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God and Mammon: 1915

New York circa 1915. "Trinity Church and office buildings." Rising heavenward at center, the twin slabs of the Equitable Building; at right, the pyramid-topped Bankers Trust tower. Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative. View full size.

New York circa 1915. "Trinity Church and office buildings." Rising heavenward at center, the twin slabs of the Equitable Building; at right, the pyramid-topped Bankers Trust tower. Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative. View full size.


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Trinity Building vs. Trinity Church

The Trinity Building designed by Francis Kimball is the 20-story skyscraper at the left-hand edge of the photograph, not the Trinity Church (designed by Upjohn) in the foreground. Interestingly enough, Richard Upjohn was also the architect of the original 5-story office building on this site (just north of the Trinity Churchyard), which was built in 1851-1852 and demolished to make way for the big building we see here (and still standing today).

Trinity Architect

The architect of NY's Trinity Church was Richard Upjohn, not Kimball, and it was built in the 1840s.

Big Boy to runt

The third iteration of Trinity Church was the tallest building in Manhattan for 44 years (1846-1890 according to Wikipedia). Pictures and drawings from the era show it dominating the area at the foot of Wall Street. Here in the picture it is dwarfed by the early-20th century skyscrapers.

One other interesting tidbit: Wall Street (the cross street opposite the entrance to Trinity Church, seen here with lots of autos and trucks) is now a pedestrian-only thoroughfare.

Zoning code

OMG, what a wonderful photo! Thanks a lot, Dave! Yes, Equitable Building (120 Broadway) became a reason of Zoning Law of 1915, but anyway I love this building!


Interesting photo that seems to echo a "chapel in the valley" painting, where the buildings are the surrounding hills.


The newly constructed Equitable building was big. It had the most floor space (over 1.8 million square feet) of any office building in the world until the Empire State went up in 1931. It also cast a literally huge shadow over its neighbors -- the Equitable was the inspiration for New York's setback laws, which mandated that new construction let at least a certain amount of light and sky into the city's concrete and steel canyons.

Trinity & St. Paul's

This church was built in 1846 if memory serves. This is the third Trinity church on the site. An earlier Trinity church was burned down in the 1776 fire.

St. Paul's, farther up Broadway, is where Washington's pew is still preserved. Mostly dating to the mid 18th century, it's the oldest surviving building in New York that was within the city limits at the time it was built. It's also about a block from Ground Zero but came through 9/11 relatively unscathed.


Thank you so much, this is one of my favorite skyscraper shots of all time! Other buildings worth pointing out: on the left, the Gothic Revival Trinity Building (Francis Kimball, architect, 1903-1905); in the center, to the right of the Equitable Building, the American Surety Building (Bruce Price, architect, 1894-1896). Best of all, nearly everything you see in this view is still standing.

It still looks pretty much like this

I work a few blocks away from Trinity Church. The church and its graveyard haven't changed, and as far as I know, all the surrounding buildings are intact as well.

Two Apocryphal Tales

I must label them as such since I am relying upon my "musty" chords of memory from "The Power Of Their Glory: America's Ruling Class, The Episcopalians," and my copy eludes me for the moment.

As I recall, it tells of a trick played by the stonemasons during construction of the nave: at the pinnacle of an arch above the high altar they covertly carved a dollar sign as a means of expressing their idea of the "true god" of Wall Street.

Also that parishioner J. P. Morgan (among others) threatened resignation should the rector's suggestion that one seat on the parish vestry (governing board) be reserved for a member from the "working classes" come to fruition.

Waaaay up there.

That is one tall city!

True to Life

Unfortunately, this illustrates the relative importance of religion in day-to-day life -- crowded out and overshadowed by life's toils and pleasures.

You have that right

Back when it was built God didn't have any trouble finding it.

Go to the Windowmaker

Can you imagine the volume of business that windowframe and window glass manufacturers and installers were enjoying back in those days?

Mammon is Winning

But the church's steeple is giving the temples of commerce a good run for the money!


This is where George Washington worshiped. It also survived the 9/11 attacks. A lot of history here.

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