Architecture of the New York Stock Exchange, the NYSE Building in NYC

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The New York Stock Exchange Building From Wall Street

A statue of George Washington looks toward the New York Stock Exchange building on Broad Street from Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street in New York City.
A statue of George Washington looks toward the New York Stock Exchange building on Broad Street from Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street in New York City. Photo by Fraser Hall/Photographer's Choice Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

American capitalism takes place across the land, but the great symbol of trade is in New York City. The new New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building we see today on Broad Street opened for business on April 22, 1903. Learn more from this multi-page photographic essay.

Location

From the World Trade Center, walk east, toward the Brooklyn Bridge. On Wall Street, from the John Quincy Adams Ward statue of George Washington, look south down Broad Street. Midway down the block, on the right, you'll see one of the most famous buildings in the world—The New York Stock Exchange at 18 Broad Street.

Classical Architecture

Whether residential or commercial, a building's architecture makes a statement. Examining the classical features of the NYSE building may help us understand the values of its occupants. Despite its grand scale, this iconic building shares the many of the same elements found on a typical Greek Revival house.

Examine the Architecture of the NYSE

In the next few pages, explore the neoclassical features of the "new" New York Stock Exchange building—the pediment, portico, and mighty colonnade. What did the NYSE building look like in the 1800s? What was architect George B. Post's 1903 vision? And, maybe most interesting of all, what is the symbolic statuary within the pediment?

SOURCE: NYSE Euronext

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What did the NYSE building look like in the 1800s?

This photo circa 1895 shows the Second Empire architecture of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) that stood on the Broad Street site between December 1865 and May 1901
This photo circa 1895 shows the Second Empire architecture of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) that stood on the Broad Street site between December 1865 and May 1901. Photo by Geo. P. Hall & Son/The New York Historical Society/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Beyond the Buttonwood Tree

Stock exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), are NOT government agencies. The NYSE had its beginnings in the 1700s when groups of traders met under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street. Here they bought and sold merchandise (wheat, tobacco, coffee, spices) and securities (stocks and bonds). The Buttonwood Tree Agreement in 1792 was the first step to an exclusive, members-only NYSE.

Second Empire Building on Broad Street

Between 1792 and 1865 the NYSE became more organized and structured on paper but not in architecture. It had no permanent building to call home. As New York became the financial center of 19th century America, a new Second Empire structure was built. Market growth quickly outpaced the building's 1865 design, however. The Victorian building with the mansard roof that occupied this site between December 1865 and May 1901 was demolished to be replaced by something bigger.

New Architecture for New Times

A competition was held to design a grand new building with these requirements:

  • more trading space
  • more light
  • more ventilation
  • more convenience for the traders

An additional challenge was the site's irregular lot located on a slight hill between Broad Street and New Street. The chosen design was the Roman-inspired neoclassic architecture designed by George B. Post.

 

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977.

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The 1903 Vision of Architect George B. Post

Photograph from 1904 of the New York Stock Exchange building
An early photograph circa 1904 of the new George Post building. Photo by Detroit Publishing Company/Interim Archives/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images

Classic Architecture of Financial Institutions

The twentieth century had renewed a classical order of architecture to financial institutions. The site's Victorian building was demolished in 1901, and on April 22, 1903 the new New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building at 8–18 Broad Street opened for business.

The View From Wall Street

The Corner of Wall Street and Broad Street is a fairly open area for the financial district of New York City. Architect George Post made use of this open space to maximize the natural light to the trading floor within. The open view from Wall Street is an architect's gift. The grand facade is imposing from even a block away.

Standing on Wall Street, you can see the 1903 building rise ten stories above the sidewalk. Six Corinthian columns steadily rise from a seven-bay-wide podium set between two rectangular pilasters. From Wall Street, the NYSE building appears stable, strong, and well-balanced.

The Street-Level Podium

George Post complemented the even-numbered six columns with the symmetry of seven—a center flat-arched doorway with three more on either side. The podium symmetry continues to the second story, where directly above each street-level doorway is a contrasting round-arched opening. Balustraded balconies between floors provide the classic ornamentation, as do lintels with carved fruit and flowers.

The Architect

George Browne Post was born in New York City in 1837. He studied both architecture and civil engineering at New York University. By the time he won the NYSE commission, Post already had experience with commercial buildings, particularly a new type of structure—the skyscraper or "elevator building." George B. Post died in 1913, ten years after the completion of 18 Broad Street.

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977.

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An Imposing Facade

NYSE Broad Street facade from above, pediment, skylight
The Broad Street facade of the New York Stock Exchange appears from above to be simply stuck onto the face of the building. Photo by Greg Pease/Photographer's Choice Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Is it simply stuck on?

