Trinity Church (Manhattan)

Trinity Church and Graveyard

Trinity Church from Wall Street
Location 75 Broadway
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates 40°42′29″N 74°0′44″W / 40.70806°N 74.01222°W / 40.70806; -74.01222Coordinates: 40°42′29″N 74°0′44″W / 40.70806°N 74.01222°W / 40.70806; -74.01222
Built 1839-46[1]
Architect Richard Upjohn
Architectural style Gothic Revival
NRHP Reference # 76001252
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 8, 1976[2]
Designated NHL December 8, 1976,[3]
Designated NYCL August 16, 1966

Trinity Church is a historic, active, well-endowed[4] parish church in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Trinity Church is located near the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, in the lower Manhattan section of New York City, New York.

History and architecture

In 1696, Governor Benjamin Fletcher approved the purchase of land in Lower Manhattan by the Church of England community for construction of a new church. The parish received its charter from King William III on May 6, 1697. Its land grant specified an annual rent of sixty bushels of wheat.[5] The first rector was William Vesey (for whom nearby Vesey Street is named), a protege of Increase Mather, who served for 49 years until his death in 1746.

First Trinity Church

Loyalist Charles Inglis, Rector of Trinity Church (1765-1783)

The first Trinity Church building, a modest rectangular structure with a gambrel roof and small porch, was constructed in 1698. According to historical records, Captain William Kidd lent the runner and tackle from his ship for hoisting the stones.[6][7]

Anne, Queen of Great Britain, increased the parish's land holdings to 215 acres (870,000 m2) in 1705. Later, in 1709, William Huddleston founded Trinity School as the Charity School of the church, and classes were originally held in the steeple of the church. In 1754, King's College (now Columbia University) was chartered by King George II of Great Britain and instruction began with eight students in a school building near the church.

During the American Revolutionary War the city became the British military and political base of operations in North America, following the departure of General George Washington and the Continental Army shortly after Battle of Long Island and subsequent local defeats. Under British occupation clergy were required to be Loyalists, while the parishioners included some members of the revolutionary New York Provincial Congress, as well as the First and Second Continental Congresses.

The church was destroyed in the Great New York City Fire of 1776, which started in the Fighting Cocks Tavern, destroying nearly 400 to 500 buildings and houses and leaving thousands of New Yorkers homeless. Six days later, most of the city's volunteer firemen followed General Washington north.

The Rev. Samuel Provoost, was appointed Rector of Trinity (1784-1800) in 1784 and the New York State Legislature ratified the charter of Trinity Church, deleting the provision that asserted its loyalty to the King of England. Whig patriots were appointed as vestrymen. In 1787, Provoost was consecrated as the first Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of New York. Following his 1789 inauguration at Federal Hall, George Washington attended Thanksgiving service, presided over by Bishop Provoost, at St. Paul's Chapel, a chapel of the Parish of Trinity Church. He continued to attend services there until the second Trinity Church was finished in 1790. St. Paul's Chapel is currently part of the Parish of Trinity Church and is the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City.

Second Trinity Church

Construction on the second Trinity Church building began in 1788; it was consecrated in 1790. The structure was torn down after being weakened by severe snows during the winter of 183839.

Bird's-eye view of Trinity Church, 1846
View from church steeple, 1872
Trinity Church ca. 1900

Third Trinity Church

The third and current Trinity Church began construction in 1839 and was finished in 1846.[1] At the time of its completion its 281-foot (86 m) spire and cross was the highest point in New York until being surpassed in 1890 by the New York World Building. Trinity Church held the title of tallest building in the United States until 1869 when it was surpassed by Saint Michael's Church.

In 1843, Trinity Church's expanding parish was divided due to the burgeoning cityscape and to better serve the needs of its parishioners. The newly formed parish would build Grace Church, to the north on Broadway at 10th street, while the original parish would re-build Trinity Church, the structure that stands today. Both Grace and Trinity Churches were completed and consecrated in 1846.

In 1876-1877 a reredos and altar was erected in memory of William Backhouse Astor, Sr., to the designs of architect Frederick Clarke Withers.

Architectural historians consider the present, 1846 Trinity Church building, designed by architect Richard Upjohn, a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture. In 1976 the United States Department of the Interior designated Trinity Church a National Historic Landmark because of its architectural significance and its place within the history of New York City.[3][8][9]

When the Episcopal Bishop of New York consecrated Trinity Church on Ascension Day May 1, 1846, its soaring Neo-Gothic spire, surmounted by a gilded cross, dominated the skyline of lower Manhattan. Trinity was a welcoming beacon for ships sailing into New York Harbor.

Construction of the three buildings of the Trinity Church

The Trinity Church has been to significant to New York City’s history for over three hundred years. The original church was built in 1698 in downtown New York City in Wall Street, specifically facing the Hudson River. It was built because in 1696, members of the Church of England (Anglicans) protested to obtain a “charter granting the church legal status” in New York City. During the Revolutionary War, the first Trinity Church was taken apart and destroyed because of the Great Fire in 1776.

