Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trinity Chapel

"Mrs. George Frederic Jones requests the honor of your presence at the marriage of her daughter to Mr. Edward R. Wharton, at Trinity Chapel, on Wednesday April Twenty-ninth at twelve o'clock."

Her apparently nameless daughter!

The Times corrected the oversight:

New York Times, April 30, 1885.

Edith Newbold Jones, of 28 West 25th Street, was 23 years old. 

Trinity Chapel was dedicated in 1855, thirty years to the month before the Jones-Wharton wedding. 

New York Times, April 20, 1855.

The chapel was designed by Richard Upjohn, who had designed the mother church, Trinity Church, at Broadway and Wall Street.

John William Hill, "Chancel of Trinity Chapel, New York," 1856 (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Richard Upjohn, Trinity Chapel (now Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava), 1855 .
(By Beyond My Ken (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Of greater architectural note than the church is its parish school, next door to the east. Built in 1860, the school was designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, designer or co-designer of many structures in Central Park, including Bethesda Terrace and the original building of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mould's Trinity Chapel School was, according to the architectural historian David Van Zanten, "the first canonical Ruskinian High Victorian building erected in the United States" (Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, March 1969, p. 45). 

Wurts Bros. West 25th Street. Trinity School. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York. Building from 1860, photo from c. 1912.

Mould, like Upjohn before him, had come to New York from his native England (Mould from London, Upjohn from Dorset). In the words of David Van Zanten, Mould was "the closest thing to a bohemian, many-talented artist New York possessed during the 1850s and 1860s." Mould had come to New York specifically to design All Souls Unitarian Church (the "Church of the Holy Zebra," demolished), on Park Avenue South and 20th Street, in 1855. His extravagant decoration, based entirely on forms from nature, of Bethesda Terrace owes a debt to the 14th-century Italian sculptor Andrea Pisano. Mould also knew Dante Gabriel Rossetti (whose House of Life Newland Archer cherishes) in England, and may himself be thought of as, in a sense, a "pre-Raphaelite." Indeed, one of Mould's champions was James Jackson Jarves, said to be one of the models for Lewis Raycie in False Dawn.

Upjohn and Mould both represent stages in the Gothic Revival in New York. Gothic architecture and Gothic decor struck a dominant chord in the High Victorian era. In The Age of Innocence, Newland Archer, after dining with his mother and sister, "lingered afterward over a cigar in the Gothic library with glazed black-walnut bookcases and finial-topped chairs which was the only room in the house where Mrs. Archer allowed smoking." We may see by that "Gothic library" that the revolution in taste announced by John Ruskin (whom Edith read as a girl while visiting Italy), and by Lewis Raycie, in the 1840s of False Dawn had, by the 1870s of The Age of Innocence, been completed.

George Templeton Strong called Jacob Wrey Mould "that ugly and uncouth but very clever J. Wrey Mould, architect and universal genius."
In The Age of Innocence, Newland and Ellen rendezvous at "the Art Museum--in the Park."
Avoiding the popular "Wolfe collection," whose anecdotic canvases filled one of the main galleries of the queer wilderness of cast-iron and encaustic tiles known as the Metropolitan Museum, they had wandered down a passage to the room where the "Cesnola antiquities" mouldered in unvisited loneliness.
That's Calvert Vaux's and Jacob Wrey Mould's museum that they are in. It opened in 1880. In the novel it's still presumably the 1870s, but Edith seems rather purposely to confuse chronology. (A portion of the original building, by the way, is visible inside the Lehman Wing.) There's one other thing about that passage that strikes me: the word "mouldered." I can't imagine Edith was thinking of Mould. But note that "mouldered" is pronounced with a long o. Mould is how the British spell mold. Yet people persist in pronouncing Jacob Wrey Mould's surname as though it rhymed with spooled. One person said to me it should be pronounced like Gould. (Well, Chicago Bears placekicker Robbie Gould pronounces his surname as Gold.) I just don't imagine that's so, and I advise people to say his name with the long o.

