Magazine article Financial History

EARLY WALL STREET: A Visual History of the Financial District, 1830-1940

Magazine article Financial History

EARLY WALL STREET: A Visual History of the Financial District, 1830-1940

Article excerpt

New York's Financial District has undergone many changes over the years, and while some iconic structures have endured, many others have not. The New York Stock Exchange building designed by George B. Post is a universally recognizable symbol of American capitalism, but it was not the first NYSE building on Broad Street. The Produce Exchange on Bowling Green was capacious enough to house the operations of the NYSE while the new building was under construction between 1901 and 1903.

The images presented here are of scenes that were once familiar, but which no longer exist. They record a time when a walk eastward on Wall Street would take one to the clipper ships moored alongside the Wall Street Ferry, and a time when Broad Street was crowded with Curb Market traders.

The first Produce Exchange was at 39 Whitehall Street, between Water and Pearl Streets. It was designed by Leopold Eidlitz and completed in 1861. After the Produce Exchange moved to a new building on Bowling Green, the United States Army Building was constructed in the 1880s on the foundations of this building. The Army Building was bombed by protestors during the Vietnam War.

George B. Post won a design competition for the new Produce Exchange at 2 Broadway, facing Bowling Green Park. The building required 4,000 drawings for its design, and the flag flying above the tower was at the time the largest ever made. The main hall of the Produce Exchange was 144 feet wide by 220 feet long and featured a skylight 60 feet above the floor. The Produce Exchange was demolished in 1957.

This 1880s photograph shows the entrance to the Drexel, Morgan & Co. building at 23 Wall Street at the left. At the time, J.P. Morgan was in partnership with the prominent Drexel family of Philadelphia. After the death of Anthony J. Drexel in 1893, the firm was renamed J.P. Morgan & Co. At the center of the photograph is the enlarged and extensively redesigned New York Stock Exchange. The architect for the project was James Renwick Jr., who also designed St. Patrick's Cathedral. His building for the NYSE featured eight polished red granite columns at the entryway.

The New York Stock Exchange adopted its current name in 1863, and two years later the organization ceased being a tenant occupying a variety of rented spaces when it moved into its own building on Broad Street. This photograph from the renowned firm of E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. was taken when the marble of the exterior was still gleaming white. Later photographs show the effects of urban pollution.

The Astor House was a well-known hotel on Broadway at Vesey Street. It was designed by Isaiah Rogers, who was also the architect of the second Merchants' Exchange, which today survives as the lower portion of 55 Wall Street. James Bogardus, the pioneer of cast iron architecture, was given the job of enclosing the building's courtyard in 1852, which became known as the Rotunda. This photograph shows one of the circular lunch counters. King's Handbook of New York City (1892) noted that this was "a much-frequented eating place for noon-day meals."

George B. Post's design for the Cotton Exchange on Hanover Square was reminiscent of the architecture of the Chateau de Chambord in France's Loire Valley. The building was completed in 1885. The exchange room featured a triple window with Tiffany glass. The lower stories were clad in a type of limestone called Kentucky oolite. Brick and terra cotta were used for the upper stories, and the roof was composed of red slate. …

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