When St. Paul's Chapel was completed in 1766, it stood in a field some distance from the growing port city to the south. It was built as a "chapel-of-ease" for parishioners who lived far from the primary, or "Mother," church. Today, St. Paul's Chapel is Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use, and its remaining colonial church. Located directly across from the World Trade Center site, the Episcopal church served as a place of rest and refuge for recovery workers following the attacks of September 11.
George Washington worshiped here on Inauguration Day, April 30, 1789,
and attended services at St. Paul's during the two years New York City
was the country's capital. Above Washington's pew is an 18th-century oil painting of the Great Seal of the United States, which was adopted in 1782. Directly across the chapel is the Governor's pew, which George Clinton, the first Governor of the State of New York,
used when he visited St. Paul's. The Arms of the State of New York are
on the wall above the pew. Among other notable historical figures who
worshiped at St. Paul's were Prince William, later King William IV of
England; Lord Cornwallis, who is most famous in this country for
surrendering at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781; Lord Howe, who
commanded the British forces in New York, and Presidents Grover
Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and George H. W. Bush.
Andrew Gautier served as the chapel's master craftsman, erecting a building typical of the Georgian Classic-Revival style, and resembling London's St. Martin-in-the-Fields. St. Paul's, often attributed to Thmas McBean (although this has never been proven), is constructed of Manhattan mica-schist with brownstone quoins; its woodwork, carving, and door hinges are handmade. The "uptown chapel" for Trinity Church has a modest portico on its towered front facade, facing the 18th century graveyard. The rear elevation on the Broadway side features an imposing Ionic porch--part of the original plan but not built until 1768, and an oak statue of St. Paul carved in the American Primitive style. Below the large Palladian east window is the monument to General Richard Montgomery, who died at the Battle of Quebec during the American Revolutionary War. In the spire, the first bell is inscribed "Mears London, Fecit [Made] 1797." The second bell, made in 1866, was added in celebration of the chapel's 100th anniversary.
The ornamental design of the "Glory" over the altar is the work of Pierre L'Enfant, who designed Washington, D.C. The "Glory" depicts Mt. Sinai in clouds and lightning, the Hebrew word for "God" in a triangle, and the two tablets of the Law with the Ten Commandments. The pulpit is surmounted by a coronet and six feathers. Fourteen original cut-glass chandeliers hang in the nave and the galleries. The organ case was built in 1804.
St. Paul's Chapel and Graveyard was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966.
National Register #66000551 (1966)