Back to Edith and Teddy. Their wedding was small and simple. Yet, weddings at their level of society were, in those days, seldom small and simple. Compare their Trinity Chapel wedding, in which Edith had no bridesmaids, to the wedding of Newland Archer and May Welland, which took place at Grace Church and featured eight bridesmaids. Edith had been baptized at Grace Church, and to follow form should have been married there as well. The low-key nature of the nuptials probably had to do with Edith's earlier engagement to Harry Stevens, and how Town Topics had trumpeted the breaking off of that engagement.

Still, that Edith's and Teddy's wedding was a serious social affair is attested to by the fact that the Reverend Dr. Morgan Dix, the famous rector of Trinity Church, Wall Street, presided over it.


In her column in the Chicago Tribune of April 29, 1888, the anonymous "Tell-Tale Sister" discussed Senator Roscoe Conkling's "power of fascinating women, which was as strong a quality of his nature as any of those for which he was widely known."
I know two women who are almost frantic at Roscoe Conkling's death, and they are both married. Now, I don't mean to say he was responsible for this, but there was a something about the man that women could not resist. I  heard a young, beautiful girl  declare last summer that a thrill ran through her if Mr. Conkling only passed her in the hotel corridor.
And: "He was the first man I ever saw have his fingernails manicured."

It is said that Conkling died as a result of "exposure" suffered when he attempted to walk from his office, on Wall Street, to the New-York Club, on the northeast corner of Broadway and 25th Street, during the Great Blizzard of March 12, 1888. Conkling kept his city residence at the southwest corner of Broadway and 25th, in the Hoffman House. The Hoffman House stood from 1877 to 1915. Conkling died in his suite there on April 18. That was more than a month after the blizzard, and he had taken ill only a couple of weeks before his death. I wonder how people can be so sure that the blizzard killed him, but Conkling is regularly referred to as the blizzard's most famous victim. He was 58 years old at the time of his death, and still an outstanding physical specimen, as the ladies' attentions may attest.

He had two funerals. The first was at Trinity Chapel, just across 25th Street from the Hoffman House, on April 20, 1888, three years to the month after the wedding of Edith and Teddy Wharton. Because Conkling had been one of the most powerful senators in America, grandees filled the chapel. Conkling's pallbearers included New York City mayor Abram S. Hewitt, and Senator Don Cameron, of Pennsylvania, whose wife, Elizabeth Sherman, Edith's close contemporary, was an intimate friend of Henry Adams. (Hewitt, wrote Adams in his Education, was "the best equipped, the most active-minded, and most industrious" congressman in Washington. Hewitt served in Congress for twelve years before becoming mayor of New York City. For all the Henry Adams connections at the funeral, it is well to point out that Conkling pretty much summed up everything that repelled Adams in the national life of America.) Boss Thomas Collier Platt (whose "Amen Corner" had been just around the corner at the Fifth Avenue Hotel) was there, and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, and several other Grants. (U.S. Grant had died in 1885.)

And who officiated? None other than the Reverend Dr. Morgan Dix.

After the service, Conkling's body boarded a train at Grand Central Depot, at 42nd Street, and moved on to the second funeral, in Utica, where he lived when he was not in New York City on business, and where he was buried.

Adolphe-William Bouguereau, Nymphs and Satyr, 1873

If there's one thing New York history buffs know about the Hoffman House, it's that its bar was adorned with a scandalous painting entitled Nymphs and Satyr by the French artist Adolphe-William Bouguereau. Painted in 1873, it was installed in the Hoffman House in 1882, and so was there when Edith and Teddy got married, and when Conkling's funeral took place. Today the painting is in the Clark Art Institute of Williams College, in Williamstown, Mass.

In 1893, John Quincy Adams Ward's statue of Conkling was dedicated in Madison Square. It stands near the southeast corner of the square, near Shake Shack. It's quite a beautiful statue, fully conveying Conkling's physical attractiveness.

John Quincy Adams Ward, statue of Roscoe Conkling, 1893.

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