Hi friends, welcome back to my Lower Manhattan historical tour. In case you missed part one, you can check it out here. Heading north from Fraunces Tavern we’ll turn onto Wall Street. Currently 55 Wall Street is an event venue, hotel, and residences owned by Cipriani, but it was originally built in 1841 as a Merchants Exchange (there were two other buildings here before, but they burned down in a fire). It then became home to the Customs House before the one near Bowling Green was built, and even housed the New York Stock Exchange. The fourth and fifth floors were added from 1907-1910 and it became home to National City Bank (predecessor of Citibank) from 1908-1961.
Across Wall Street from the NYSE sits the majestic, but under construction, Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street. As you can see it is undergoing an up to 10-year renovation project to restore the exterior marble, but luckily I have pictures from before the scaffolding went up. (It wouldn’t be an authentic NYC tour without some scaffolding) There is a statue of George Washington outside because this location is where he was inaugurated on April 30, 1789. It is wild to think that I live one block away from such a historic event!
The original building was built between 1699 and 1703 and was the seat of government for the British Colony of New York. In 1735 this was the site where John Peter Zenger was tried, jailed, and acquitted of libel for exposing the corruption of the British Governor in his newspaper. This was the first major victory for freedom of press.
In 1765 delegates met here to protest the stamp tax and created The Stamp Act Congress. In 1788 the building was remodeled and became the nation’s capital. It is also where the First Congress met and where the Bill of Rights was ratified. When the capitol moved to Philadelphia in 1790, it became a city government building before being demolished in 1812.
The current building was built as a Customs House in 1842. In 1862 the Customs House moved a block to 55 Wall Street and Federal Hall became a sub-treasury holding 80% of the nation’s gold and silver in basement vaults. In 1920 the gold and silver were moved to the Federal Reserve two blocks north.
Now Federal Hall is a museum and memorial honoring George Washington and the history of America. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9am – 5pm and free to visit. If you time your visit right you can join ranger lead tours at 10am and 2pm. Our favorite part of the museum is the rotunda, it’s really something. You can go upstairs and walk around the full circle. We spent about forty-five minutes inside and I definitely recommend stopping by, even to just marvel at the rotunda for five minutes.
The New York Stock Exchange was formed in 1817 and was originally located on 40 Wall Street. It then moved into the Merchants Exchange on 55 Wall Street in 1827, moved around a bit, and then moved to Broad Street in 1865. They eventually needed more space and held a competition for a new design. George B. Post won and after two years of construction the iconic New York Stock Exchange was complete in 1903. From 1920-1922 a twenty-story annex building was added behind the NYSE to accommodate the demand. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978 and is a very popular spot to visit.
Hope you enjoyed part two, stay tuned for part three of the series!