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Saint Pauls Church National Historic Site


Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site
©National Park Service
The history of Saint Paul's Church is
closely linked to the history of the
First Amendment.

Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site has a two-fold claim to historic fame. Not only is it the only surviving colonial church in New York City, but the site on which it stands is associated with the fight for freedom of the press.

In 1733, John Peter Zenger began the New York Weekly Journal and published an account of a controversial election that was h­eld in front of the church, outlining the misdeeds of certain officials. He continued to publish satirical articles about corrupt officials and was eventually tried for libel in 1735.

Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued that Zenger could not be found guilty of libel because he had published the truth. The jury agreed and found him innocent, and this ruling was the basis for the First Amendment, adopted in 1791, after the American Revolution, to guarantee freedom of the press. The Bill of Rights Museum, in the former parish hall, has exhibits on the Zenger trial, the First Amendment, and church history.

St. Paul's, completed in 1787, is an outstanding example of Georgian architecture. It is home to the twin of the famous Liberty Bell, and it houses one of the oldest working church organs built in this country.

Of additional interest, the church contains an altarpiece by architect Pierre L'Enfant, who designed Washington, D.C., and the pew that George Washington sat in when he attended services here after his inauguration as President in 1789.

Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site Information
Address: 897 South Columbus Ave., Mount Vernon, NY
Telephone: 914/667-4116
Hours of Operation:

  • Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • The second Saturday of each month, 12 noon - 4:00 p.m.

Admission: Free

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To learn more about American history, monuments, memorials, and historic sites and other destinations in North America, visit:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.