Only in New York: Discovering the Church of the Holy Trinity

Assorted Ideas

Discovering the Church of the Holy Trinity was one of those accidental finds unique to New York City. Wandering up from Carl Schurz Park, I picked 88th Street instead of the busier 86th. But I wasn’t expecting anything special. Until it found me, catching my eye as I walked by.

By David Stone

Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

Church of the Holy Trinity

Church of the Holy Trinity, a graceful interruption in the noise and city stress in Yorkville.

It just caught my eye, this peaceful, parklike church complex on a densely populated block on East 88th Street.

Something told me to take a closer look. That’s when I found the carved wooden figures all around the door.

How much work did that require? And who had the money for it?

The answer was nearby: Serena Rhinelander. But I also found that my little find was landmarked.

Serena Rhinelander, it turns out, came from one of the seven wealthiest families in 18th Century New York. Unmarried, but known as a shrewd businesswoman with a strong inclination toward charity. (Read about the family here.)

The Wichita Eagle suggested her sister as “the richest spinster in America,” and never married either.

Carved wooden figures surround the entrance to the Church of the Holy Trinity.

But she was not shy or retiring either. Both threw parties and gave “immensely” to charity.

Serena died in the family home on Washington Square, fifteen years after this church was consecrated.

Serena also donated money for the landscaped grounds and auxiliary buildings connected to the church.

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