Did you know that George Washington attended a thanksgiving service at St. Paul's Chapel?
After his inauguration as the first president of the United States on April 30, 1789, George Washington walked from the steps of City Hall to nearby Saint Paul's Chapel, where he attended a thanksgiving service. Washington, who frequented the chapel in the early months of his presidency, would later that year declare November 26, 1789, a National Day of Thanksgiving in honor of the formation of the U.S. government.
At the time, Thanksgiving was not a formally established national holiday. Washington, though, as leader of the American forces in the Revolutionary War, had previously proclaimed a day of thanksgiving in December 1777 to celebrate the defeat of the British at Saratoga. As president, Washington again declared a day of thanksgiving in 1795.
In subsequent years, national observances were few: Only John Adams (in 1798 and 1799) and James Madison (in 1815) called for days of thanksgiving. It was not until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln established the holiday as a November fixture, and 1941 when a joint resolution of congress set the date as the fourth Thursday of the month, where it remains.
Located at Broadway and Fulton Street, St. Paul's Chapel is today Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use. The original bench where Washington prayed during his frequent visits to the chapel is marked by an 18th-century oil painting of the Great Seal of the United States.
For more information about St. Paul's Chapel, click here.