Walking Down Wall Street in Lower Manhattan

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Symbols of Wealth and Power in New York's Financial District

Green roof of 40 Wall Street seen in the distance between 4 WTC and Cass Gilbert's West St. Bldg.
Looking east toward Wall Street from WTC construction site, 2013. Photo © S. Carroll Jewell / Jackie Craven

Wall Street Fast Facts

  • Lower Manhattan, about 4 1/2 miles south of Times Square in New York City
  • Architecture from the early 20th century construction boom
  • Half-mile in length, from Broadway to the East River
  • Marked the northern most point of 17th century New Amsterdam and may have had an actual wall to protect the settlement from unknowns further north.
  • Area was settled by French-speaking people from southern Netherlands, a region called Walloonia. Walloons are known to have settled in lower Manhattan and up the Hudson River valley.

What Is Wall Street?

Wall Street is one of the oldest streets in the city. In the early 1600s, trading flourished in this land of many ports. Ships and merchants imported and exported the goods of the day. Trading was a common activity. However, Wall Street is more than a street and buildings. Early in its history, Wall Street became a symbol of commerce and capitalism in the New World and the young United States. Today, Wall Street continues to represent wealth, prosperity, and, to some, greed.

Where Is Wall Street?

Wall Street can be found just southeast of where terrorists struck New York City on September 11, 2001. Look beyond the construction site, past the Fumihiko Maki-designed 4 World Trade Center to the left and Cass Gilbert's Gothic West Street Building to the right, and you will see the seven-story green pyramidal roof and spire atop Donald Trump's 40 Wall Street. Continue down Wall Street and you will discover architecture that tells the story of a nation being built—literally and figuratively.

In the next few pages we'll look at some of the interesting and important buildings on Wall Street.

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1 Wall Street

Steplike setbacks on One Wall Street as seen from behind Trinity Church.
Steplike setbacks on One Wall Street as seen from behind Trinity Church. Photo ©Jackie Craven

1 Wall Street Fast Facts

  • 1931
  • Irving Trust Company (Bank of New York)
  • Ralph T. Walker, Architect
  • Marc Eidlitz & Son, Inc., Builders
  • 50 stories

The intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in New York City was called the "most expensive real estate in New York" when the Irving Trust Company commissioned Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker to build a 50-story Art Deco skyscraper. Having outgrown office space in the Woolworth Building, Irving Trust became part of NYC's building boom, in spite of the Stock Market crash of 1929.

Art Deco Ideas

The Art Deco design was a practical response to the 1916 Building Zone Resolution of New York, which mandated setbacks to allow air and light to reach the streets below. Art Deco buildings were often formed in the shape of ziggurats, with each story smaller than the one below. Walker's design called for setbacks to begin above the twentieth story.

At street level, also notice the zigzag designs typical of Art Deco architecture.

In August 1929, Marc Eidlitz & Son, Inc. began building three stories of underground vaults after clearing the site of standing structures. The Indiana quarried smooth limestone facade set on a granite base creates a modern architectural jewel that has been called "one of New York City's most extraordinary Art Deco masterpieces."

Completed in March 1931, Irving Trust took possession on May 20, 1931. The Bank of New York acquired the Irving Bank Corporation and moved its headquarters to One Wall Street in 1988. Bank of New York and Mellon Financial Corporation merged to become The Bank of New York Mellon in 2007.

SOURCE: Landmarks Preservation Commission, March 6, 2001

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11 Wall Street

New York Stock Exchange Corporate Headquarters, 11 Wall Street, corner of New Street
New York Stock Exchange Corporate Headquarters at 11 Wall Street, on the corner of New Street. Photo ©2014 Jackie Craven

By 2014, when this photo was taken, a strange extension was evident at the entrance of the New York Stock Exchange. In a world of security and historic preservation concerns, can more elegant solutions be part of the architecture?

11 Wall Street Fast Facts

  • 1922
  • New York Stock Exchange Group, Inc.
  • Trowbridge & Livingston, Architects
  • Marc Eidlitz & Son, Inc., Builders
  • 23 stories
  • The more famous New York Stock Exchange building is on Broad Street, off Wall Street

New York Stock Exchange Building

On the corner of Wall Street and New Street sits one of several New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) buildings. The design by Trowbridge & Livingston is meant to complement the architecture of the 1903 New York Stock Exchange building on Broad Street.