Due to the fact that there was no physical Trinity Church, St. Paul’s Chapel was then used during the time that the second Trinity Church was being built. This time, the second Trinity Church was built facing Wall Street and was longer, wider and two hundred feet tall. Building the church to be bigger was beneficial because the population of New York City was now expanding. In 1838, the church physically began to weaken, therefore it was recommended to take down the entire church and build a new one instead of just rebuild what was wrong because of how bad the conditions were. Second Trinity Church was politically significant because President Washington and members of his government often worshiped this church. Additional parishioners were John Jay and Alexander Hamilton.

This new church, the Third Trinity Church was built in 1846 and is considered the first and finest example of Neo-Gothic architecture in America. It was also once considered the tallest building in New York City, with a two hundred and eighty-one-foot height. This church still stands in downtown Manhattan today, specifically Wall Street.[10]

Trinity Today

On July 9, 1976, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited Trinity Church. Vestrymen presented the Queen with a symbolic "back rent" of 279 peppercorns. King William III, in 1697, gave Trinity Church a charter that called for the parish to pay an annual rent of one peppercorn to the crown.

Since 1993, Trinity Church has hosted the graduation ceremonies of the High School of Economics and Finance. The school is located on Trinity Place, a few blocks away from the church. The church also houses a museum with exhibits about the history of the church, as well as changing art, religious, and cultural exhibits. Guided tours of the church are offered daily at 2 PM.

September 11, 2001

During the September 11, 2001 attacks, as the 1st Tower collapsed, people took refuge from the massive debris cloud inside the church. Falling wreckage from the collapsing tower knocked over a giant sycamore tree that had stood for nearly a century in the churchyard of St. Paul's Chapel, which is part of Trinity Church's parish and is located several blocks north of Trinity Church. Sculptor Steve Tobin used its roots as the base for a bronze sculpture titled Trinity Root which stood in front of the church at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway until December, 2015 when it was moved by the church to its conference center in Connecticut. The move was controversial as the sculpture was seriously damaged and the artist has objected to its eviction.[11]

Occupy Wall Street

Trinity is located near Zuccotti Park, the location of the Occupy Wall Street protest. It offered both moral and practical support to the demonstrators but balked when church-owned land adjoining Juan Pablo Duarte Square was demanded for an encampment. While the church hierarchy supported their position they were criticized by others within the Anglican movement, most notably Archbishop Desmond Tutu.[12] On December 17, 2011, occupiers, accompanied by a few clergy, attempted to occupy the land (known as LentSpace), which is surrounded by a chain-link fence. After demonstrating in Duarte Park and marching on the streets surrounding the park, occupiers climbed over[13] and under the fence. Police responded by arresting about 50 demonstrators, including at least three Episcopal clergymen and a Roman Catholic nun.[14]

History Never Died

Trinity church has a sign on the main entrance door that acknowledges the fire that burned down the first church. "TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH FIRST LOG CHURCH OF THE PALATINES BUILT 1729…BURNED BY THE TORIES AND INDIANS OCT. 19, 1780 PRESENT CHURCH DEDICATED JULY 1, 1792" This shows how the Trinity Church have changed, and how the history is why the Church looks the way it does today.

South Churchyard of Trinity Church

Burial grounds

There are three burial grounds closely associated with Trinity Church. The first is Trinity Churchyard, at Wall Street and Broadway, in which Alexander Hamilton, William Bradford, Franklin Wharton, Robert Fulton, Captain James Lawrence and Albert Gallatin are buried. The second is Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum on Riverside Drive at 155th Street, formerly the location of John James Audubon's estate, in which are interred John James Audubon, Alfred Tennyson Dickens, John Jacob Astor, and Clement Clarke Moore. It is the only active cemetery remaining in the borough of Manhattan. The third is the Churchyard of St. Paul's Chapel, where memorials to the United Irishmen Addis Emmet and Dr. William MacNeven are located.


The tower of Trinity Church currently contains 23 bells the heaviest of which weighs 27 U.S. hundredweight (1225 kg).

Eight of these bells were cast for the tower of the second church building and were hung for ringing in the English change ringing style. Three more bells were added later. In 1946 these bells were adapted for swing chiming and sounded by electric motors.

A project to install a new ring of 12 additional change ringing bells was initially proposed in 2001 but put on hold in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, which took place three blocks north of the church. This project came to fruition in 2006, thanks to funding from the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust. These new bells form the first ring of 12 change-ringing bells ever installed in a church in the United States. The installation work was carried out by Taylors, Eayre and Smith of Loughborough, England, in September 2006.

In late 2006, the ringing of the bells for bell practice and tuning caused much concern to local residents, some of whose windows and residences are less than 100 feet at eye level from the bell tower. The church then built a plywood deck right over the bells and placed shutters on the inside of the bell chamber's lancet windows. With the shutters and the plywood deck closed, the sound of the bells outside the tower is minimal. The shutters, and hatches in the plywood deck, are opened for public ringing.

