Trinity Church

New York
NY

Portrait by Artist to Come

QUICK FACTS
  • From its inception, Trinity Parish grows rapidly. Eventually it includes a total of 11 different chapels, including St. Paul's Chapel.
  • During the Great New York Fire of 1776 Trinity Church is destroyed, while St. Paul’s is saved by a bucket brigade that runs from the Hudson River up to the chapel’s roof.
BURIED AT TRINITY

Trinity Churchyard

St. Paul’s Chapel Churchyard

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The Anglican parish of Trinity Church was founded in 1698 in lower Manhattan; the first church building was constructed facing Wall Street the same year. The magnificent neo-gothic structure that stands today is the congregation’s third church, formally known as Trinity Church Wall Street, An Episcopal Parish in New York City.

The first church burnt down in September 1776, during the early days of the British occupation of New York. Though up to a quarter of the city’s buildings were destroyed, Trinity’s nearby chapel, St. Paul’s, was unscathed. It was used as the primary place of worship for the congregation until a new church could be built.

Construction of a second Trinity Church began in 1788 and was consecrated in 1790, with President George Washington in attendance. In addition to the President, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and other members of the of the government worshipped there when, for a little over a year (1789—91), New York was the first U.S. Capitol.

Following structural issues and a recommendation by architect Richard Upjohn, a third Trinity Church began construction in 1839 and was completed in 1846.

With a steeple standing 281 feet high, it was the tallest building in New York for nearly 25 years. Considered by architectural historians to be one of the first and finest examples of neo-gothic architecture in the United States, Trinity Church was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1976.

The most exciting scientific find of the period was Charles Willson Peale’s exhumation in 1801 near Newburgh, New York, of the bones of the mastodon, or mammoth. Peale displayed his mammoth in his celebrated museum and in 1806 painted a marvelous picture of what was perhaps the first organized exhumation in American history. Peale’s discovery electrified the country and put the word mammoth on everybody’s lips. A Philadelphia baker advertised the sale of mammoth bread. In Washington a mammoth eater ate forty-two eggs in ten minutes. And under the leadership of the Baptist preacher John Leland, the ladies of Cheshire, Massachusetts, late in 1801 sent to President Jefferson a mammoth cheese, six feet in diameter and nearly two feet thick and weighing 1,230 pounds.

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