Welcome to Trinity Church - New York's most astoundingly historic house of worship! Standing proudly at the intersection of the two most famous streets in all of Manhattan (Wall Street and Broadway), Trinity traces its roots all the way back to the first decades of European Settlement - not long after the Dutch ceded the city once known as "New Amsterdam" and "New Orange" to the English to finally become "New York" for good. In 1696, a pre-piratic Captain Kidd lent the rigging from The Adventure Galley to raise the stones used for the church foundation. The following year, Trinity received its charter from King William III of England (calling for payment of just one peppercorn per annum in nominal rent, but ensuring colonial ties to the Church of England), and services began in 1698.
New York was a focal point of the Revolutionary War (please see Alan2's excellent series of historical caches on this subject, beginning with Phase 1: Gathering Storm set in Lower Manhattan). Church leadership sided with the British, although many Patriots were counted amongst the parishoners. In September 1776, a British force of 12,000 men landed in lower Manhattan, taking swift control of the city as General Washington's outnumbered forces retreated to Harlem. A few days later, fire broke out in the Fighting Cocks Tavern, quickly spreading to nearly a quarter of the city - almost 500 buildings were lost, a catastrophic total. The original Trinity Church was destroyed, although thankfully the nearby affiliated St. Paul's Chapel was saved by bucket brigades of New Yorkers and British soldiers alike, surviving to become what is today the oldest church building in the city.
Intriguingly, Washington had previously proposed burning New York to the ground in retreat, to deny the British the supplies and lodging his armies were leaving behind. The Second Continental Congress rejected the plan. To this day, no one knows how the fire (or fires?) actually began. Washington denied all involvement. The British investigated over 200 suspects, but none were ever convicted. Nathan Hale was captured and hanged the following morning, but no evidence indicates that he was punished for anything but espionage. Some have speculated that the fire was started by British soldiers as a warning to remaining Patriots in New York, with unusually strong winds contributing to disastrously unintended consequences. But nobody knows; not long after the first Trinity Church died, the knowledge of what really happened died along with it.
The second Trinity Church was finished about a decade later, lasting until the 1830's when damage from severe winter storms proved irreparable. The third (and current) Trinity Church was finished in 1846 - and today is considered an American masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture.
The church reaches 281 feet in the air, and dominated the skyline of lower Manhattan in a way that it is difficult for us to imagine today. It was the tallest structure - of any type - in the city for nearly 50 years, and was taller than even most of the first-generation skyscrapers that began to sprout up at the turn of the century. It could be seen from miles away, towering above the surrounding buildings - seamen even used the spire to help navigate their ships through the lower Hudson River. Trinity is historically significant to us today, but it was truly awe-inspiring to New Yorkers of yesterday.
Trinity Church is of course a protected treasure, designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1976. (That same year Trinity was visited by Queen Elizabeth II, to whom cheeky church leaders presented 279 peppercorns in back rent.) Interestingly, Trinity Church Cemetery is also recognized separately from the church on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Many notable figures are interred on the grounds, including steamboat pioneer Robert Fulton, American printing forefather William Bradford (ironically, his tombstone contains a typo), and, of course, Alexander Hamilton - constitutional authority, original architect of the United States economy, and ill-fated duelist.
The cemetery also features the Firemen's Monument and the Soldiers' Monument, paying homage to the two most unselfish sacrifices a New York citizen can make. The grounds are open:
7am - 4pm Weekdays
8am - 3pm Saturdays and Holidays
7am - 3pm Sundays
And I think that you may find a visit extremely helpful. Enjoy!