4. Chatham Street Chapel

Chatham Theatre-Chatham Street Chapel-Charles Grandison Finney-NYCImage from Wikimedia Commons

The most famous evangelist of the Erie Canal era was named Charles Grandison Finney. In 1830, Finney conducted the nation’s greatest revival, a six-month long prayer-fest in Rochester, right on the canal. It was so successful that Finney was lured to bring his inspiring message to the hordes in New York City. In 1832, his sponsors set him up in the cavernous 2,500-seat Chatham Street Chapel, a converted theater near the Five Points slum. A few years later, Finney moved to the Broadway Tabernacle, a specially constructed rotunda near present-day Worth Street.

Finney’s preaching became a fixture in the city. He also started several important reform movements that proved very influential. Drinking was rampant at the time, and Finney kicked off a major temperance campaign. His followers were also important in the early antislavery movement.