My final morning in New York was spent tromping around the financial district in lower Manhattan, ostensibly because I needed to buy traveler's checks before going abroad. What I stumbled upon constitutes a remarkable collection of abutting, intertwined sacred spaces smeared across what, during a typical workday, becomes one of the most densely populated few square blocks on Earth.
Section of a Manhattan map, courtesy nycvisit.com. Circled are the locations of Trinity Church, St. Paul Chapel, the site of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the New York Stock Exchange; an arrow points to Liberty Island.
It may help those not intimately familiar with the geography of the place (such as myself; a good map would have saved me some walking in circles looking for the subway station) to refer to this map. For scale, the section depicted is just under a half-mile across, and as the crow flies, the Stock Exchange is about a quarter of a mile from St. Paul Chapel.
When I disembarked my bus in Battery Park City near the World Financial Center Plaza, not being entirely daft, I knew that I would be near the so-called "Ground Zero," the former site of the World Trade Center complex. Thus I had decided to take a look around the area, with the general goal of discovering what reaction the place might evoke for me. And, because I am a fan of the obscure and overlooked, I set out to find whatever might remain of the least-mentioned building destroyed, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
The first church I found was less obscure.
Trinity Church, as seen from Rector Street, just outside its south courtyard. 2004:09:20 10:31:01
The parish dates back to the walled city of New Amsterdam, and their website indicates that the present building was completed in 1846. Its neogothic ediface looks less out of place among the skyscrapers than one might expect, but I freely confess that this could simply be due to acclimation at the U of Chicago, a bastion of urban neogothic architecture.
St. Paul's Chapel. 2004:09:20 10:49:36
Another historical church in the area is St. Paul Chapel. Their publicists make much of the fact that the place would have been destroyed when the towers fell, if not for a large sycamore tree in the graveyard that caught the debris. It proved difficult to take a decent picture of the chapel, though, due to the heavy traffic on Broadway. In fact, the whole area sports heavy traffic of both the motor and pedestrian variety. This has nothing to do with the lovely historic churches, or even the proximity to "Ground Zero," and everything to do with the fact that they are across the street from the Vatican City of finance.
Looking up Wall Street to the entrance of Trinity Church at Broadway, from the intersection of Wall and New Streets. Notice the bronze polyhedrons in the street that prohibit motor traffic here. 2004:09:20 10:41:38
The corner of Wall Street and New Street is notable for the well-dressed and harried-looking populace, for security fences and roadblocks, and for being the location of the Bank of New York, the Citibank world headquarters (at least, I
The south border of the World Trade Center site, looking across from Liberty Street to the Verizon building on the other side. The edge is visible of one of the many informational signs posted on the fence. This one appears to deal with the historical expansion of the city on Manhattan Island.
After buying my certified monetary-equivalent instruments (from a machine, with my ATM card, as the people apparently had better things to do), I proceeded back towards the World Trade Center site, where I found relatively little to react
Construction equipment and field offices now occupy the site where St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood. 2004:09:20 10:23:08
According to maps and pre-2001 satellite imagery, St. Nicholas stood at the base of the southern pedestrian bridge over West Street. Unlike the abundantly visible and curated "Ground Zero," I only found an area surrounded by boarded-over chain link and construction netting. With some effort, I was able to find a gap large enough to stick a camera into, and took the above picture, which seems to show a parking lot and staging area for construction supplies and workers. To be fair, there really wasn't anything left of the little church, as the south tower's debris fell more or less right onto it; the web page linked above indicates that they were basically able to recover a couple of icons and a book. Still, given that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is committed to rebuilding the church, I was struck that the main site, with no clear plan in place, is under busy construction, whereas here, where it is basically known what will be done, is a parking lot.