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Eleanor Roosevelt at St. Paul's Chapel

Representatives of the countries making up the General Assembly of the United Nations have arrived in New York City for their annual, late September gathering. It’s a reminder of an event more than sixty years ago involving the UN, a famous former First Lady of the United States, and Trinity’s historic St. Paul’s Chapel.

On October 21, 1954, more than a thousand people packed into St. Paul’s Chapel to hear former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt give an address at a Service of Dedication to the Ideals and Aims of the United Nations. The service, which came just days after Roosevelt’s 70th birthday, was part of U.N. Week celebrations marking the organization’s ninth anniversary. 

The Trinity Parish Newsletter noted that, “Mrs. Roosevelt spoke of the need for persons of religious conviction to work through the United Nations for condition in which peace may be attained…She contrasted the position of the U.S. when George Washington worshipped in St. Paul’s Chapel with the position of world power we have attained today and reminded her hearers that the same spiritual integrity and conviction were necessary today if the U.S. is to continue to grow in stature and as an inspiration to other nations.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Left to right: the Rev. John A.F. Maynard, Rector of the French Church de Saint Espirt; the Rev. Dr. David de Sola Pool of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue; the Rev. Robert C. Hunsicker, Vicar of St. Paul’s Chapel; Mr. Eleanor Roosevelt, speaker; the Rev. Canon Bernard C. Newman, Vicar of Trinity Church; and the Rev. Arthur B. Moss, Pastor of the John Street Methodist Church.

In the October 25 edition of My Day (a six-day-a-week newspaper column Roosevelt wrote from 1935 until 1962) she wrote,

“Then at noon I went down to St. Paul's Chapel for a service to commemorate U.N. Week. St. Paul's, erected in 1766, is the oldest of the Trinity parish chapels. I have always loved the churchyard at the back of St. Paul's and the historic feeling of this little chapel, where Washington worshipped when New York was the national capital. The altar piece was designed by Major L'Enfant, who was Washington's surveyor general and who laid out our national capital in Washington, D.C.

Besides the vicar, Rev. Robert C. Hunsicker, a number of other clergymen took part in the service. Afterward we went over to Whyte's for lunch. This is a famous downtown restaurant for seafood, and I only hope my hosts enjoyed their lunch as much as I did.”

Whyte’s Restaurant was located at 145 Fulton Street from 1905 until 1971. It was described by The New York Times at its closing: “Built in a kind of Alpine chalet style, Whyte's strove to retain an Old‐World aura, with its dark paneling, gilt‐framed portraits, and long oak bar with well‐shined brass spittoons…The restaurant's specialty of the house was finnan haddie, but some long‐time aficionados said that the homemade rum raisin ice cream was Whyte's chef d'oeuvre.” It’s now the home of a discount store and a Popeye’s Chicken, though the alpine-style roofline is still visible.