Trinity Church Seneca Falls NY

Trinity Church Seneca Falls

Trinity Church on Van Cleef Lake by Jwilluhn

No matter how you visit Seneca Falls, the iconic Trinity Church is a landmark you can’t miss. With it’s history dating back to the mid 1800’s we pick it’s history at the time of the creation of Van Cleef Lake and the current day Erie Canal, The content below was taken from the history page of the Church’s website

The rebuilding of the Seneca-Cayuga Canal by New York State in the 1910s impacted the Trinity Episcopal Church. The State’s choice to construct two consecutive locks within the village of Seneca Falls necessitated the creation of an artificial water body—that would later be named Van Cleef Lake.  This lake would raise the  water  level  approximately  49  feet. Interestingly, numerous newspapers throughout the state in mid-May 1915 printed an article like what appeared in the Lowville Journal and Republican on May 18, 1915: “Trinity Episcopal church at Seneca Falls is to be razed to make room for barge canal work.” The Seneca Falls Reveille reported that the State of New York had taken possession of the property “by the reason of the construction of the barge canal. This arbitrary action on the part of the State leaves the parish without a church in which to worship, and there seems to be no immediate remedy. It might have been otherwise had wise councils prevailed.

The church itself is a model structure and its loss will be keenly felt. It was built with great care and is regarded as one of the most attractive houses of worship in the diocese, with its elaborate and expensive memorial windows, its fine altar equipment and its general architectural appearance. It seems like sacrilege and profanation to destroy such a structure with all of its tender and sacred associations.”


Fortunately, these articles were wrong. The congregation fought the state takeover of this property.   It   took   a   while, but   the beautiful church was spared to the extent possible.   The   Church   basement   was filled with dredged rock. The State paid the Church $25,000 (plus $800 interest) to help compensate for the impact. This money was used to build a new heating plant, and Sunday school rooms on the west side of the church.

The new parish hall proved to be a timely addition as a base of operations of area churches providing food for many sick families in the great Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

According to Liza Merriam, this interchurch effort was the basis of the formation of the Seneca

County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The lawn of the Trinity Church was the location for an elaborate pageant that was part of the village’s 1923 75th anniversary celebration of the 1848 woman’s rights convention. A cast of

500—including Elizabeth Delavan and her sister Gertrude Garnsey—performed in this pageant that was directed by Clare Booth. (This 20-year-old woman later married Henry R. Luce and became a playwright and still later the American ambassador to Italy during the Eisenhower administration.) The village hosted a reception for 500 visitors on the church lawn. This was perhaps the largest anniversary celebration of the 1848 convention that has ever been held. 49

The present organ was installed in 1924.50 It was made by the M.P. Moller Company. It has two manuals, 35 registers and 9 ranks.

In 1954-55, the parish house was renovated. The stage was removed, Sunday school rooms were enclosed, and a second floor was put in.

A few years ago, a new concern arose about the erosion of the bank by the Seneca- Cayuga Canal. Where there had been as much as 30 feet of lawn separating the church from the water, the continued erosion had reduced the distance to about 5 feet. Because of the pledge that the State had made at the time the canal was rebuilt (see earlier paragraph), the church was successful in getting state and federal funding to build a new retaining wall along the canal bank to prevent any further loss of church land to the flowing water.53

On June 14, 1981, the Trinity Episcopal Church celebrated its 150th anniversary at a festival service of the Holy Eucharist. Three former rectors of the parish—the Rev. Frederick W. Kates, the Rev. Charles Sykes, and the Rev. Robert Shackles—were present. Also attending were the Rev. Leo Dyson and the Rev. Jeffrey Knox, both of whom were “raised” in the Trinity Church.54

In 1993, the present rectory was purchased. It is located at 45 E. Bayard Street. This is the 15th different location at which rectors of this church have lived. The first rectory was at 70

Cayuga Street and was built in 1863.

The church is currently making use of a grant funded through the Environmental Protection Agency 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air program. It is a program with a cost of over one million dollars. It has included repairs to the tower and some of the stained-glass windows.

Twenty-First Century History

In winter 2006-07, the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry used the Trinity Episcopal Church as the subject of its 2nd Annual Winter Painting Contest. Kate Hathaway was winner of the 1st Prize. Reflecting on her award, she said, “Painting makes me happy and gives me peace



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