Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site
OVERVIEW: About this Audio-Described BrochureWelcome to the audio-described brochure of Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations and maps, this brochure interprets the two-sided brochure that visitors to Saint Paul's Church receive. The brochure explains the history of the site, some of its highlights as well as information for planning your visit. This audio-described brochure lasts about 22 minutes and is divided into two sections as a way of enhancing the listening experience. The first section covers the front of the brochure and includes information regarding a site overview, Colonial Settlement, Dissenting Voices, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of the Press, Bell for Eastchester and the Storm of War. The second section covers the back of the brochure and is comprised of New Church/New Nation, From Parish to Park Site, Saint Paul's Cemetery, and directions to the site.
OVERVIEW: Saint Paul's Church National Historic SiteSaint Paul's Church National Historic site, a component of the National Park Service, is located in the City of Mount Vernon, in the state of New York. This seven-acre site is located two blocks north of the New York City/Westchester County boundary, close to the west bank of the Hutchinson River. The site is located in an industrial area. The National Park Service assumed ownership of the site from the Episcopal Diocese of New York in 1980. It is the only federal park site located in Westchester County. The history of the site goes back to 1664 and extends through the 20th Century. It is a site not just filled with historical facts but also the stories of the men and women who actually made history over the years. To find out more about what resources may be available or to contact the site directly, listen to the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.
OVERVIEW: Front Side of Brochure
Section One, the front side of this brochure, has the history of the site from its founding as a parish in 1664, through the American Revolution. It is accompanied by photographs and prints in both color and black and white. The text explains the early history of the site from the establishment of the town of Eastchester in 1664, when it was settled by families from Connecticut. We then proceed through the Colonial era and the American Revolution, where the Church was utilized by both the Continental and Crown Forces as a hospital, storehouse and barracks.
IMAGE and TEXT: St. Paul's Church National Historic Site
DESCRIPTION: A photograph of Saint Paul's Church, viewed from the front. The church is a stone building with a central tower, at the front, attached to a rectangular section with a pointed roof that peaks at the halfway point of the tower. The tower has several extremely narrow windows around it and wider, taller windows with rounded top edges around the top section, just below the belfry. The belfry itself features an arch pattern that wraps around it. Above the belfry is a steeple with a cross mounted atop it. At the base of the tower is a white door with a half-circle window above it, with sandstone trim. The rectangular main section of the church has larch arched windows down the side, with sandstone trim.
In front of the church is a cemetery and these densely positioned headstones vary in shades of gray and rectangular shapes.
National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so all may experience our heritage.
TEXT: St. Paul's Church National Historic Site
St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site consists of an 18th century church, used as a hospital, barracks and storehouse during the American Revolution, an adjoining 5-acre cemetery with stones that date back to 1704, and a museum with exhibitions about local and national history. The site, located at the center of the colonial town of Eastchester, now Mount Vernon, was the scene of the Election of 1733, which raised issues of Freedom of Religion and the Press.
TEXT: Colonial Settlement
St. Paul's Church National Historic Site preserves an important chapter in our nation's early history, helping to tell the story of the development of colonial society and the road to the American Revolution. The parish that built St.Paul's Church was established in 1665 by English families who had previously settled in Fairfield, Connecticut. They came to an area 12 miles north of Manhattan island just as the Dutch were surrendering New Netherland to the British, who renamed the colony New York. They called their town Eastchester, bringing a New England pattern of community that included government by a covenant among themselves and settlement around a common Village Green for mutual protection and support. The Green was the heart of the community and the setting for militia drills, elections, public punishments, animal grazing, and market days. A small wooden meetinghouse was erected in the 1690s, serving as church, town hall and courthouse.
IMAGE: Revolutionary War Encampment
DESCRIPTION: A color photograph of a Living History demonstration illustrating cooking methods of the 18th Century. It is a clear fall day, and fourth-grade school children are seated on the ground watching and listening to a female interpreter dressed in an 18th-Century costume. She is wearing a sleeveless corset top over a white dress with long sleeves. Her medium brown hair is tied back in a ponytail. To her left is another female interpreter wearing a white mob cap, blue corset top, a white blouse and an off-white print dress. Behind both of them are white tents. Between them are two tree stumps with food and cooking materials on them as well as a campfire with a black kettle over it. The grass is green with reddish earth showing through in spots. There are trees in the background.
