St. Peter’s Church

336-346 West 20th Street
Rectory, 1831, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore;
Church, 1836-38,
James W. Smith, builder

Worship services at the newly opened General Theological Seminary quickly became so popular that this independent congregation was established to serve the neighborhood’s booming population. The church complex is on land leased and later donated by Clement Clarke Moore, an active congregant who also supplied architectural sketches suggesting the design of the buildings. First completed was the chapel, now the Rectory, whose Greek Revival facade closely resembles Moore’s original vision. The Gothic Revival design of the church—called “the very first of the English parish Gothic churches built in this country” by the Landmarks Preservation Commission—was a marked departure from Moore’s design. It resembles Magdalen Tower, Oxford’s tallest structure, completed in 1509, supposedly as suggested by a vestryman who had visited there. The similarity would have been more pronounced before the deterioration and removal of St. Peter’s original wooden corner turrets, gone the way of its wooden porches. The Parish Hall is now a playhouse for the Atlantic Theater Company. Originally serving as the rectory, it was completed in 1871 and features a Victorian Gothic design. The oldest component of the complex is the iron fence, which dates to the 1790’s. It originally enclosed St. Peter’s Church downtown and was donated to the new congregation by Trinity Church. St. Peter’s Church is located in the Chelsea Historic District and listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.