The Wonders of Wall Street
Though just eight blocks long, Wall Street—the actual street, not the Financial District as a whole—is home to a trove of notable buildings, some dating back to the 1800s and others only decades old. Our walking tour will start where Wall Street does, at Broadway, with Trinity Church.
Consecrated in 1846, the current structure is the third Trinity Church built on this site. The original, completed in 1697, was Manhattan’s first Anglican church. It burned down in the 1776 Great Fire of New York. The second church building, completed in 1790, began buckling only a few decades later and was replaced with the current structure, one of the country’s first Gothic Revival buildings. Its bronze doors, donated by William Waldorf Astor in 1893 in honor of his father, John Jacob Astor III, were designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect who created the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Great Hall, among myriad other buildings; the doors include bas reliefs of scenes from the Bible and New York history. Among the parishioners buried in the churchyard behind the church are statesman Alexander Hamilton and inventor Robert Fulton.
Until 1869 the Trinity Church was the tallest building in the country, courtesy of its 281-foot-high steeple, and until the stone tower of the Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1883, it was the tallest building in New York. Now, of course, it is dwarfed by many of its neighbors, including on the opposite side of Broadway, the former Bank of New York Building, now better known as One Wall Street. Completed in 1931, the 50-story skyscraper features numerous setbacks that make it an exemplar of Art Deco architecture.
A block away, at 11 Wall Street and Broad Street, is the New York Stock Exchange. With its Corinthian columns and dramatic pediment, adorned with high-relief figures symbolizing integrity, science, and other worthy attributes, the building looks as if it dates back to the Revolutionary War. Designed in Greek Revival style by George Browne Post, it was actually built in 1903.
Opposite the Stock Exchange is 14 Wall Street, on the corner of Nassau Street. (Broad Street ends on the south side of Wall Street; Nassau Street begins on the north side, a few feet to the west of Broad Street.) When it was built in 1912 as the headquarters of Bankers Trust, the 37-story structure was the tallest bank building in the world. The ancient Tomb of Mausolus (from which we get the world “mausoleum”) inspired the seven-story stepped pyramid that crowns the building. Bankers Trust incorporated this pyramid into its logo, accompanying the slogan “A Tower of Strength.”
At one time the 31st floor of 14 Wall Street was an apartment for J.P. Morgan, whose company was headquartered at 23 Wall Street, located catty-corner at the corner of Broad Street opposite the Stock Exchange. Known as the House of Morgan or the Corner, it is a modest four-story building, notable for its lack of adornment and for the dents in its limestone facade. The latter are the result of a 1920 bombing that killed 38 people and injured several hundred more. Those responsible for lading a horse-drawn wagon with 100 pounds of dynamite and setting the timer were never found but assumed to be anarchists. Though J.P. Morgan & Co. could obviously have afforded to repair the outside as it did the interior, it opted not to as a sign that it would not be cowed by its opponents.
The fourth building at the intersection of Wall, Broad, and Nassau Streets is commonly known as Federal Hall. The true Federal Hall—the original New York City Hall, the site of George Washington’s first inauguration, and for a year beginning in 1789 the nation’s capitol building—was indeed located here before it was razed in 1812. The current structure, designed like the Stock Exchange in Greek Revival style, was completed in 1842 as the U.S. Custom House for the Port of New York. Customs moved out in 1862; for several decades afterward, through 1920, the building served as a U.S. Treasury repository for gold and silver. In 1939 it became the Federal Hall National Memorial. The larger-than-life bronze statue of Washington by John Quincy Adams Ward (no relation to either President Adams), erected in 1882, remains on the front steps, in front of the Doric columns.
The building that the Customs department moved into in 1862 was 55 Wall Street, between Williams and Hanover Streets. It was completed in 1841 as the Merchants’ Exchange, replacing the exchange that was destroyed in the the 1835 Great Fire of New York. After Customs vacated this building at the turn of the 20th century, National City Bank (which later became Citibank) bought the building and had renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead & White expand it. The structure went from four stories to eight, gaining a 60-foot-high central dome as well. While the original floors boast Ionic columns, Corinthian columns grace the front of the newer floors.
If Trinity Church is the head of Wall Street, 120 Wall Street, looking out onto the East River, is its foot. Completed in 1930, the 34-story building is another Art Deco bevy of setbacks, with an equally notable metallic screen of diagonal lines and triangular forms gleaming above its main entrance.