CAPTION: The annual Revolutionary War Encampment to celebrate the Battle of Pell’s Point, which took place near the site on Oct. 18, 1776, draws hundreds of school children and weekend visitors to St. Paul’s. Prior to the battle the Church was utilized as both a storehouse and hospital by the Continental Army. After the battle, it was utilized by the Crown Forces for the same purposes.
IMAGE and TEXT: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of the Press
DESCRIPTION: An illustration of a crowd of roughly 25 men engaged in an energetic discussion. They wear long coats of assorted colors including bright reds, blues, and greens. Every man is wearing a hat. The men stand in an area of patchy grass and dirt, in front of a brown wooden building. Two men sit at a wooden table, surrounded by the others. A man in a long black coat stands with his hands clasped behind his back. He is turned to the viewer and addresses the two seated men. A man in a red coat stands to their left, hand raised to his mouth as though he is shouting something. He holds a billowing red flag in his other hand. Behind the crowd of men are four other flags, each a red, white and blue pattern.
In the foreground, a man in a brown coat stands with one foot on a wooden bench and watches the exchange from a distance. The bench has a post extending up from it, and on the post is a wooden plank.
Cliff Young’s painting (1953) depicts the Election of 1733, which took place on Eastchester’s Village Green.
The Eastchester Village Green was the scene of an important provincial assembly election in 1733 that raised the issues of freedom of religion and the origins of an independent press. The election was part of a political struggle between the Royal Governor, William Cosby, and an opposition group led by Lewis Morris, the colony's former Chief Justice. Morris defeated the Governor's candidate in the election, but the sheriff excluded Morris' Quaker supporters. He required that they swear on the bible that they owned sufficient property to qualify as voters, realizing that the Quaker religious beliefs forbade such oaths. A year later, in direct response, the colonial legislature passed a law giving Quakers the right to affirm rather than swear on public occasions, an important milestone in the development of religious freedom in the colonies. As part of their political battle with Governor Cosby, the Morris party also took the unprecedented step of establishing an opposition newspaper, hiring New York City printer John Peter Zenger to publish the New York Weekly Journal. The inaugural issue of the paper carried a lengthy account of the Eastchester election.
IMAGE and TEXT: Bell for Eastchester
DESCRIPTION: A photograph of a large bell. The bell is gray and has a patchy and organic patina. There is an inscription around the top of the bell, but it is faded and difficult to read. The bell hangs from a frame that sits on two sets of legs, with a hinge to allow it to be rung. The bell and its frame are surrounded by a brick wall.
Bell given to the Church at Eastchester by Rev. Standard in 1758 hangs at the top of St. Paul’s Church steeple today.
CREDIT: Gray Williams
In 1758, The Reverend Thomas Standard, the parish minister, presented the congregation with a bronze bell. Like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, it was cast at the Whitechapel Foundry in London. The bell hung in the belfry of the meeting house until the Revolutionary War, when it was hidden to prevent possible destruction for military purposes. Construction of the extant St. Paul's Church was begun in 1763, when it was still an Anglican parish in the British colony of New York. The church's stone and brick exterior, rounded arch Palladian windows and brick quoining are characteristic of Georgian architecture. The oblong shape, with the bell turret surmounting a square tower at one end of the building, was a departure from the square design of the earlier church. The church was unfinished by 1776 when the searing ordeal of the Revolutionary War halted construction.
IMAGES and TEXT: The Storm of War Gathers
IMAGE 1 of 2: Reverend Samuel Seabury
A black-and-white illustration of a wideset man, wearing a loose white shirt, with a long dark cloth around his neck. He looks to the right of the frame, his expression blank. He has bushy eyebrows and medium length curly hair, that angles out at the ears. He rests his right hand on a book.
CAPTION: The Reverend Samuel Seabury
IMAGE 2 of 2: Colonel John Glover
A sketch of a man's face. He looks up and to the left of the frame. He has thinning, wispy hair, and long sideburns down the side of his face. His jacket has a high collar.
