King's College Cornerstone Laid

In August 1756, the cornerstone was laid for King’s College, now known as Columbia University. The new school was built on land granted by Trinity in 1754, but Trinity’s relationship to the school started much earlier than that. In 1703, when a college affiliated with the crown was just a fledgling idea in the Royal Governor’s head, Trinity’s vestry preemptively resolved to give land:

It was unanimously agreed That the Rector & Church Wardens should wait upon my Lord Cornbury the Governor to know what part thereof his Lordship did design towards the Colledge, which his Lordship designs to have built

Fifty years later, they were able to make good on that promise. In 1752, Trinity again agrees to give land to the planned college, and in 1754 name the exact plot to be given:

It is unanimously agreed by this Board that this Board will give for the use of the Colledge intended to be erected a certain parcell of Land belonging to this Corporation to erect & build the said colledge upon and for the use of the same That is to say a street of ninety feet from the Broadway to Church Street and from Church Street all the Lands between Barclays Street and Murrays Street to the Water side upon this condition that the president of the said colledge for ever for the time being be a member of and in communion with the Church of England and that the Morning and Evening Service in said colledge be the liturgy of the said Church on such a collection of Prayers out of the said Liturgy as shall be agreed upon by the president and trustees or Governour of the said Colledge.

Archive photo copy 1


Archive photo copy

The land was conveyed in 1755, by the instrument seen above. This is a handwritten copy of the conveyance kept by Trinity for their records.

hand written copy


hand written copy

Before the college building was completed, classes were held in Trinity’s schoolhouse. Another way Trinity supported the new college was to pay its first president, Samuel Johnson, as an Assistant Minister of the parish. Above we see Johnson’s letter thanking Trinity.

Kings College, which changed its name to Columbia after the American Revolution, and Trinity enjoyed a close relationship. There were pews set aside for students in Trinity’s third chapel of ease, St. Paul’s, which was built not far from the College in 1766. Commencements were held at Trinity or its chapels.

Columbia 200 celebration

Even after Columbia moved away from lower Manhattan in 1857, the friendly relationship continued. The rector of Trinity Church was an ex-officio trustee of the University until 1951, and in 1954, there was a special celebration at Trinity for Columbia’s 200th anniversary, and a plaque noting the location where the first classes were held was mounted on Trinity’s fence.

250th service bulletin

The plaque was unfortunately stolen at some point in the 1970s—so for Columbia’s 250th anniversary in 2004, a special service was again held at Trinity, and a new plaque was mounted on Trinity’s retaining wall, where it may be seen today.