St. Paul’s Chapel

New York
NY

St. Paul’s in lower Manhattan

QUICK FACTS
  • St. Paul’s Chapel is part of the Parish of Trinity Church and is the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City.
  • During the Great New York Fire of 1776, it is saved by a bucket brigade that runs from the Hudson River up to the chapel’s roof.
  • Following his inauguration at Federal Hall (30-Apr-1789) President Washington attends Thanksgiving service, presided over by Bishop Provoost, at St. Paul’s. He would continue to attend services there until the second Trinity Church was finished in 1790.
LINKS
LOCATION

View Larger Map

Completed in 1766, St. Paul’s Chapel is the only surviving colonial-era church in Manhattan. The Georgian Classic-Revival structure was used then, and now, as a satellite chapel for the Parish of Trinity Church. The architect is unknown, but as was the practice at the time, the design was taken from architectural pattern-books and the result resembles St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

Following Continental Army battles with the British in Fall 1776, a fire swept through lower Manhattan in September destroying some 500 buildings — including Trinity Church. St. Paul’s was saved with a bucket brigade. Throughout the British occupation of New York and after, until 1790, St. Paul’s became the primary church for the parish.

British Generals William Howe and Charles Cornwallis worshiped there. When he became president George Washington walked from Federal Hall, where he was inaugurated, to St. Paul’s to participate in a service with his wife Martha and both houses of Congress. Today, Washington’s pew is designated with the first U.S. Great Seal painted overhead.

In 1960, St. Paul’s was declared a National Historic Landmark for its architecture and its history.

The church and cemetery grounds are open to visitors daily; worship services are held every Sunday.

Monticello was a working plantation, and Jefferson was eager to make it pay. His slaves may have been members of his family, but they were units of production as well. Everywhere on his plantation he sought to eliminate pockets of idleness. If a slave was too old or too sick to work in the fields, he or she was put to tending the vegetable gardens or to cooking in the quarters. When one of his former head men named Nace became ill, Jefferson ordered that he be entirely kept from labour until he recovers; nevertheless, Nace was to spend his days indoors shelling corn or making shoes or baskets. Jefferson was willing to prescribe lighter work for women who were pregnant or raising infant children because they were actually breeding more property; thus, said Jefferson, a child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man. This is one of the times, he said, when providence has made our interest and our duties coincide perfectly.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)