Below find more on the architecture of the two Trinity parish churches and buildings owned by the Parish, including the 1712-3 First church, the 1714-1712 Second church, the George Street compound, and various other parish offices and Glebe buildings.
The First Gothic Style Church in America
The people of the parish of Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, have built two churches in their long history since organized Episcopal services began in the town in 1723. The first church was built between July of 1752 and the summer of 1753. The second church was built between 1814 to 1816 by Ithiel Town, a pioneer in the Gothic Revival Style in America, For more on this influential and seminal early American architect, see the article Ithiel Town, Architect of Trinity Church.
After much research and long debate, it appears that the current Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, by almost a decade, is indeed the first Gothic Style Church in America.1 — what the Trinity building committee in 1812 called the “Gothic Stile” and Bishop Jarvis in 1814 called the “Gothick” style—an architectural movement that spawned an American Gothic Style architectural movement called variously “Gothic Survival”, “Gothic Revival” or “neo-Gothic” style. It led to the building of at least 1,821 historic neo-Gothic churches in America in a similar style, Carpenter Gothic houses and small churches, Collegiate Gothic campus buildings, interior decorations, ironwork, and bridges culminating in the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. It was built prior to the earliest Gothic Revival Style churches in Canada as well (New Haven had a thriving trade with Canada from its early days on though the 1800s), making it the first Gothic-Revival building in North America.
It is built out of local seam-faced “trap rock” or diabase, a dark volcanic rock whose iron weathers to a rusty brown when exposed to the air, giving the church a distinct reddish appearance. Built of the same stone as East Rock Park, its tower echoes the tall exposed rock ridges that border New Haven. For more on this unique stone, see the article Rock of Ages: Trinity’s Trap Rock Exterior.
Walk-throughs and Descriptions
|Select the picture or the link for Six Walk-throughs, of text with pictures showing different parts of Trinity on the Green’s unique architecture. Learn about Trinity’s windows, monuments, organs, clock, secret spaces, “the big dig” of the 1960’s that created its undercroft, and the unique and beautiful Columbarium.|
|Select the picture or the link for an essay on Trinity’s First Church, the crown-topped building built between 1752 and 1753 that annoyed the Puritans and the Patriots, but sheltered Trinity’s tiny oppressed Anglican community for 63 years.|
|Select the picture or the link for a full description of the amazing history of our current church, known as Trinity’s second or “Gothic Church”.|
In 2015-6, Trinity Parishoners delivered a series of lectures on Trinity’s history.
Select the picture of Peg to the left or click on this link for a presentation by Architect Peg Chambers, AIA, about the History of Trinity Church and its Architect Ithiel Town.
Select the picture to the left or click on this link for a presentation by historian Neil C. Olsen, From Puritan to Yankee: How Trinity overthrew the Last Theocracy in America,
Select the picture to the left or click on this link for a presentation by historian Ray Chappell, on the windows of Trinity,
A Video of The Gothic Chuch EXhibition, made by Peg Chambers in October of 2015
1. A review of buildings from Category: Gothic Revival architecture in the United States accessed on February 13, 2012 in Wikipedia at www.wikipedia.org found 1,821 buildings listed in the category of “American Gothic Revival”, with 1,774 type P (Protestant), 25 type C (Catholic) and 2 type F (other). Trinity Church on the Green New Haven, built between 1714 and 1716, was the oldest. The next oldest was St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Washington, Connecticut, built in 1822. The third oldest was also built by Ithiel Town: it was Christ Church (now Cathedral), Hartford, Connecticut, built in 1827 to 1829. Another church listed in the count of Gothic buildings was St. John’s Episcopal Church in Warehouse Point, Connecticut. Originally built in 1804 in the Federalist style, the church was moved from its original location in 1844; ten years later, Henry Austin of New Haven was hired to remodel the church in the Gothic style, and this work was completed in 1855; thus only the inside is Gothic Revival style, and it was crafted well after the 1816 completion of Trinity Church. Note that there were elements of a Gothic style in wooden churches in America before 1814; Christ Church, Stratford Connecticut in 1743 had pointed arch windows, for example, but Trinity was the first stone church to be built entirely in the style.
The earliest authority for the originality of the Trinity New Haven Gothic style church is found in Jarvis, Bishop Samuel, An Address, delivered in the City of New Haven, at the Laying of the Corner-Stone of Trinity Church, May 17th, 1814; together with the Form of Prayer composed for that occasion. New-Haven, 1814. A number of other commentators since Jarvis have observed its seminal place as the origin of this architectural style as well. Dr. Dwight in his account of New Haven wrote that “The Episcopal church is a Gothic building the only correct specimen it is believed in the United States.” Blake, Henry, Chronicles of New Haven Green from 1638 to 1862, Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1898, p. 27. The architect See also, Buggeln, Gretchen, Temples of grace: the material transformation of Connecticut’s churches, 1790-1840, UPNE, 2003, p. 110, which notes that, “Trinity was the first of several Gothic buildings erected by Episcopal congregations in Connecticut in the next few decades. Sr. John’s in Salisbury (1823), St. John’s in Kent (1823-26), and St. Andrew’s in Marble Dale (1821-23) are good examples of the standard form these early Gothic churches assumed in more rural areas, rendered in brick or stone.” Buggeln also quotes Bishop Hobart and Rev. Harry Croswell on p. 115; Croswell in his unpublished Annals, New Haven Museum, p. 55 calls it “the first attempt at the gothic style of architecture in church-building in New England”, and credits it with bringing in new members. See also, Seymour, G. D., “Ithiel Town” entry in the Dictionary of American Biography, Base Set, American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. The first stone neo-Gothic church in Canada was probably St. John’s Church in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1824, the same year work began on Notre-Dame de Montreal, making Trinity the first Gothic Style church in all of North America. There were earlier examples of Gothic elements: Christ Church Stratford (1743) had pointed arch windows, for example, but these eighteenth century wooden church are not considered Gothic-Revival style churches, but in the Colonial style with Gothic details. The oldest church in the United States is St. Luke’s “Old Brick Church in Smithfiled, Va., (1632) is a rectangular “room church” which also shows Gothic details, some of which were added in the nineteenth century. However, it was Town’s Trinity Church that launched modern the Gothic revival moment in North America.