The Church of the Intercession And Trinity Church Cemetery

by Joseph Ciccone

One of the most notable landmarks in Washington Heights is the Church of the Intercession and the Trinity Church Cemetery, both across 155th street from the old ANS building. These seemingly connected sites are actually separate entities.

In the 1840s, Wall Street’s Trinity Church began plans to develop a cemetery and prayer chapel “out in the country” north of the city. To this end, they purchased the land on what is today Trinity Church Cemetery. At about the same time, a separate movement, led in part by John Audubon, began to establish an Episcopal church in Washington Heights. The result of these latter efforts was the erection of the first Church of the Intercession.

Both church and cemetery remained separate entities until 1908, when the church formally became affiliated with Trinity Church. This relationship would continue until the 1970s, when, again, the Church of the Intercession would become a separate entity, the result of a diocesan reorganization.

Today’s Church of the Intercession was constructed between 1912 and 1915 and is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of the Gothic Revival style. In recognition of its historic and architectural significance, the church buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The cemetery itself contains the final resting place of a number of significant individuals, including John Jacob Astor, John J. Audubon, and Alfred Tennyson Dickens, the son of Charles Dickens. Another notable individual buried in the cemetery is Clement Clarke Moore, the author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” which is better known as “’Twas the Night Before Xmas.” Moore was a Bible professor at New York’s General Theological Seminary and was buried in the cemetery after his death in 1863. Beginning in 1911, every year in late December, a Clement Clarke Moore Christmas Commemoration is held in the Church of the Intercession. After a candlelight service at which Moore’s poem is read, there is a lantern procession to Moore’s grave.