New York - Manhattan - Wall Street District
Area: Battery Place, Beaver St., and Old Slip on the south to Fulton St. on the north; from Trinity Place and Church St. east to South St.
Wall Street, financial heart of the nation, is itself but little more than a third of a mile long from its head at Broadway to its foot at the East River, although its name is applied to a small district lying to the north and south. Functionally, Wall Street is a complex mechanism developed to provide the centralized banking and credit facilities and the efficient securities market place that modern industry and commerce demand. Walled in by towering structures, the street, by historical coincidence, is well named.
At this place in 1653, Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Amsterdam, ordered a protective wall built across what was then the colony's northernmost limit. It was not long before the city had pushed past this barrier, and under British rule the district flourished as a center of government and fashion. Following the Revolution, Wall Street became for a year the seat of the Federal Government, and here were located the establishments of such statesmen and leaders of commerce as Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.
The four buildings of the famous NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE cover the area between New, Wall, and Broad Streets and Exchange Place -- one block east of Broadway. The original building, designed by George B. Post, was finished in 1903, and the twenty-two-story addition, in 1923, from the plans of Trowbridge and Livingston. The adjoining BLAIR BUILDING and COMMERCIAL CABLE BUILDING were bought in 1928. The Exchange building proper, with its well-proportioned Corinthian order and sculptured pediment, shows an expressive use of the "temple" form of façade.
The Exchange was established shortly after the formation of the United States. In 1790, the first Congress authorized the issue of eighty million dollars in bonds. Three large banking institutions were incorporated about this time, and for the public sale of their stock, a market was developed under a buttonwood tree at what is now 68 Wall Street. Here, in 1792, a group of twenty-four brokers drew up a trading agreement. Financing the next war, in 1812, gave the exchange a new importance and the New York Stock and Exchange Board was organized with offices at 40 Wall Street. It was as a result of financing the Civil War, however, that the board began to approach its full power. The organization was combined with the Open Board of Brokers and the Government Bond Department to form the present New York Stock Exchange early in 1863.
There followed a half-century of unprecedented expansion. Money was needed for railroads, telegraph lines, factories, for building cities over night and exploiting the resources of the West. Financial titans arose: Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, Daniel Drew, Jim Hill, E. H. Harriman, and the elder J. P. Morgan. After Gould, Fisk, and Drew, with the help of bribed New York legislators, had succeeded in their struggle with Commodore Vanderbilt for the control of the Erie Railroad, Gould and Fisk conceived the plan of cornering the gold market, counting on the United States Treasury not to sell from its gold reserve. But when the price of gold reached 162 on Black Friday ( September 24, 1869), President Grant ordered the Treasury to sell, breaking the corner. The panic of 1869 resulted, followed by a depression which lasted ten years. Banks, brokers, merchants suspended business; nearly one hundred railroads failed, and the Stock Exchange closed its doors.
With the fall of men like Fisk came the rise of Morgan, Harriman, and others, unbridled expansion, larger fortunes, and further battles for personal financial dictatorship. It was in this period that Morgan's and Harriman's struggle over the great Northern Pacific Railroad was followed by the collapse of the market and the nation-wide panic of 1901. Again, in 1907, Morgan's struggle with the Knickerbocker Trust Company brought about the failure of that and other institutions.
The World War I brought further prosperity to the Exchange and necessitated the erection of a twenty-two-story addition to its building. After the war, except for the depression of 1920-22, the market rose to new heights, and with it the expectations of an expanding nation. The panic of October, 1929, and another depression were the inevitable reactions.
At the entrance to Wall Street are two skyscrapers, the IRVING TRUST COMPANY, at No. 1, and the FIRST NATIONAL BANK, at No. 2. The former, completed in 1931, from the plans of Voorhees, Gmelin, and Walker, is fifty stories high, and resembles a solid shaft of stone. Fluted walls and chamfered corners (an expensive device on land worth $520 a square foot) help create this illusion. The twenty-onestory First National Bank, erected in 1933 from a design by Walker and Gillette, is marked by a flat, unimaginative use of classic precedent. At No. 14, is the entrance to the thirty-nine-story BANKERS TRUST COMPANY, designed by Trowbridge and Livingston, and erected in 1911. The twenty-five-story addition, facing Pine Street, was completed in 1933. Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon designed the addition.
