1 Wall Street. On one of the world’s most expensive corners – 1 Wall Street and Broadway – architect Ralph Walker conceived his zig-zag Art Deco Skycraper for the Irving Trust Company as a “curtain wall” – not the typical sheet of glass hanging from a steel cage, but a limestone wall rippling like a curtain descending on a Broadway stage.
Because of the curves in the wall, the bank doesn’t completely occupy its full building lot, and by law unoccupied and unmarked land reverts to the public – not too many square inches are left unused here, but each one is worth gold. So a slender metal line in the sidewalk makes clear who owns what.
14 Wall Street. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus piled on top of the bell-tower of St. Mark’s in Venice, at the corner of Wall and Broad – that’s the design concept behind 14 Wall Street. In its day the world’s tallest bank building, the 539-foot-high skyscraper originally housed the headquarters of Bankers Trust, one of the country’s wealthiest financial institutions.
Many early skyscrapers took the Venetian bell-tower as a logical model for a modern office tower, but 14 Wall Street was the first to top it off with a temple in the sky, a seven-story stepped pyramid modeled on one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The bank the adopted the pyramid as its trademark, and took as its slogan “A Tower of Strength.”
Instantly a standard-bearer in the fabled Downtown skyline, 14 Wall Street went on to become a widely recognized symbol of Wall Street and American capitalism.
The Empire Building: The great, granite-faced, 20-story building at 71 Broadway (Kimball & Thompson, 1898) – narrow end on Broadway, broad end opposite Trinity Church – served as headquarters for U.S. Steel from its birth in 1901 until 1976.
Express Row: The stretch of Broadway from Exchange Alley to Rector Street once housed the companies – like Adams Express, at 61 Broadway – that carried packages too heavy for the mails but too insubstantial for the railroads. American Express built 65 Broadway in 1917 (Renwick, Aspinwall & Tucker, architects). It was here in 1958 that, among its many other innovations, the company issued the first American Express credit cards.
The Wall Street entrance of 1 Wall Street leads into a dazzling, two-story banking hall whose ceiling sparkles in red and gold mosaics designed by Hildreth Meiere, rivaling the mosaics in the Golden Hall of Stockholm’s City Hall, and manufactured by the same company, the Ravenna Mosaic Company, in Berlin.
48 Wall Street: Museum of American Finance: What more appropriate home for the Museum of American Finance than the grand, 30-foot-high banking hall of the former Bank of New York building? The museum – an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution – is the only one of its kind in America. Effectively serving as the New York Stock Exchange`s de facto visitor`s center, the museum displays permanent interactive exhibits on finance, money, entrepreneurship and banking. These feature rare examples of Colonial currency; stock and bond certificates dating from the 18th century to the present; high denomination currency including $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills; and hundreds of images of the financial district. The museum includes a room dedicated to Hamilton, founder of the bank and the country`s first Treasury Secretary.
The Bank of New York – oldest bank in the city, founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton – commissioned a new headquarters (their third on this site) in 1927. The bank instructed architect Benjamin Wistar Morris to incorporate something of the institution`s Colonial history in the design. That history is evident inside the main banking hall, where eight murals by J. Monroe Hewlett illustrate the story of American commerce and the life of the Bank. Outside, the building`s major Colonial reference is meant to be seen from a distance: a tower reminiscent of an 18th-century church, but thirty stories up in the air – definitely the only Colonial tower in the Downtown skyline. There are two murals in the main banking hall: Foreign Trade shows a ship`s captain, manifest in hand, disembarking, while his ship is secured at the East River docks. National Credit 1861 symbolically represents the financial backing The Bank of New York lent the federal government during the Civil War – the classical building in the background was the old Custom House at 26 Wall Street, today`s Federal Hall. Twin carving staircases with decorative wrought-iron railings lead from the building`s entrance foyer up to the grand former banking hall, which now serves as an elegant backdrop for the Museum of American Finance.
The earliest known photograph of Wall Street was taken circa 1860 from the deck of a ship at the South Street docks on the East River. It shows the famous vista closed by Trinity Church at Broadway. In the pre-skycraper era Trinity Church towered above the Street`s commercial buildings – while today it is dwarfed by its neighbors.
48 Wall Street: Benjamin Wistar Morris, Architect, 1927-1929.
1 Wall Street: Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker, Architects, 1928-1931.
14 Wall Street: Trowbridge & Livingston, Architects, 1910-1912. Addition: Sherve, Lamb & Harmon, Architects, 1931-1933.