Subject to the 1916 Building Zone Resolution of New York, setbacks begin above the tenth story of this 23-story building. At story ten, a stone balustrade joins the balustrade of the 18 Broad Street NYSE. The use of white Georgia marble and two Doric columns at the entrance provide added visual unity among NYSE architecture.

These days, equities, futures, options, fixed-income, and exchange-traded products are bought and sold electronically. The familiar screaming stockbroker running throughout large trading floors is largely a picture of the past. The New York Sock Exchange Group, Inc. merged with Euronext N.V., on April 4, 2007 to form NYSE Euronext (NYX), the first cross-border exchange group. Corporate headquarters of NYSE Euronext is at 11 Wall Street.

SOURCE: National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, March 1977

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23 Wall Street

The J.P. Morgan building on the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street.
The 1913 J.P. Morgan fortress-like building, on the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street. Photo © S. Carroll Jewell

23 Wall Street Fast Facts

  • 1913
  • J.P. Morgan & Co. Building
  • Part of the Downtown condominium development
  • Trowbridge & Livingston, Architects
  • Renovated by Philippe Starck and Ismael Leyva

House of Morgan

On the southeast corner of Wall and Broad Streets sits a conspicuously low building. Only four stories high, the "House of Morgan" looks like a modern fortress; a vault with smooth, thick walls; a private club for members only; the architecture of self-assuredness amidst the worldly opulence of a Gilded Age. Positioned on an important corner of real estate, the foundation was designed strong enough to support ten times the height—just in case a skyscraper met the Morgan needs.

John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), the son and father of bankers, took advantage of the rapid economic growth in the United States at the turn of the century. He merged railroads and organized new technologies of the day—electricity and steel. He financially supported political leaders, Presidents, and the U.S. Treasury. As a financier and industrialist, J.P. Morgan became a symbol of wealth, power, and influence. He was, and in some ways still is, the face of Wall Street.

Behind the J.P. Morgan Building is the much taller 15 Broad Street. The two adjoining buildings are now a part of a condominium complex called Downtown. The architects installed gardens, a children's pool, and a dining area on the low roof of the Morgan Building.

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission, December 21, 1965. J.P Morgan website at http://www.jpmorgan.com/pages/jpmorgan/about/history [accessed 11/27/11].

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"The Corner"

The historic intersection of Broad Street and Wall Street in New York
In 1920, a terrorist attacked at the intersection of Broad Street and Wall Street in New York. In 2011, security guards protected the historic corner during Occupy Wall Street protests. Photo © Michael Nagle/Getty Images

The corner of Wall Street and Broad Street forms a hub of history.

Explore "The Corner"

  • Look south, down Broad Street, to see the New York Stock Exchange building
  • Look north, across Wall Street, to see the George Washington statue in front of the Federal Hall National Memorial
  • Follow Nassau Street one block northeast to see the former AIG Building on 70 Pine Street
  • Directly on the corner, visit the old J.P. Morgan building to see where terrorism in the financial district happened

Terrorism on Wall Street

Picture this scene: A wagon stops at the busiest corner of the financial district, where Broad Street intersects with Wall Street. A man leaves the vehicle unattended, walks away, and shortly later the wagon explodes within view of the New York Stock Exchange. Thirty people are killed, and shrapnel peppers the venerable "House of Morgan" at this famous financial corner.

The Wall Street terrorist was never caught. They say you can still see damage from that explosion on the facade of the J.P. Morgan & Co. building at 23 Wall Street.

The date of the attack? The Wall Street bombing happened September 16, 1920.

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26 Wall Street

George Washington sculpture on the steps of Federal Hall in lower Manhattan
George Washington sculpture on the steps of Federal Hall in lower Manhattan. Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives Collection/Getty Images

26 Wall Street Fast Facts

  • 1842
  • U.S. Custom House; U.S. Sub-treasury; Federal Hall National Memorial
  • Architects (1833–1842):
    • Ithiel Town (Town & Davis)
    • Samuel Thompson
    • John Ross
    • John Frazee

Greek Revival

The grand columned building at 26 Wall Street has served as a US Custom House, a sub-treasury, and a memorial. Architects Town & Davis gave the building a domed shape and pristine classical details similar to Palladio's Rotunda. Broad stairs rise to eight Doric columns, which support a classical entablature and pediment.

