What if this actually happened to Trinity Church?

Early 20th century New York was a lot like the city of today.

The skyscraper era was dawning, business was booming, and development was rampant. Many of the city’s low-rise buildings were being bulldozed in favor of steel-frame office towers topping 20 stories.

On Lower Broadway, new office buildings were going up up up. This real-estate madness is the likely inspiration for this Puck illustration from 1907, by Albert Levering.

Levering gives us a Trinity Church — until 1890 the tallest structure along the city’s skyline, which welcomed ships coming into New York Harbor — almost entombed in glass and steel, its graveyard chopped away.

I wonder how many developers took this cartoon seriously?

[Image: Library of Congress]

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11 Responses to “What if this actually happened to Trinity Church?”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    This is exactally what was proposed in 1981 for St. Bartholomew’s church in downtown New York City. I recall seeing a drawing in either TIME or NEWSWEEK magazines of a proposed, very modern structure that would straddle the magnificent religious building. This caused great upheaval in the congregation, with the Landmark organization for the city and finally, became an issue that had legal overtones. The new building did NOT come to pass, so the crazy idea has faded from most memories.

    This is a case of HISTORY TRYING TO REPEAT ITSELF…and as far as ideas go, EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN.

  2. S. Says:

    It is surprising that Trinity Realty, such an avaricious developer and the planners behind some abominable skyscrapers, has not resurrected this plan.

  3. robert dowling Says:

    regards to all. this seems to be more common today than in past, the melding of religious and commercial enterprises also residential enterprise coming together (because of need to save an entity or for financial reasons to survive and not sell out completely ) believe as an example some synagogues on les have lookedinto and/or proceeded with this melding to survive. i believe youll see mor of thismelding in the future esp in big citie becasue of scarcity and or price of acreage. as log as it is not as out landih as drawering accompanying this initial post. also alot of keeping as facade of a building and behind it is the actual new structure that replaced the old one ecept ofr as i said the facade. dont rember where i read and saw article about this but pretty sur if was in nyc. church front there but you wal around facade and new bldg/entrance is behine it.

    • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

      Robert —

      Washington, D.C. offers a much praised site for ‘contextualism’ – which is a combining of the old and new of building designs. The row houses facing Lafayette Square (across from the White House’s North side) were scheduled to be felled to make way for the new (1960s era) National Courts Building. Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis) asked John Carl Warnecke to come up with a design to save the historic structures and preserve the human grace of the neighborhood so near The Executive Mansion. He developed a tall red brick bldg (with complimentary bay windows near the crest) that was essentially built in the backyards of each of these vintage structures.

      My attorney husband has spoken before the courts there on several occasions. He is always impressed, not by the fine ‘new’ construction, but rather by the fact he got to walk tthrough the yellow house on the corner — which just happens to be the past residence of the former First Lady, Dolley Madison — across her wooden floors where she lived and no doubt many or our nation’s early founders and patriots also trod — he walked through there to enter the legal quarters / courtrooms in the center of the block. It was educational, a handsome structure and greatly inspiring…and other than putting a roof over head, isn’t that the reward of having a wonderful building!

  4. Manhattan’s new skyscrapers twinkling in the sky | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] hard to believe that not 50 years earlier, Trinity Church, with its spire reaching 284 feet toward the heavens, was the tallest structure in […]

  5. This alley was once an exclusive New York street | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Trinity Church owned the land, and they sold lots surrounding the private park to upscale buyers. […]

  6. A child’s casket emerges in a Hudson Street park | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] space to make into a park, the land was Old St. John’s Burying Ground (above and at right), run by Trinity Church for the worshipers at nearby St. John’s Chapel, since demolished, according to the New York […]

  7. This is Lower Manhattan as it looked in 1642 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] While Broadway, Greenwich, and Broad Streets still exist, other locations on the map are long gone. The Fort was Fort Amsterdam; the Sheep’s Pasture was filled in. The West India Company’s Garden is the present site of Trinity Church. […]

  8. about Says:


    What if this actually happened to Trinity Church? | Ephemeral New York

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