Lower Manhattan Historical Tour – Trinity Church & St. Paul’s Chapel

Hi friends, welcome back to part three of my Lower Manhattan historical tour. Today’s tour starts at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway with Trinity Church. Trinity Church dates all the way back to 1697 when King William III granted a charter to the church. The charter serves as the incorporation document for the church and states that the church must pay “one peppercorn” a year to the crown. In 1705 Queen Ann expanded upon the agreement and granted Trinity Church 215 acres of land. When Queen Elizabeth visited in 1976 the church presented her with all the back-paid rent in the form of actual peppercorns. She played along and accepted the symbolic gesture. Trinity Church now owns about 15 acres of land and has diversified their assets. They must’ve had some great financial advisors because now the church has $10b worth of real estate and financial investments per their financial statements.

This structure is actually the third Trinity Church to exist. The first church burned down in the Great New York City Fire of 1776, the second was demolished in 1839 after snowfall caused structural problems, and this current structure was consecrated in 1846. It used to be the tallest building in the US until 1869, and in New York until 1890.


This church is also famous because Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, and son are buried here. Another notable burial is Robert Fulton, the steamboat inventor.

Trinity Church recently reopened after some rejuvenation work inside that started in 2018. As you can see the organ is currently under construction as are parts of the interior. The stained-glass window overlooking Wall Street was installed in 2022 and it illustrates both “The Parable of the Talents” and “The Judgment of the Nations”.

At 57 Maiden Lane you can see a plaque commemorating where Thomas Jefferson lived. This is significant for being the “room where it happened” where Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton agreed to move the capital of the United States to Virginia in exchange for their support of Hamilton’s financial plan. If you’ve seen Hamilton you probably know the catchy song about this deal.

About a quarter of the mile up the road from Trinity Church stands St. Pauls Chapel. It dates back to 1766 and is the oldest building in continuous use in NYC. It was built to house the growing Trinity Church congregation as the population in NYC began to swell. It survived the fire in 1776 due to a bucket brigade pouring buckets of water on the church to stop the flames.

This was George Washington’s church while Trinity was being rebuilt and he prayed here on his inauguration day in 1798. His Presidential Pew was under this first known painting of the Great Seal.

More recently St. Pauls Chapel was a place for fire fighters to rest and sleep after 9/11 and was referred to as The Chapel that Stood. It is right across the street from the World Trade Center but didn’t suffer any damage, not even a broken window. This Bell of Hope was a gift from St. Pauls sister church in London and symbolizes the triumph of hope over tragedy. Under the bell is a layout of the World Trade Center complex on September 11th, 2001.

I hope you enjoyed part three of the tour! The final installment will feature City Hall in a few weeks. I signed up for a free tour with the city so I’m excited to share what I learn. In the meantime I’ve got some spring posts coming your way 🙂

42 thoughts on “Lower Manhattan Historical Tour – Trinity Church & St. Paul’s Chapel

  1. There is quite the contrast between the two churches! I’m impressed the second one has reminded standing through so many historic events.

    1. It really is quite the contrast, and they seem so small compared to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. St. Pauls is really resilient!

  2. We visited this place in 2006 on our first trip to NYC. So much history. We also enjoyed wandering through the graveyard trying to decipher the worn headstones. Thanks for taking us back Lyssy. Allan

    1. Glad this brought back good memories, it is a really cool graveyard! It’s funny in America it seems really old, but anywhere else this would be considered relatively newer history.

    1. I agree with Maggie – I wasn’t really taken with St. Paul’s Chapel until I saw the interior, which is elegant. I’m surprised there aren’t more formal pews instead of individual chairs, but maybe regular services aren’t held here anymore? Also, did you catch what the six wall-mounted memorials are in the rear, each with it’s own description?

      I love how the modern skyscrapers of the city surround these historic buildings, creating even more of a contrast. They look like small parks. You get the same feeling in Boston with the Old State House and Faneuil Hall.

      1. The outside of St. Paul’s Chapel is very unassuming. There were pews but when the fire fighters were staying overnight I think their heavy gear left a lot of damage and they never replaced them. They do hold concerts of classical music and the organ, but I can’t find anything about services. I know I looked at the memorials in the back, but I can’t remember who they were for so they must not have been super recognizable names.

        It is really neat seeing the contrast of the old buildings with the skyscrapers. It is also funny to think they were the tallest buildings at one point. We enjoyed our visiting all the places on the Freedom Trail in Boston.

    2. It is beautiful! I have walked by hundreds of times so it was a joy finally seeing inside.

  3. Seeing and learning about the two churches was a real treat, Lyssy! These beautiful old structures tucked away among the modern skyscrapers are just amazing. That their cemeteries have endured the test of time is also amazing. It’s hard to decide which one I like best on the inside. Trinity Church is so elaborate, reminiscent of European churches. St. Pauls Chapel is so elegant with its understated but beautiful white sanctuary and chandeliers. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and your outstanding photos!

    1. So glad you enjoyed this! It is amazing they have stood the test of time, I’m sure glad they did. I agree they are both very different but beautiful and charming in their own way. I’ve walked by both so many times and I so enjoyed finally going inside!

  4. The history weaved into this area is so impressive. I really love your church photos as well, and it is so cool that George Washington prayed at St. Paul’s Chapel!!!

    1. Thank you! It is interesting how much actually happened in NYC and that George Washington roamed the same streets as me 🙂

  5. What a beautiful, beautiful church!! I love how that stained glass window looks from outside too.

  6. Great history here. In 2017, I took a free walking tour of lower Manhattan curtesy of buying a ticket on the LGA shuttle to midtown. The guide was extremely well informed but the tour didn’t cover as many interesting items as your post does.

    1. I’ve always wanted to join one of those, but it is nice going alone and being able to get all the angles and pics I want. I really enjoyed researching about my neighborhood.

  7. I love St. Pauls Chapel inside and out. The facade is lovely and reminiscent of small early Roman temples. The interior is also modest, calming and quite elegant. The stories connected to it are heart-warming too. Hope you are having a wonderful week, Lyssy.

    1. St. Pauls is very charming. It seems every church I’ve visited so far is very calming, you don’t hear the honking and commotion outside, so it really feels peaceful in the middle of the city. Hope you have a wonderful week too!

    1. The windows are so pretty! It is so crazy, I read an article about how much money it had and couldn’t believe it, so I checked the financials to make sure and it was all there.

  8. Wonderful post as always, Lissy! The contrast between these old churches and those super modern skyscraper never fails to amaze me! Thanks for sharing their history!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.