Opposite the Stock Exchange at the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets is the SUBTREASURY BUILDING, a dignified structure designed in GreekRevival style by Ithiel Town and A. J. Davis. Built in 1842 as a Custom House, it was remodeled in 1862 for use as a Subtreasury. The Federal Reserve Bank used it until 1925. Now the building houses the New York Passport Agency of the Department of State, several departments of the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Bureau of Accounts of the Interstate Commerce Commission. It stands on the site of the Colonial City Hall, built in 1699 and torn down in 1812. Here, in 1735, John Peter Zenger, imprisoned editor of the New-York Weekly Journal, was tried on charges of libeling the administration of the royal governor, William Cosby, and was acquitted after the country's first major battle for freedom of the press. The Stamp Act Congress met here in 1765, and the Continental Congress in 1785, In the expectation that New York would be the national capital, Major L'Enfant, who later planned the city of Washington, was commissioned to remodel the building in 1788 as the Federal Hall, and here Washington took oath, April 30, 1789, as President of the United States. The place above the steps where it is claimed he stood on this occasion is marked by J. Q. A. Ward STATUE OF WASHINGTON erected in 1883. The actual stone on which Washington stood is preserved in a glass case within the building.
Near the Subtreasury, in front of the adjoining old Assay Office, a horse-drawn wagon, loaded with explosives, blew up shortly before noon, September 16, 1920. Thirty of the noonday crowd were killed and one hundred wounded. Scars of the explosion are still visible on near-by buildings. Occurring during a period of anti-radical hysteria, the disaster was said by some to have been a protest dynamiting of this important financial corner. Others held that the wagon had belonged to an explosives company and had been using a prohibited route when its load of dynamite was accidentally discharged. Neither theory ever was proved.
At 23 Wall Street, across from the Stock Exchange, is the diminutive MORGAN BUILDING, home of America's most powerful private banking firm. Erected in 1914, the gray five-story building is impersonal to an almost forbidding degree. It was designed by Trowbridge and Livingston.
East, at 40 Wall, is the BANK OF THE MANHATTAN COMPANY, the city's second oldest bank. By-product of the feud between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the Manhattan Company was organized by Burr in 1799, and though chartered as a water company, the bank was opened almost immediately. The water service ceased in 1842. The present building, called the Manhattan Company Building, was designed by H. Craig Severance in association with Yasuo Matsui. Seventy-one stories in height, it was intended to be the world's tallest structure when construction was begun in 1929, but the last-minute addition of a spire to the Chrysler Building defeated the plan. Within five years it had dropped to fifth place in height. The observation tower stands 830 feet above the street. Solid glass automatic doors in the lobby are an unusual feature.
Hamilton's bank, the BANK OF NEW YORK AND TRUST COMPANY, the city's oldest, is just east, at No. 48; it was organized in 1784. The present thirty-two-story structure was erected in 1928, from the plans of Benjamin Wistar Morris III.
The NATIONAL CITY BANK, the second largest bank in the country, has offices at No. 55. The building's lower part, with its four-story colonnade, was built in 1842, and served as customhouse from 1862 until 1907, when it was taken over by the bank, and the second tier of four stories and another colonnade were added under the direction of McKim, Mead, and White, architects. The simple power of the composition of the north façade is most effective. The bank, chartered in 1812, was an outgrowth of the First Bank of the United States, established in Philadelphia in 1791.
The tallest building in lower Manhattan, and third highest in the city, is SIXTY WALL TOWER (the Cities Service Building), at 70 Pine Street. An underground passage and a bridge connect with older quarters at 60 Wall Street. Sixty-seven stories (965 feet) high, it was designed by Clinton and Russell, and erected in 1932. A complicated play of overlapping forms emphasizes long vertical lines that accentuate the height of the building. There is an observation room in the tower.
The TONTINE BUILDING, northwest corner of Wall and Water Streets, is on the site of the Tontine Coffee House, erected in 1794, a favorite meeting place for merchants and political groups. The Merchants' Coffee House, erected about 1737 on the southeast corner of Wall and Water Streets, was a rendezvous for Revolutionary plotters, and is memorialized by a bronze plaque on the present building.
Hanover Square, where Hanover, Stone, Pearl, and William Streets converge on Old Slip, south of Wall Street, was a public Common as early as 1637. On the southwest side of the square is INDIA HOUSE, built in 1837 by Richard Carman, and headquarters since 1914 of a group of foreign traders. Ship models, prints, and other relics are housed here. Nicholas Bayard built a house on this site in 1673, while across the square ( 119-21 Pearl Street) in about 1691 lived his friend Captain William Kidd. The Bayard House, together with a greater part of the square, was destroyed in the great fire of 1835.
