Gilded Age New York Holidays Podcasts Religious History

Grace Church: Heavenly Style and High Society in Gilded Age New York

Manhattan’s Grace Church sits at a unique bend on Broadway and East Tenth Street, making it seem that the historic house of worship is rising out of the street itself. 

But Grace is also at another important intersection — where religion and high society greeted one another during the Gilded Age.

Grace is one of the important Episcopal churches in America, forming in 1809 in lower Manhattan literally next door to Trinity Church. But when society began moving uptown, so too did Grace, making its home on a plot formerly occupied by Henry Brevoort’s apple orchard. (Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based parishioners formed their own Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights.)

Grace Church was one of the most fashionable churches in New York City for several decades in the 19th century. Some of the New Yorkers who were members here, at some point in their lives, went on to become some of the most famous names of the Gilded Age.

The fashionable weddings and funerals hosted at Grace Church sometimes drew thousands of onlookers, and a few celebrated ceremonies were as raucous and chaotic as rock concerts. 

But looking past the fashion and frills, Grace Church did create a deep and lasting spiritual connection with the surrounding community which continues to this day. 

In this episode, Tom and Greg are joined by vicar Harry Krauss who gives the Bowery Boys a tour of this gorgeous, landmark parish. 

FEATURING: Rufus Wainwright, Tom Thumb, the Earl of Craven and a heavenly chorus of hundreds!

Visit the Grace Church website for a listing of their services and other events — including holiday music events. We greatly recommend Bach at Noon, short performances given at 12:20 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday.

Broadway in 1831. The original location of Grace Church is to the far left, sitting right next to Trinity Church. The building in the center is City Hotel. And to the right — “R & W Nunn’s Piano Forte Warehouse”

1831, Drawn and engraved on steel by A. Dick Printed by J. & G. Neale

…and a similar view looking up Broadway, with Grace Church and Trinity Church next to each other in the center.

From the book Old New York Yesterday and Today, published in 1922

A close-up from this 1865 photograph showing a throng of people waiting outside Grace Church.

Looking up Broadway to Grace Church, 1897

Photo copyrighted by J.E. Johnston, NY NYC Views 1897-8; Churches; Geogr. Shelf.

Another view of Grace Church (from sometime between 1901-06) from East 11th Street. In other words, were you to turn left at this corner, you would arrive at the future location of the Strand Book Store.

Library of Congress


After taking in this story of Grace Church, head over to some of our past shows, some of which were referenced in this week’s show:

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