Old New York In Photos #81 – The Best View in New York City c. 1870

A View Of New York From The Steeple of Trinity Church

In mid-19th century New York City if you wanted to be above it all and get a sweeping view of the city there was one place to go: the steeple of Trinity Church on Wall Street.

The steeple of Trinity rose 281 feet into the air and gave New Yorkers and visitors alike an unobstructed view of the city as far as the eye could see.

Trinity Church was originally constructed in 1696 and was burned down by the British in 1776 during the Revolutionary War.

If you’ve ever seen the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure, you can be assured that there is no treasure buried under Trinity Church as the British troops sacked the original building before burning it.

A second Trinity was constructed after the war’s conclusion. That structure’s support beams failed in 1838 necessitating the demolition and reconstruction of the church. The third and present Trinity Church designed by architect Richard Upjohn was consecrated in 1846.

The view seen here is looking south with two and three masted schooners making their way in and out of New York harbor. The island directly behind the large ship is Bedloe’s Island where Liberty Enlightening The World (The Statue of Liberty) now stands.

On the land to the left near the water stands a fort built originally in 1808 and named West Battery. It was renamed Castle Clinton in 1815 and in the 1820s became a beer garden and entertainment center with the new name Castle Garden. In 1855 Castle Garden served as the processing center for immigrants until 1890, The nearby Barge Office (built 1883) took over the processing until January 1, 1892 when Ellis Island opened. In 1896 after an extensive remodeling Castle Garden became the home of the New York Aquarium. The Aquarium moved out to Coney Island in 1941. Castle Garden was renamed back to Castle Clinton and today serves as the ticket selling area for boats to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Behind Castle Garden across New York Bay you can hazily see land which is Staten Island.

In 1890 Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World Building eclipsed Trinity in height and New York City began its frenzied race to make buildings higher and higher.

With the exception of the fort, not one building in our photograph remains today.

1 thought on “Old New York In Photos #81 – The Best View in New York City c. 1870

  1. Tina

    What is the large hole in front of Castle Garden? It looks like an excavation for a building. But wouldn’t this area be part of Battery Park?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.