Inside St. Paul’s chapel, where George Washington prayed after taking the oath of office — that remained standing when the Twin Towers fell across the street

St. Paul's Chapel has stood in New York City since 1766.

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St. Paul’s Chapel has stood in New York City since 1766.
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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

If you ever find yourself strolling around Manhattan’s Financial District, you might miss the small schist and brownstone church tucked in between the towering skyscrapers.

Make sure you don’t.

St. Paul’s chapel is one of the oldest and most historically significant buildings in the city – in fact, it’s the only colonial-era church still standing in Manhattan.

Built in the 18th century, the Georgian Classic-Revival style church has seen a lot.

It’s where President George Washington prayed after being sworn in at Federal Hall. It’s where President James Monroe’s funeral service was held. It’s where General Marquis de Lafayette saw the New York Choral Society perform.

It also witnessed and survived the September 11th attacks, serving as a relief center for first responders.

And in honor of the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we recently took a tour of the beautiful, old church. See inside:


Located on Broadway in Manhattan’s Financial District, St. Paul’s Chapel has seen over 250 years of New York history.

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Google Maps

Built in 1766, St. Paul’s Chapel has no known architect, but the master craftsman was Andrew Gauthier.

Source: Trinity Church


Back then, St. Paul’s was on the outskirts of the city, surrounded by farmland. Today, about 1 million visitors tour the chapel every year.

Source: Trinity Church


One of the earliest paintings of the US Great Seal hangs along a side wall. There’s no known date or artist, but Trinity Church Archivist Joseph Lipinski told Business Insider it’s thought to be one of the earliest Great Seal paintings because the eagle looks more like a turkey.

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Curtains are pulling back on the painting, unveiling the seal and signifying the founding of the country.
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And George Washington himself, who was a member of the congregation, had his own box pew under the seal. This is where he came to pray in 1789 after becoming president at Federal Hall just blocks away.

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Directly across the Great Seal is a painting of the Seal of New York, which is from the same time period. George Clinton, the first and longest-serving governor of New York, had his own box pew on this wall, Lipinski said.

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St. Paul’s has continued to look the same as the Financial District rose up around it. Here you can see the Twin Towers under construction in 1971.


After 9/11, St. Paul’s was one of the few buildings around Ground Zero left standing.

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Wikimedia Commons

Source: Trinity Church


Miraculously, it survived “without a scratch or a pane of glass broken.”

Source: Trinity Church


First responders and recovery workers used the chapel as a relief center for for more than a year after the attacks. They would stop there to eat, rest, and pray.


The pews on which the first responders slept have since been removed. But the last one, seen below, still scratched up from their equipment, remains in the church’s 9/11 memorial room.

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Thank you signs, messages of support, and tokens like teddy bears, law enforcement patches, and flags covered every inch of the chapel, inside and out. Some of them are on display in the memorial.

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Source: Trinity Church


There are also pictures of some of the fallen.

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Then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave his farewell speech at the chapel in December 2001.


The chapel has continued to hold remembrance ceremonies commemorating those who died in the attacks, and honoring the rescue workers.


St. Paul’s is an Episcopal church, but welcomes all to worship.

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The wooden pulpit, which Lapinski said is from 1787 as well, now sits to the left of the altar.

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But in the 18th century, when preaching was more part of services, the pulpit sat more in the center of the nave, Lipinski said.

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The altar, which dates to 1787, depicts Mount Sinai in clouds and lightning.

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Along with the 10 commandments.

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The Greek columns lining the nave and the gallery on the second floor are also original to the chapel. Lipinski said that when the columns were restored in 1962, workers discovered pine tree trunks inside, acting as support beams.

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The glass chandeliers throughout the chapel are from 1802, Lipinski said. In 1857, they were fitted for gas, and then in 1925, for electricity.

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The iron and wooden altar railing also possibly dates to the 18th century, Lipinksi said.

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Upstairs is the second floor gallery.

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There are still pews in the gallery that probably date back to the 1840s.

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The original St. Paul statue, which hung above the niche outside, is also there. It was permanently removed in 2016 to preserve it.

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The organ is also on the second floor gallery, facing the alter. It’s not the originally installed one, but the wooden case is.

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In fact, there was only choral music in the chapel until 1802, when the organ and case were purchased from England.

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The original clock and bell in the steeple also came from England. But the original clock was replaced in 1916, and the bell was replaced in 1826. A second bell was added in 1866 to make a chime, Lipinski said.

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There’s also a bell in the cemetery behind the chapel. Gifted to the chapel by the mayor of London one year after 9/11, it’s only 16 years old.

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The oldest grave in the cemetery, which wraps around the two sides of the chapel, dates back to 1704.

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Some of the more notable graves are French Lt. Col. EM Bechet Sieur de Rochefontaine (seen in the left corner), who fought for the Colonials in the Revolutionary War, and George Eacker, a lawyer who killed Alexander Hamilton’s son in a duel before the first US Treasury Secretary succumbed to the same fate three years later.

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Revolutionary General Richard Montgomery, who was killed at the Battle of Quebec in 1175, is also interned underneath a monument in the front of the chapel. Commissioned in 1776, his was the first US national memorial.

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Source: History.com


St. Paul’s Chapel: the church that’s seen it all.

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Broadway, New York 1840
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Charles F. Flower/Wikimedia Commons