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 🙂