Made of white Georgian marble, the temple-like facade of the NY Stock Exchange Building seems inspired by the Roman Pantheon. From above one can easily see a "stuck on" quality to this facade. Unlike the Pantheon's classical design, the 1903 New York Stock Exchange building has no domed roof. Instead, the structure's roof includes a huge, 30 feet square skylight. The facade's pediment roof covers the portico.

Is the NYSE two-faced?

Yes. The building has two facades—the famous facade of Broad Street and another on New Street. The New Street facade is complementary in functionality (a similar wall of glass complements the Broad Street windows) but is less grand in ornamentation (for example, the columns are not fluted). The Landmarks Preservation Commission noted that "The entire Broad Street facade is surmounted by a shallow cornice composed of an egg and dart molding and regularly spaced carved lions heads, setting off a balustraded parapet."

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977. NYSE Euronext

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A Classic Portico

Classical architecture includes a grand porch or portico, with columns rising to a triangular pediment
Classical architecture includes a grand porch or portico, with columns rising to a triangular pediment. Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images Entertainment Collection/Getty Images

What is a portico?

The portico, or porch, is noteworthy of classical architecture, including buildings such as skyscraper architect Cass Gilbert's US Supreme Court Building. Both Gilbert and NYSE architect George Post used the classical portico to express ancient ideals of truth, trust, and democracy. Neoclassical architecture has been used in many great buildings in the United States, including the US Capitol, the White House, and the US Supreme Court Building, all found in Washington, DC and all with grand porticos.

Elements of a Portico

The entablature, above the columns and below the roof, contains the frieze, a horizontal band that runs below the cornice. The frieze may be decorated with designs or carvings. The 1903 Broad Street frieze bears the inscription "New York Stock Exchange." The triangular pediment of the Broad Street facade, similar to the US Supreme Court building's western pediment, contains symbolic statuary.

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977.

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A Mighty Colonnade

NYSE facade showing 6 fluted Corinthian columns visually create a building of strength and classic beauty.
Fluted Corinthian columns visually create a building of strength and classic beauty. Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images Entertainment Collection/Getty Images

What is a colonnade?

A series of columns is known as a colonnade. Six 52 1/2-feet high Corinthian columns create the well-known visual of the New York Stock Exchange building. Fluted (grooved) shafts visually intensify the rising height of the columns. Decorated, bell-shaped capitals at the tops of the shafts are typical features of this elaborate yet graceful architecture.

Learn more about Column Types and Styles >>>

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977.

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The Traditional Pediment

The triangular pediment above the colonnade visually gathers to a single point the rising height of each column
The triangular pediment above the colonnade visually gathers to a single point the rising height of each column. Photo by Ozgur Donmaz/Photolibrary Collection/Getty Images

Why a pediment?

The pediment is the triangular piece that forms the natural roof of the classical portico. Visually it combines the rising strength of each column into a single focal peak. Practically it allows a space in which to display ornamentation that may be symbolic to the building. Unlike the protecting griffins from ages past, this building's classical statuary depicts more modern symbols of the United States.

Pediment ornamentation continues with "a dentilled and modillioned cornice." Above the pediment is a cornice with lion masks and a marble balustrade.

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977.

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What is the symbolic statuary within the pediment?

Symbolic statuary of Integrity Protecting the Works of Man, above the New York Stock Exchange frieze.
Symbolic statuary of Integrity Protecting the Works of Man, above the New York Stock Exchange frieze. Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Integrity

High relief (as opposed to bas relief) symbolic figures were placed in the pediment after the building's 1903 completion. The Smithsonian Art Inventory describes the largest statue as a "classically robed female figure" called "Integrity," who "stretches both of her arms outward with clenched fists." A symbol of honesty and sincerity, Integrity, standing on her own pedestal, dominates the center of the 16 ft. high pediment.

Integrity Protecting the Works of Man

The 110 ft. wide pediment contains eleven figures, including the centerpiece figure. Integrity protects the "works of man," including figures symbolizing Science, Industry, Agriculture, Mining, and a figure that represents "Realizing Intelligence."

The Artists

The statuary was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910) and Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925). Ward also designed the statue of George Washington on the Wall Street steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial. Bartlett later worked on statuary on the US House of Representatives (1909) and the NY Public Library (1915). Getulio Piccirilli carved the original figures in marble.

Replacements

The carved marble weighed many tons and quickly began to weaken the structural integrity of the pediment itself. Stories spread of workmen hammering the stone to rubble as an economical solution when pieces fell to the ground. The weighty and weathered figures of prosperity were replaced in 1936 with white lead-coated sheet copper replicas.

SOURCES: "The New York Stock Exchange Pediment (sculpture)," Control Number IAS 77006222, Smithsonian American Art Museum's Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture database at http://siris-artinventories.si.edu. Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977. NYSE Euronext. Websites accessed January 2012.

