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

  • Lord Stirling (1726–1783), Major General
  • Horatio Gates (1727–1806), Major General
  • Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804)
  • Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757–1854), Alexander Hamilton’s wife and daughter of General Philip Schuyler
  • Albert Gallatin (1761–1849), fourth U.S. Treasury Secretary
  • Robert Fulton (1765–1815), inventor

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.

In 1789 the South and especially Virginia had been the impelling force in creating the nation. By 1815 the South and slaveholders still seemed to be in control of the national government. President Madison was a slaveholder. So too were Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, James Monroe, the secretary of state, and George W. Campbell, the secretary of the treasury. All Republican leaders of the House were slaveholders. In 1815 the United States had four missions in Europe: two of them were held by slaveholders. The chief justice of the United States was a slaveholder, as were a majority of the other members of the Court. Since 1789 three of the four presidents, two of the five vice-presidents, fourteen of the twenty-six presidents pro tempore the Senate, and five of the ten Speakers of the House had been slaveholders.

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