The interior of 26 Wall Street was later re-designed, replacing the interior dome with a grand rotunda, which is open to the public. Vaulted masonry ceilings exhibit an early example of fire-proofing.

Federal Hall National Memorial

Before Town & Davis built the classical columned building, 26 Wall Street was the site of New York's City Hall, later known as Federal Hall. Here, America's First Congress wrote the Bill of Rights and George Washington took the first presidential oath of office. Federal Hall was demolished in 1812, but the stone slab upon which Washington stood is preserved in the rotunda of the current building. Washington's statue stands outside.

Today, the National Park Service and the United States Department of the Interior maintains 26 Wall Street as the Federal Hall Museum and Memorial, honoring America's first President and the beginnings of the United States of America.

SOURCES: Landmarks Preservation Commission, December 21, 1965 and May 27, 1975.

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40 Wall Street

The Trump Building at street level, 40 Wall Street.
Street-level view of the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street in lower Manhattan's financial district. Photo © S. Carroll Jewell

40 Wall Street Fast Facts

  • 1930
  • Bank of the Manhattan Company; Chase Manhattan Bank; The Trump Building
  • Harold Craig Severance, Architect and commercial skyscraper expert
  • Yasuo Matsui, Associate Architect
  • Shreve & Lamb, Consulting Architects
  • Starrett Brothers & Eken, Builders
  • Moran & Proctor, Consulting Structural Engineers
  • 71 stories, 927 feet

The Trump Building

At street level, you will notice the name TRUMP on the facade of the old Manhattan Company Building. Like other properties on Wall Street, 40 Wall Street has a history of banking, investment, and "the art of the deal."

The limestone-clad steel-framed skyscraper is considered Art Deco, with "modernized French Gothic" detailing, while incorporating "classical and abstract geometric elements." A series of setbacks extend to a tower, crowned by a seven-story, steel pyramidal roof. The distinctive roof, pierced by windows and originally covered with lead-coated copper, has been known to be painted a turquoise color. A two-story spire creates additional height notoriety.

The lowest six stories were the banking floors, with exteriors designed traditionally with neo-classical limestone colonnade. The midsection and tower (36th through 62nd stories) contained offices, with exteriors of brick spandrel panels, geometric ornamental terra-cotta spandrel panels, and stylized gothic central wall dormers that rise two stories into the roof. Setbacks occur at the tops of the 17th, 19th, 21st, 26th, 33rd, and 35th stories—standard solution to New York's Zoning Resolution of 1916.

Building 40 Wall

Wall Street financier George Lewis Ohrstrom and the Starrett Corp. planned to build the tallest building in the world, surpassing the 60-story Woolworth and the already designed Chrysler building. The team of architects, engineers, and builders sought to finish the new skyscraper in just one year, allowing the commercial space to be quickly leased in the world's tallest building. Demolition and foundation construction were undertaken simultaneously on the site beginning in early May 1929, in spite of the many complexities, including:

  • congested site
  • lack of storage space for materials
  • construction of several other skyscrapers in the vicinity
  • existing buildings on the site with thick (e.g., five feet) masonry foundations
  • difficult subsoil conditions (bedrock was 64 feet below street level, with layers of boulders and quicksand above)

The tallest building in the world was ready for occupancy in one year, on May 1930. It remained the tallest building for several days, until the Chrysler building's famous and secretly constructed tower was erected later that month.

Landmarks Preservation Commission, December 12, 1995.

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55 Wall Street

Photo of the 55 Wall Street building with its rows of columns.
Distinctive colonnades are reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome. Photo © S. Carroll Jewell

55 Wall Street Fast Facts

  • 1842 (lower half); 1907 (upper half)
  • Merchants Exchange Building (lower half); National City Bank (upper half)
  • Isaiah Rogers, Architect (lower half); McKim, Mead, and White, Architects (upper half)

Palladian Ideas

At 55 Wall Street, note the series of granite columns (colonnades) one upon each other. The lower Ionic columns, designed by Isaiah Rogers, were built between 1836–1842. The upper Corinthian columns, designed by McKim, Mead & White, were added in 1907.

