Trinity Church, New York, NY, Part 3

Trinity Church is beautiful, inside and out. Visiting this historic building was one of our highlights to visiting Manhattan. (Read Part 1 and Part 2). After resting beneath a canopy of trees that served as a cool refuge from the hot New York streets and lingering in the sanctuary in the same pews that our founding fathers worshiped, we discovered an entrance to a small museum at the back of the church. I’d been to Trinity a few times but had never seen the museum before. A new adventure! Unfortunately, photos are rather scarce because the lighting in the church was extremely dark.

We enter a vestibule of sorts. The walls are cluttered with dozens of marble plaques and statutes, memorials to previous ministers and notable church members.

Trinity32 Memorial Plaques

Trinity30 Hamilton Memorial

The Alexander Hamilton bust is a reproduction of the original that we saw at Federal Hall National Historic Site on Wall Street. Incidentally, the bust was relocated to its final resting place in September 2011, when the Alexander Hamilton National Historic Site opened this year, after much fanfare (and intensive renovations). We hope to see Hamilton’s Grange (the name Hamilton gave to his house) very soon!
The vestibule leads to a labyrinth of hallways — offices to the church leaders, judging by the desks — but these areas are politely roped off. We are herded by the ropes into a very large room, the museum. The first thing that catches our eye is another memorial to our darling Alexander Hamilton, Trinity’s Most Famous Resident.

Trinity33 Hamilton Display

We’ve written about Hamilton on this blog extensively, visiting his father-in-law’s home in Albany called The Schuyler Mansion, his namesake Hamilton College and Hamilton College Cemetery, Federal Hall where some of his paraphernalia lay, and more. Just do a search for “Alexander Hamilton” in my search engine bar, above, and you’ll find dozens of references.

Yes, we love Hamilton.

Trinity37 Moneh

I came upon an amazing artifact, secured behind a thick, glass wall. I gasped, amazed that something like this still exists!! Can you guess what it is?

Trinity34 Water Pipe

It’s the remnant of an old water pipe that once funneled fresh water to New York City residents. This was Aaron’s Burr’s venture and he founded Chase Manhattan Bank traces its founding back to it, in 1799. Why is it in Trinity Church, near the sacred grounds where Hamilton’s body lies?
The story begins in 1798. New York City was commonly plagued with epidemics, but the latest epidemic of yellow fever in late summer repulsed even the most hardened survivor. Coffins lined the streets, filled with hapless victims on their way to burial grounds followed by wailing and mourning families. Street vendors loudly hawked freshly-made coffins on street corners for the next commiserable captive.

New York’s growing, crowded population had choked what little sewer and water supply systems existed. A group of concerned citizens met to address the problem. In the group were Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr… an association that led to all sorts of problems to come…

The story is just so remarkable and full of intrigue and politics and corruption that I dedicated an entire article to the story: Burr, Hamilton, Chase Bank and the Wooden Water Pipes. It’s is truly amazing.

Trinity35 Water Pipe Story

Continuing on with the museum… the room has few artifacts but is filled with enormous placards and displays detailing the history of Trinity Church and it’s more famous members.

Trinity38 History

For example, Captain William Kidd, later to be known as Billy the Kid, attended Trinity Church. He lent his runner and tackle to the church to aid in the building project.

Stories of Kidd and buried treasure are imaginative.

Later, Kidd would be tried for piracy. He made great attempts to clear his name of the charge, to no avail. Kidd had even abandoned one of his ships full of very valuable cargo to hop on a smaller vessel speeding to New York City where he felt he could gather support for his innocence of the charges.
Most of what we know of Billy the Kid is, like so many historical figures, the result of fanciful tales and legends by imaginative storytellers. Today, some historians feel Captain Kidd was the victim of circumstance caught between warring countries and corrupt bosses. Others feel the charges of piracy were a bit steep, and that Kidd was more of a privateer. Some others believe Kidd was nothing short of a scoundrel for his looting and villainy. Truth is, Kidd was consigned by the British government to CAPTURE pirates and French ships. Looting French property from captured ships was legal. Of course, in the kind of business Kidd was engaged, the proverb “If you lie down with dogs you will get up with fleas” is very appropriate here. Despite some evidence that Kidd had attempted to control his “scurvy dogs” from theft and evidence that disgruntled members of his crew railed against him, Kidd was unable to control his crew, and chaos ensued frequently.
Kidd was captured, placed in prison in Boston, Massachusetts. They even put his wife, Sarah, in prison! Kidd was taken to London and tried for piracy and murder. His defense was insipid and Kidd was executed in London, by hanging, on 23 May 1701. His body was left hanging over the River Thames for TWO YEARS. Kidd made headlines again in 2007 when his ship, the Quedagh Merchant, was found off the waters of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic. This was the ship Kidd abandoned in a furious attempt to hurry to New York City to clear his name of piracy charges. His crew emptied the ship of its loot and sank it.
Other displays told of Trinity Church’s activities. Trinity Church is known as being the oldest church in America in continual public use. The congregation is very active in the community.

Trinity36 Preaching Display

It is also the birthplace of Columbia College. Back then, it was known as King’s College (Alexander Hamilton attended until he enlisted in the American Revolution). The church received the college charter in 1754 by King George II.


Truly, Trinity Church has a rich history hidden in the neighboring shadows of the utilitarian skyscrapers.


About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments are closed.