Trinity Church is a little marvel because it was built in Colonial times in lower Manhattan and is still standing there as it has been surrounded and shadowed, more each year, by the glass and steel skyscrapers that represent the heart of modern capitalism. For perspective, in 1885 the Trinity Church steeple was the tallest building on the island of Manhattan. It was surpassed by the Woolworth Building and now it’s like a toddler in the middle of a giraffe stampede.
Besides being a curiosity in the Financial District as the Church and its ancient cemetery persisted through centuries, besides its great claim as an anachronism, its greatest calling card is as the last resting place of Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the treasury. He would be so proud of the little Church as it now has a trust fund that has $6 billion dollars in real estate holdings.
Trinity’s current affluence can be traced to a gift of 215 acres from Queen Anne in 1705. (The church was first chartered, under King William III, in 1697, a few decades after the British took over New Amsterdam.) Trinity still owns 14 acres of that original land grant, mostly in Hudson Square.
It’s a very interesting story. But it must be kept in mind…
Trinity has been able to do all this because it’s been a savvy manager of its resources. It is also, as a church, exempt from taxes.
But some wonder about the ethics of a religious institution being such a power player in the world of New York real estate.
Yes, let’s wonder about that. Why does freedom of religion mean freedom from taxation? That anachronism should probably be rethought.