!! Thank you.

Rue said...

Pat, these pictures are wonderful! The old churches are so beautiful. My grandfather used to stop at all the graveyards when he would go on a trip and was always fasinated by them. I am too. Thank you for sharing. This is fun :)


kari and kijsa said...

Loved the tour and all the info! Absolutely fabulous photos!!

kari & kijsa

Gina said...

Very interesting post, thanks for sharing and your pics are the bronze sculpture :O)

Just A Girl said...

Hi Pat,
What beautiful pictures! I have always loved old churches and cathedrals. Every time my husband and I go out of town we find the old cemeteries and wander around to look at the head stones. I always thought it was a strange activity but,then I've met a lot of people who do that.
Thanks for the great tour. I haven't checked out Lower Manhatten yet but will.
Have a great week.

Joanne Kennedy said...

New York has some of the best churches in the world. So many beautiful old ones.

You know I would adore going to this old cemetery.

You and I are so much a like! It's almost scary.


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