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A Curtain of Glass

Night view looking through glass curtain wall facade of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), designed by George B. Post
Glass curtain wall facade of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), designed by George B. Post. Photo by Oliver Morris/Hulton Archive Collection/Getty Images

When Light is a Requirement in Design

One of architect George Post's challenges was to design a NYSE building with more light for the traders. He satisfied this requirement by constructing a wall of windows, 96 feet wide and 50 feet high, behind the columns of the portico. The window wall is supported by vertical 18-inch steel beams enclosed in ornamental bronze casings. Arguably, this curtain of glass could be the beginnings of (or at least the commercial equivalent of) the curtain wall glass used on modern day buildings such as One World Trade Center ("Freedom Tower").

Natural Light and Air Conditioning

Post designed the NYSE building to optimize the use of natural light. Since the building spans the city block between Broad Street and New Street, window walls were designed for both facades. The New Street facade, being simple and complementary, incorporates another glass curtain wall behind its columns. The 30 foot square skylight maximizes natural light falling to the interior trading floor.

The Stock Exchange building also was one of the first to be air conditioned, which satisfied another design requirement of more ventilation for the traders.

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977. NYSE Euronext

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Inside, the Trading Floor

The trading floor inside the Stock Exchange building after renovations in 2010
The trading floor inside the Stock Exchange building after renovations in 2010. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

The Board Room

The trading floor (a.k.a. Board Room) extends the full length and width of the New York Stock Exchange building, from Broad Street on the east to New Street on the west. Glass walls on these sides provide the traders with natural light. Huge annunciator boards on both the north and south walls were used to page members. "Over 24 miles of wiring were installed to run the boards," claims the corporate website.

Trading Floor Transformations

The trading floor of the 1903 building was interconnected in 1922 with its 11 Wall Street addition and again in 1954 with the expansion to 20 Broad Street. As algorithms and computers replaced the shouting across a room, the trading floor was transformed again in 2010. Perkins Eastman designed the "next generation" trading floor, with 200 individual, cubicle-like broker stations along the east and west long walls, taking advantage of architect George Post's natural lighting design.

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977. "New York Stock Exchange's Next-Generation Trading Floor Goes Live" (March 8, 2010 press release). NYSE History (NYSE Euronex corporate website). Websites accessed January 2012.

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Is the NYSE a symbol of Wall Street?

Behind a huge US flag covering the colonnade, the New York Stock Exchange facade is watched over by a statue of George Washington on Wall Street.
Behind a huge US flag covering the colonnade, the New York Stock Exchange facade is watched over by a statue of George Washington on Wall Street. Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images Entertainment Collection/Getty Images

The NYSE and Wall Street

The New York Stock Exchange at 18 Broad Street is not a bank. Yet, below ground, a steel safe deposit vault, about 120 feet long and 22 feet wide, was designed to fit securely within the four basements of the building. Likewise, the famous 1903 facade of this building is not physically located on Wall Street, yet it is closely associated with the financial district, world economies in general, and greedy capitalism in particular.

Site of Protests

The NYSE building, often wrapped in the American flag, has been the site of many protests. In September 1920, a great explosion damaged many surrounding buildings. On August 24, 1967, demonstrators against the Vietnam War and the presumed capitalism that funded the war attempted to disrupt operations by throwing money at traders. Covered in ash and debris, it was closed for several days after the 2001 terrorist attacks nearby. The surrounding streets have been off limits since then. And, beginning in 2011, protesters frustrated with economic disparities marched on the NYSE building in a continued attempt to "Occupy Wall Street."

Integrity Crumbles

The statuary within the pediment was replaced in 1936, during the Great Depression. When thousands of banks were being closed, stories circulated that pieces of the largest statue, Integrity, were falling to the sidewalk. Some said that the symbolic statuary had become a symbol of the country itself.

Architecture as Symbol

The Landmarks Preservation Commission noted that the NYSE building "symbolizes the strength and security of the nation's financial community and the position of New York as its center." The classical details convey Integrity and Democracy. But can architectural design shape public opinion? What would Wall Street protesters say? What do you say? Tell us!

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977. NYSE Euronext [accessed January 2012].

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Craven, Jackie. "Architecture of the New York Stock Exchange, the NYSE Building in NYC." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/architecture-new-york-stock-exchange-178498. Craven, Jackie. (2016, August 9). Architecture of the New York Stock Exchange, the NYSE Building in NYC. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/architecture-new-york-stock-exchange-178498 Craven, Jackie. "Architecture of the New York Stock Exchange, the NYSE Building in NYC." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/architecture-new-york-stock-exchange-178498 (accessed November 22, 2017).