First Regular New York City Meeting Place

February 15th, 2013, by Kent Larsen

Where were Mormon meetings first held in New York City? It depends a lot on what you mean by meetings. Do we count meetings held before the congregation was organized? Should we include the homes and private rooms of members? or only places meant for large groups? Do we include where members met privately? or only meetings open to the public?

Parley P. Pratt records that when he opened missionary work in New York City in the late summer of 1837, it was several months before he baptized anyone. It seems likely that regular meetings weren’t held until early 1838, and those first meetings were held in a private room — the room above David Rogers store on Goerick Street, today located below the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge.

By September 1838, Rogers left for Missouri with his family, along with Pratt and others, and where the remaining members met I haven’t yet discovered.

Only a year later do we learn that the New York Branch had acquired a more regular and public meeting place. In May 1839 John P. Greene came to New York City to raise funds for the Mormons who had been expelled from Missouri. In addition to raising “a considerable amount of money” (according to newspaper accounts1), Greene also presided over the New York Branch and Eastern States Mission, and set up more public worship for the branch:

The Mormons are determined not to leave a stone unturned to advance their doctrines and extend the number of their followers. They have hired Columbian Hall, in Grand street, where one of their “latter day saints” holds forth every Sunday and Wednesday evening.…2

Parley P. Pratt remarked on the meeting place in a letter to Brigham Young:

Our N. York meetings are now held Three times every  Sabbath in Columbian Hall, Grand Street, a few doors east of  the Bowery, it is very central and one of the best places in  the city, it will hold nearly one thousand people and is  well filled with attentive hearers…3

The New York branch continued to meet in Columbian Hall for several years, apparently along with many other organizations, who used the Hall on occasion. It was a meeting place for Temperance societies and  housed a number of businesses. It hosted dinners and balls and was also the meeting place or a Methodist congregation at about the same time (although how Sunday meeting times were divided between the Methodists and the Mormons isn’t clear). I haven’t yet located images of the Hall nor information on when the building was built or what happened to it. I’ve found references to its use through the 1870s.

Regardless, the Columbian Hall was likely the first regular meeting place for Mormons in New York City.

  1. “Mormon Meetings,” New York Herald, 21 December 1839, col. A
  2. “Mormon Meetings,” New York Herald, 21 December 1839, col. A
  3. Letter from Parley P. Pratt to Joseph Smith, 22 November 1839.

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