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Chronicles: NYC’s Oldest Parish

Trinity Church 

The title of Manhattan’s oldest parish might be a bit of a puzzler, since Trinity Church itself, is not the oldest church building. The parish refers rather to the land on which the church occupies and the territory it serves. In terms of Trinity Church, the Lower Manhattan parish, has existed since 1697 by a charter of King William III. The first church was completed in 1698 and according to historical records, the infamous privateer Captain William Kidd lent the runner and tackle from his ship for hoisting the stones.

Unfortunately, this first church was destroyed in the Great New York City Fire in 1776 that started in the Fighting Cocks Tavern and destroyed nearly 500 buildings and houses, leaving thousands homeless. A second church completed in 1790 was torn down in 1838 after being damaged by severe winds. The current church, built in 1846, though stands tall still today and once dominated the city’s skyline. It’s neo-Gothic spire and interior is a classic example Gothic Revival and is a National Historical Landmark.
In the churchyard of Trinity are buried two famous early Americans, Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton (inventor of the steam engine). The oldest stone in the yard is for Richard Churcher, age 5, who was buried there in 1681 while the most engigmatic stone belongs to James Leeson, 1794. Leeson’s stone contains Masonic symbols and strange markings which took over a century to decode by was finally figured out by the Trinity Record. The stone reads, “Remember Death.”
Trinity Church
Wall St, b/t Broadway and New St.

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