The lower end of William Street has probably undergone more changes of name than any other street in the city. It has been known as: The Glass Makers' Street, The Smith Street, Smee Street, Smit Street, Suice Street, De Smee Street, Burghers Path, Burger Jorisens Path, King Street, Berger Joris Street, and Borisens Path.
At 45 Broadway, between Morris Street and Exchange Alley, is the ALDRICH COURT BUILDING, housing the United States Shipping Commission, the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation and other Federal agencies. A TABLET in the building's façade marks what is said to be the site of the first residence of white men on Manhattan. In November, 1613, the ship Tyger burned offshore, and the captain and crew landed here and built four huts.
Running north of the Stock Exchange, Nassau Street, known originally as "the Street that Runs by the Pye Woman," a continuation of Broad Street, is the retail shopping center of the financial district. Here in low old buildings are shops and restaurants catering to the noonday crowd.
At 77 Cedar Street, between Nassau and Broadway is the New York CLEARING HOUSE, a five-story building with a marble front, erected in 1896. R. W. Gibson was the architect. In this important institution many millions of dollars in checks and drafts drawn on member banks are cleared daily. Although constant mergers have reduced member banks from a maximum of sixty-seven to twenty, the volume of business has expanded enormously since it was organized in 1853.
New York's oldest restaurant, YE OLDE CHOP HOUSE, is located at 118 Cedar Street, and for more than 130 years has catered to men in the Wall Street area. At 120 Broadway, between Cedar and Liberty Streets is the EQUITABLE BUILDING, planned by E. R. Graham. Erected in 1914, before the setback law, it shoots up forty-one stories, unrelieved and formidable. Its total of 1,200,000 square feet of rentable floor space makes it the second largest building in floor area in the city. The MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY of New York is at 34 Nassau Street, between Cedar and Liberty Streets. Chartered in 1842, it is the oldest organization of its kind in America. The insurance section of the financial district is now largely concentrated in the neighborhood of Fulton and William Streets.
The FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF NEW YORK, 33 Liberty Street, occupies the block bounded by Maiden Lane, Nassau, Liberty, and William Streets. The fourteen-story building, completed in 1924 from plans by York and Sawyer, is constructed of heavy limestone blocks. It strongly suggests the fortified palaces of the Florentine Renaissance. The rusticated stone exterior is almost without ornament except for iron lanterns, and the iron grilles of the great arched windows complete the picture of a building ready for a siege. Five stories are below street level. Subterranean vaults are barred by doors weighing as much as ninety tons. The NEW YORK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, 65 Liberty Street, occupies a five-story building designed by James B. Baker and completed in 1902. This, the oldest commercial organization of its kind in the world, was founded in 1768 in the Long Room of Fraunces Tavern and chartered by George III in 1770 with the aim of encouraging commerce and supporting industry. Its resident membership, limited to two thousand, includes many of the city's prominent bankers and industrialists.
Maiden Lane, one block north of Liberty Street, was so named when, as Maagde Paatje (the Dutch equivalent), it was a footpath used by lovers along a rippling brook. Once the city's noted retail jewelry center, the street is now given over to wholesale trade and manufacturing. A TABLET in the Jewelers' Building, 17 Maiden Lane, marks the location of the John Street Theater, built in 1767, and frequently attended by President Washington.
One block north, John Street, center of insurance and jewelry business, was known before the Revolution as Golden Hill and was the scene of the "Battle" of Golden Hill where, in January, 1770, two men were wounded in a skirmish between citizens and British soldiers. A TABLET at the northwest corner of John and William Streets marks the site of this early encounter. The SINGER BUILDING, 149 Broadway, at the head of John Street, was built in 1908 and remained the city's tallest edifice for eighteen months; forty-one stories (612 feet) high, today ( 1939) it ranks sixteenth. Ernest Flagg, the architect, gave it the first slender skyscraper tower. At 46 John Street is the OLD JOHN STREET METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, mother church of American Methodism. The present edifice, Federal in style, and erected in 1841, is the third on the site since 1768.
In 1783, Washington Irving was born at 131 William Street, corner of Fulton -- an appropriate birthplace for the man who coined the phrase "the Almighty Dollar." One block east, at the corner of Pearl Street, Holt's Hotel, later known as the United States Hotel, was erected in 1833. It was considered "the pioneer of the 'great' hotels of New York City and of America." The roof contained a promenade and an observatory whence the city's traders could watch for incoming vessels.