Over the course of its 350-year history, St. Paul’s Chapel in New York has been the witness to some of the city’s most triumphant and tragic moments. Built in 1766 on land granted by Queen Anne of Britain, St. Paul’s is New York’s oldest building in continuous use and the oldest remaining church in the city. The church’s architecture is distinctly Georgian, just like the church it was modeled after, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London. When St. Paul’s was first built, it stood in a field over looking the busy southern port of New York.
Inside the chapel, you’ll find modest surroundings that were typical of this time period and denomination. The simple ornamentation was also meant to encourage visitors and not intimidate them with opulence. Though the church has a very domestic character, it holds many important pieces of early American history. George Washington worshipped here for the two years New York was the capital (as well as on his inauguration day) and the pew on which he sat can still be seen and amongst the church’s sculptures is ‘Glory’ by Washington architect Pierre L’Enfant. Many of Washington’s compatriots are buried in the churchyard and young revolutionaries, Alexander Hamilton amongst them, used to practice drills there.
St. Paul’s is also a reminder to this deeply historical city that in the face of great hardship, New York always still stands. In 1776, the chapel was one of the only buildings that survived the Great Fire of New York, which followed the British capture of the city in the Battle of Long Island. And in 2001, the church became a refuge for 9/11 workers and an impromptu memorial site. Despite its close proximity to the World Trade Center, the church survived without any physical harm. Church lore says that the building was spared with help from the sycamore on the northwest corner of the property, which was hit with debris in the church’s stead. In the tree’s honor, one of its roots has been preserved in a bronze memorial by sculptor Steve Tobin.
St. Paul’s Chapel
Broadway at Fulton Street, New York, N.Y. 10006