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New paint (and organ, and A/C) for St. Paul’s in NYC

New paint (and organ, and A/C) for St. Paul’s in NYC

The New York Times just published a feature on the renovation of 18th-century St. Paul’s Chapel, an outpost of Trinity Wall Street when a quarter-mile of farmland separated its parishioners from the mother church.

Much of the work is being done in conjunction with the church’s 250th anniversary, in October. St. Paul’s also played an important role as “sanctuary, clinic and canteen” following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, whose 15th anniversary falls in the month prior to the chapel’s 250th.

The chapel, built in the 1760s, existed before the nation did:

King George III ruled New York when St. Paul’s Chapel was built in Lower Manhattan.

The chapel endured the Revolution, played a central role at the birth of the American republic in 1789, survived the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center 212 years later and then served as sanctuary, clinic and canteen for rescue and recovery workers in the mountainous wreckage across Church Street.

Its history will always be colorful. But the chapel itself will soon be much less so.

Besides the organ replacement, the interior will be repainted – the current pink and blue of the sanctuary will be replaced with softer cream colors – the organ will be replaced…

Next year, St. Paul’s will swap out its 1964 Schlicker organ for a 1989 Noack organ from the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The new (used) organ will be housed — as the Schlicker has been — behind an elegant mahogany case that dates to the early 19th century.

“It will fit perfectly here,” said the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, the vicar of Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street. Trinity Parish, an Episcopal body, includes St. Paul’s, at Broadway and Fulton Street.

And the rector of the Church of the Redeemer, the Rev. Michael Dangelo, said, “We are thrilled that it will have a new life in such a historic house of worship.” The Noack is to be replaced, he said.

…air conditioning has been added:

As part of a multiyear renovation costing a couple of million dollars (Trinity would not give a more specific figure), air-conditioning was introduced through an ingenious shoehorning of equipment. “We were able to put all the condensers in the bell tower,” said Jeffrey Murphy of Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects, which designed the renovation. Ductwork and diffusers were threaded artfully under the balcony floors.

Because the renovation work will leave so few traces, the new paint job may elicit the most comment.

The paint may or may not be historically accurate, but at least is believed to be more appropriate than the current bright colors, which are a more 19th-century trend.

More on the chapel’s history and anniversary can be found at this link:

Trinity Wall Street

Contemporary photo from Trinity Wall Street; historic photo from U.S. Department of State online art

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Christopher Stephen Jenks, BSG

A quick note: The National Park Service link above is for St. Paul's Church in Eastchester, NY, which is now a museum. It is not for St. Paul's Chapel.

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David Allen

Thanks - editor

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Christopher Stephen Jenks, BSG

I'm a bit puzzled by the lack of evidence of the original color scheme. Was the interior paint stripped at some point, or maybe left unpainted for several decades? I know that in buildings of the period plaster walls were left bare for years before painting in order to let the plaster "cure." Could this have happened at St. Paul's, and then with the Revolution the painting was put off indefinitely?

I know that at Christ Church Boston (a.k.a. The Old North Church) the interior walls, in the 18th century, were whitewashed, the galleries were given a faux cedar treatment, and the woodwork was a "stone" color, i.e. grey. Add to that the bright red and gold of the organ case and the blue and gold of the rods from which the chandeliers hung, plus various decorative frescoes of cherubim and garlands, and statues captured from a Spanish galleon, and the interior was extremely colorful, even gaudy!

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David Allen

It is interesting that Trinity has backtracked on replacing the St Paul's pipe organ with a smaller version of the Marshall & Ogeltree Digital Organ and are now replacing it with another organ with actual pipes.

In fact, almost all trace of the Marshall & Ogeltree Digital Organ has disappeared from the Trinity Wall Street website. Interesting!

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