I was walking along Broadway in Lower Manhattan when I passed by St. Paul’s Chapel. I had a rare morning free with time on my hands and being a sucker for old churches and graveyards, plus having a love for all things related to the Revolutionary War, I entered the graveyard to have a look around.
I’ve been by St. Paul’s Chapel many times but never had the time to stop in. St. Paul’s Chapel isn’t a place that you put at the top of your destination, unless you’re attending mass, a concert, or an art exhibit. But after visiting the graveyard and the chapel, it is a place that tourists and lovers of history should put on the schedule or a tour.
As I walked through the graveyard, I visited Revolutionary War heroes Major General Richard Montgomery, who was killed at the Battle of Quebec. Lt. Col. Etienne Marie Bechet Sieur de Rochfontaine, who served under George Washington. Two others who served under George Washington, Major John Lucas and Major Job Sumner, are also buried in the graveyard. Hamilton fans might also find it interesting that George Eacker, the man who shot Philip Hamilton in a duel, is also buried in the graveyard.
There were several security guards walking around the grounds and I figured there was an event going on, but as I peeked into the church, it was empty. After going through a metal detector, I entered the sanctuary. It surprised me to find that I was all alone in the chapel, except for an occasional security guard who passed through, mainly to check to see if I was doing anything I shouldn’t be doing.
St. Paul’s Chapel is the oldest public building in New York City. It was built in 1766 and designated a parish under nearby Trinity Church. Trinity Church was a more popular church, but people wanted something closer, and Trinity was becoming crowded. Because of St. Paul’s location, the locals nicknamed it “Chapel of Ease.” Upon the completion of the church, it was the tallest building in New York City. As battles raged with the British in 1776, a great fire burned through Lower Manhattan, torching Trinity Church. St. Paul’s was unharmed and became the church of choice until Trinity Church was rebuilt in 1790.
On April 30th, 1789, shortly after George Washington took the oath of office, he walked to St. Paul’s Chapel and prayed. St. Paul’s would remain Washington’s place of worship during his presidency in New York.
September 11, 2001, almost ended St. Paul’s run of serving the community. As the World Trade Center and other buildings fell nearby, St. Paul’s became a refuge for firefighters, police officers, and others working on the World Trade Center. Doctors, nurses, and chiropractors attended to the tired and weary workers inside the sanctuary, and food was distributed. The fence became a place where people posted memories of their loved ones lost in the attack. What some call a “miracle,” the church was unharmed, giving the chapel a new nickname, “The Little Chapel That Stood.”
St. Paul’s is a great place for those wanting to step back in time or to pray about the future.
St. Paul’s is at 209 Broadway. For hours and worship times, click here.
All visitors must show vaccination status.
*All photos were taken on iPhone13.
Other articles on historical NYC locations:
Visiting the Hamilton Dueling Grounds
Visiting Hamilton Grange
Visiting Grant’s Tomb
Unmarked Slave Burial Ground in the Bronx