Archives, 1920-2002


101.5 boxes or 51 linear feet plus oversize

Historical Note:

Former Reading Room

Trinity Church Archives contains documentation from as early as 1695 when plans were made for the construction of the first church. Trinity consistently recognized its responsibility to preserve the record as evident in the Vestry Minute of 1698 calling for “ The Church Wardens [to] purchase books for the use of the Church for the keeping of the Church Accots & also for the keeping a Register for Christnings & Burialls”. The Standing Committee agreed in 1827 “that the Comptroller be authorized to purchase trunks or boxes suitable for containing the papers and documents of the Corporation of Trinity Church after they have been arranged and proper lists made of them.” In 1826, the Vestry proposed a fire proof building “for the Comptroller’s office, for the safe keeping of the Books and papers of the church and for the accommodation of the Vestry.” In 1853, the Vestry proposed an additional safe for “the better presentation and arrangement of the papers of the Vestry.”

Two Rectors, the Right Reverend Henry Hobart (1816-1830) and the Reverend Dr. Morgan Dix (1862-1906) took a particular interest in preserving the documentation of both Trinity and the wider Episcopal Church. Dr. Hobart realized that the Episcopal Church had been negligent about retaining its documentation especially in regard to the governing body, the General Convention. With the help of the Right Reverend William White of Philadelphia, Hobart saw to it that the past records of the Episcopal Church were gathered together or reconstructed. His son, also named John Henry Hobart, became the first keeper of the records of the Episcopal Church as Registrar of the General Convention. In 1842 and 1853 Trinity Church temporarily took custody of the records of the Convention, storing them in a safe at the request of the Registrar.

The Reverend Dr. Dix was an inveterate annalist and took particular pride in the Trinity Church records. His own research in the Archives was the basis for what became the seven-volume History of the Parish of Trinity Church.

At the end of the 19th century, Trinity began to receive outside inquiries seeking genealogical information from the Church Registers. Initially, the Assistant Controller answered these requests. In 1940, Trinity appointed the secretary to the Clerk of the Vestry, Ida N. Hand, as parish recorder and placed her in charge of the records. When Ms. Hand retired, the secretary Helen Owen was appointed. Ms Owen began a program of restoration and preservation in the 1950s. She retired in 1957 and was replaced by Helen Rose Cline from the Rector’s secretarial staff. Ms Cline, who carried the titles of Parish Recorder, Archivist, and Historian, continued Ms. Owen’s preservation work and indexing.

Helen Rose Cline, 1957Ms. Cline retired in 1976. She was succeeded in 1978 by Phyllis Barr who began her employment with Trinity Church as a consulting archivist. In 1980, Barr was made Director of Archives, becoming the first trained archivist to work at the then 283 year old Church. Barr immediately sought to draw attention to the archives by acquiring an NEH grant to set up the Church Museum for the display of Trinity’s records. She also conducted an oral history project, wrote articles, trained docents, and provided educational information geared towards schools. In 1992, the Archivist was laid off along with others due to an economic downturn. The Archives was closed and there was talk of sending it to an outside institution. Such talk ended, however, when it was realized that the 300th Anniversary of Trinity’s founding loomed in 1997 and the Vestry realized the usefulness of having the historical research material on site. An archivist was hired to do research and provide reference for the planning of the tercentennial under the auspices of the Communications Department. He recommended that Trinity revive its Archives program. In 1999, a trained archivist was hired and the department was placed under the Executive Assistant to the Rector. The 300 years worth of records were made accessible and available, organized for the first time according to archival standards, in 2003.

Scope and Content Note:

The Archives files contain administrative, accession, reference and research files on the maintenance and management of the Archives. Records Management and Museum files are also present. There is a large collection of photographs most of which originally belonged to the Communications Department.