Learn more about Column Types and Styles >>>

Classical Greek and Roman architecture often includes colonnades. The Colosseum in Rome is an example of Doric columns on the first level, Ionic columns on the second level, and Corinthian columns on the third level. In the 16th century the Renaissance master Andrea Palladio used different styles of classical columns, which can be found in many Palladian buildings.

The Great Fire of 1835 burned down the original Merchants Exchange on this site.

SOURCE: Landmarks Preservation Commission, December 21, 1965

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120 Wall Street

The shiny metal art deco entrance to 120 Wall Street
The shiny metal art deco entrance to 120 Wall Street. Photo ©2014 Jackie Craven

120 Wall Street Fast Facts

  • 1930
  • American Sugar Refining Company, tenant
  • Ely Jacques Kahn, Architect
  • 34 stories

Dazzling Art Deco

Architect Ely Jacques Kahn has created an Art Deco building of simple elegance. The ziggurat figuration is at once so similar to its Wall Street banking neighbors built in the same time period—1929, 1930, 1931—and yet the sun shines fully on the stone skin, reflecting bright off the jogs and juts that face the East River. So interesting are its upper floor setbacks, its 34 stories may best be seen from the East River, South Street Seaport, or the Brooklyn Bridge.

"The five-story base is limestone, with fluted red granite on ground floor," says the Silverstein Properties fact sheet. "A shiny metallic screen of diagonal themes dominates the entrance bay on the Wall Street side."

By the time you have walked the length of Wall Street, the sights of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge are liberating. From being dwarfed by the congestion of skyscrapers on a narrow street, one breathes easier as urban skateboarders perform their tricks in the small park at the front of 120 Wall Street. Originally, importers of coffee, tea, and sugar dominated these buildings. Merchants transitioned their goods westward, from the ships at dock to the traders and financiers of the more familiar Wall Street.

SOURCE: Silverstein Properties at www.silversteinproperties.com/properties/120-wall-street [accessed November 27, 2011].

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Trinity Church and Wall Street Security

From Wall Street in NYC looking west to Trinity Church - security is an art
From Wall Street in NYC looking west to Trinity Church - security is an art. Photo © Jackie Craven

Our Wall Street journey begins and ends at Trinity Church on Broadway. Visible from most points on Wall Street, the historic church is the burial site of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Visit the Church graveyard to view a Alexander Hamilton Monument.

Security Barricades on Wall Street

Much of Wall Street has been closed to traffic since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Rogers Marvel Architects worked closely with the City to keep the street both safe and accessible. The firm has rebricked much of the area, designing barriers to both protect the historic buildings and be used as resting areas for the many pedestrians.

Rob Rogers and Jonathan Marvel consistently turn security problems into streetscape opportunities—most notably by developing the Turntable Vehicle Barrier (TVB), bollards set into a plate-like disk, that can turn to allow or disallows vehicles to pass.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement

It can be said that the oldest and most important structures in any town are the places that care for one's spirit and one's money. For very different reasons, churches and banks are often the first buildings to be constructed. In recent years, places of worship have consolidated for financial reasons, and banks have merged to become financial institutions. Acts of uniting often cause loss of identity, and, perhaps, responsibility.

The 99 Percent Movement and other Occupy Wall Street protesters generally have not occupied the street itself. However, Wall Street and its imposing architecture have provided powerful symbols to fuel their movement.

Further Reading

  • Skyscraper Rivals: The AIG Building and the Architecture of Wall Street by Carol Willis, Princeton Architectural Pressm 2000 (Read Excepts)
    Buy on Amazon
  • Rogers Marvel Architects by Rob Rogers and Jonathan Marvel, Princeton Architectural Press, 2011
    Buy on Amazon
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Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "Walking Down Wall Street in Lower Manhattan." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/walking-down-wall-street-178503. Craven, Jackie. (2023, April 5). Walking Down Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/walking-down-wall-street-178503 Craven, Jackie. "Walking Down Wall Street in Lower Manhattan." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/walking-down-wall-street-178503 (accessed June 6, 2023).