Public ringing takes place before and after 11:15 a.m. Sunday service and on special occasions, such as 9/11 commemorations, weddings, and ticker-tape parades. Details of the individual bells can be found at: Dove's Guide for Church Bellringers.

Interior of Trinity Church


Trinity Church has three sets of impressive bronze doors conceived by Richard Morris Hunt. These date from 1893 and were produced by Karl Bitter (east door), J. Massey Rhind (south door) and Charles Henry Niehaus (north door). The doors were a gift from William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor in memory of John Jacob Astor III. The north and east door each consist of six panels from Church history or the Bible and the south door depicts the history of New York in its six panels.


Trinity Church offers a full schedule of prayer and Eucharist services throughout the week; it is also available for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms. In addition to daily worship, Trinity Church provides Christian fellowship and outreach to the community, the city, the nation, and the world.



Music and arts

Trinity Church has a rich music program with an annual budget of $2.5 million as of 2011.[4] Concerts at One has been providing live professional classical and contemporary music for the Wall Street community since 1969, and the church has several organized choirs, featured Sunday mornings on WQXR 105.9 FM in New York City. Trinity presents world-class music programs both in New York City and around the world via high definition video streaming.

The mainstay of Trinity's music program is The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, a professional ensemble that leads liturgical music at Trinity Church and St. Paul's Chapel, presents new-music concerts in New York City, produces recordings, and performs in international tours. The Choir is often joined by the Trinity Baroque Orchestra, Trinity's ensemble of period instrumentalists, and NOVUS NY, Trinity's contemporary music orchestra.

Trinity is also home to a Youth Chorus, Youth Orchestra, Family Choir, Downtown Voices, change bell ringers, and a wide variety of arts programming through Congregational Arts. Visiting choirs from around the world perform at Trinity weekly. The entire music program is under the leadership of Julian Wachner, Director of Music and the Arts, a renowned conductor, composer, and keyboard artist.

Property holdings

Beginning in the 1780s, the church's claim on 62 acres of Queen Anne's 1705 grant was contested in the courts by descendants of a 17th-century Dutchwoman, Anneke Jans Bogardus, who, it was claimed, held original title to that property. The basis of the lawsuits was that only five of Bogardus' six heirs had conveyed the land to the English crown in 1671.[15][16] Numerous times over the course of six decades, the claimants asserted themselves in court, losing each time. The attempt was even revived in the 20th century. In 1959, the Internal Revenue Service sued over the compensation of the church's property manager, but the church prevailed in Stanton v. United States.

Close-up of statues of Trinity Church
Tree Sculpture at Trinity Church, made out of giant sycamore destroyed on 9/11

Disclosure resulting from a lawsuit filed by a parishioner revealed total assets of about $2 billion as of 2011.[4] Although Trinity Church has sold off much of the land that was part of the royal grant from Queen Anne,[15] it is still one of the largest landowners in New York City with 14 acres of Manhattan real estate including 5.5 million square feet of commercial space in Hudson Square.[4][17] The parish's annual revenue from its real estate holdings was $158 million in 2011 with net income of $38 million,[4] making it perhaps one of the richest individual parishes in the world.[15]



Lay Staff

The Trinity Church was the site of the templar's treasure in the film National Treasure (film) starring Nicolas Cage.


  1. 1 2 New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S. (text); Postal, Matthew A. (text) (2009), Postal, Matthew A., ed., Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.11
  2. National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. 1 2 "Trinity Church and Graveyard". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-11.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Sharon Otterman (April 24, 2013). "Trinity Church Split on How to Manage $2 Billion Legacy of a Queen". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  5. "TRINITY CHURCH PROPERTY.; Outline of the Legal History of the Trinity "Church Farm."". The New York Times. November 18, 1859.
  6. Trinity Church - Historical Timeline
  7. "Question of the Day: Trinity's Very Own Pirate?". The Archivist's Mailbag. Trinity Church. November 19, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2011.
  8. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination" (PDF). National Park Service. August 1976.
  9. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination (photos)" (PDF). National Park Service. August 1976.
  10. "Trinity Church". Trinity Church. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  12. Matt Flegenheimer (December 16, 2011). "Occupy Group Faults Church, a Onetime Ally". The New York Times. Retrieved December 17, 2011.
  13. Nathan Schneider (December 19, 2011). "Re-Occupy: A Movement Seeks a Sanctuary: On occupying Trinity Church—and the Occupy movement's relationship with established institutions.". Yes!. Retrieved December 31, 2011.
  14. Al Baker; Colin Moynihan (December 17, 2011). "Arrests as Occupy Protest Turns to Church". The New York Times. Retrieved December 18, 2011.
  15. 1 2 3 Nevius, Michelle & Nevius, James (2009), Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City, New York: Free Press, ISBN 141658997X, pp.22-23
  16. "A Dutchwoman's Farm.; The Hon. James W. Gerard On The Anneke Jans Bogardus Claims". The New York Times. May 7, 1879.
  17. Trinity Real Estate
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