CAPTION: Colonel John Glover
The area around St. Paul's played a pivotal role in the coming of the American Revolution. Rev. Samuel Seabury, the rector, was one of several Church of England ministers in New York who tried to rally support for the Crown. Seabury's “Letters of a Westchester Farmer,” published in 1774, was a major Tory pamphlet, and it contributed to a division in the parish regarding the issue of independence. But support for the Whig cause grew after the outbreak of fighting in April 1775, and many soldiers were recruited for the American army on the Eastchester Village Green.
The Battle of Pell's Point, an important engagement in the New York campaign, was fought a mile from St. Paul's on Oct. 18, 1776. About 4,000 British and Hessian (German auxiliary) troops under the command of General William Howe attempted to cut off the retreat of the main body of General Washington's army, which was besieged in northern Manhattan after crushing defeats on Long Island and at Kip's Bay.
Skillfully led by Colonel John Glover of Massachusetts, 750 Continental Army troops delayed the Crown forces at the battle, helping Washington's army to withdraw to more defensible ground in Westchester County. Following this battle, soldiers from the Hessian regiment von Knyphausen occupied the unfinished St.Paul's church, using it as a hospital. According to local tradition, the Hessians disassembled the first meeting house and used its wood for campfires. At least five Hessian privates died of illness and were buried in a sandpit behind the church. A small marble stone marks their graves today. Subsequently, American soldiers who fell during the Revolutionary War were also interred at St. Paul's.
During the Revolutionary War, New York City was the headquarters of British operations, and St. Paul's was just north of the perimeter of English defenses. It also was just south of American encampments in northern Westchester County. As a result, this "neutral ground" was a no-man's land, with no governmental authority controlling it. Many civilians fled to safer ground, and those who remained were subject to frequent foraging raids from Loyalist parties based in southern Westchester County and occasionally from American units as well. The unfinished church was used sporadically throughout the war as hospital, barracks and supply depot.
OVERVIEW: Back Side of Brochure
The back of the brochure details the construction of Saint Paul's Church. It consists of photographs of artifacts, texts and a map of the St. Paul's area. Contact information of the park and its accessibility features are also included on the back side of this brochure.
TEXT: New Church, New Mission
Following American victory and independence, construction of the church was resumed, and by 1787 it was in use. New York State disestablished the Anglican Church immediately after the war, and in 1795, the Eastchester parish freely incorporated as an Episcopal congregation under the title of St. Paul's Church, Eastchester. The bronze bell hidden during the war was installed in the steeple. With the completion of the gallery, St. Paul's Church was considered finished, and on Oct. 24, 1805, it was consecrated.
IMAGE and TEXT: From Parish to Park Site
DESCRIPTION: A black-and-white sketch of the church from a side view. The church has three sections: 1. A smaller square block at one end, 2. A long rectangular main section, and, 3. The steepled tower at the other end. Along its walls, there are tall arched windows, four along the main section, and two smaller windows, on the smaller end section. There is an arched doorway in the middle of the central section. There are three pine trees in front of the church, two that stand as tall as the tower, and one smaller one in front of the small section at the end of the building. At the left edge of the frame, the edge of a small outbuilding is partially enclosed.
CAPTION: St. Paul's Church, ca. 1855
Increasing industrialization of the area around St. Paul's Church in the early 20th century led to the decline of the parish. In 1942, as part of an effort to revitalize the congregation and draw attention to the site's historical significance, the interior of the church was restored to its 18th-century appearance, based on the original pew plan of 1787. A committee chaired by Sara Delano Roosevelt, mother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, raised funds for the project. In 1943, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior declared St. Paul's Church a National Historic Site. While the restoration initially succeeded in reviving the congregation, by the 1970s, the parish had dwindled to only a handful of worshippers. The last regular Sunday service at St. Paul's occurred in May 1977. In 1980, the National Park Service assumed ownership of St. Paul's Church and cemetery through the generous donations of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the City of Mount Vernon. In 1984, St. Paul's Church National Historic Site opened to the public.
IMAGES and TEXT: St. Paul's Cemetery
IMAGE 1 of 5: Richard Shute stone
DESCRIPTION: A black-and-white photograph of a tombstone. Rough and weathered, the rounded top of the tombstone has been worn flat in places. The lettering on the tombstone is uneven. It reads: "R. S. • D DECEMBER 14 • 1704"
CAPTION: The earliest legible stone, for Richard Shute (R S), dates from 1704, when the town was so small a person could be identified by only his initials.
CREDIT: Gray Williams.
IMAGE 2 of 5: Elizabeth Wright tombstone
DESCRIPTION: A color photograph of a brown tombstone, seen from a slight angle. The thick slab is aggressively rounded at the top. The rounded section bears a simple engraving of a skull with crossed bones behind it. Below this symbol, the lettering visible in the photograph reads: "In Memory of Eliza, Wife of Doe Thomas Wright, who Died March 20th, Aged 14 Years 7 Mo."
CAPTION: The death’s head design which appears on Elizabeth Wright’s tombstone was a common symbol on tombstones in the 18th century. It served as a reminder to passersby that death could come at any time, so they should be ready.
IMAGE 3 of 5: Samuel T. Pell tombstone
DESCRIPTION: A color photograph of a brown tombstone. There is an ornate carving at its head, though shadows obscure much of the detail. Winged figures perch in either corner of the engraving, above the lettering, which reads: "In Memory of Maj. Samuel T. Pell, who died the 29th of December. D. 1786, in the 32nd Year of". The rest of the epitaph is cut off.
CAPTION: More than 50 Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in the cemetery. This stone for Samuel T. Pell, who distinguished himself at Saratoga, reads, “Thus after returning victorious from the field of Mars, he cheerfully obeys the summons to eternity from whence there is no return.”
IMAGE 4 of 5: Hessian soldiers
DESCRIPTION: A black-and-white photograph of a tombstone. The stone is mildly curved at the top. Following the curvature is the phrase "This Marks the Site," under which follows: "Of the and pit in which are buried those Hessian soldiers who died in the church when used as a hospital. 1776. Erected by Bronx Charter D.A.R."
CAPTION: The cemetery contains a common grave for the Hessian soldiers who died in the church, including five privates in their 20s who died of the “bloody flux.”
IMAGE 5 of 5: Slave tombstones
DESCRIPTION: A photograph of a brown tombstone. Its head is cut in a symmetrical pattern, with two small humps at either edge, and a taller central hump. Damage to the tombstone makes the epitaph impossible to discern.
CAPTION: St. Paul’s cemetery includes interments of several men and women who were slaves, including Thomas, who died in 1819.
St. Paul’s Cemetery covers more than five acres and contains an estimated 9,000 interments. The variety of styles, imagery and types of stones provide insights into lifestyles and attitudes toward death over a period of 300 years.
IMAGE: Stained Glass Windows
DESCRIPTION: A color photograph of a stained glass window. In the scene depicted, three men gaze reverently at a woman holding an infant. The first man is wearing a blue cloak with red trim over a gold robe and holds his hands out toward the child, while kneeling at the woman's feet. Next to him is a man in a red robe and hat. He holds his hands crossed over his chest and stares at the infant. In the background is the third man, in a green robe and turban, holding in his one visible hand a small blue chest with a red lock. He stares at the woman and her child. The woman wears a white robe and a white shawl on her head and is wrapped in a blue sash. The child she is holding has his arms outstretched.
In the late 19th century, some members of the congregation donated stained glass windows to the church as memorials to their ancestors. These were removed during the restoration. In 1999, the Drake family window, attributed to John LaFarge, was reinstalled.
MAP: St. Paul's Church Area
DESCRIPTION: A map showing the location of Saint Paul's Church relative to Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and the Bronx. Various highways intersect near the church, including I-95, the Hutchinson River Parkway, I-678, and I-22.
St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site can be reached from exit 13 off of I-95 or from exit 7 off of the Hutchinson River Parkway.
We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For more information about our services, please ask a ranger, call, or check on our website.
OVERVIEW: More Information
St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site is open Monday through Friday, 9-5, closed Federal holidays.
St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site
897 South Columbus Ave.
Mount Vernon, NY 10550
For information about group tours and special weekend events, call (914) 667-4116.