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Wall Street

Wall Street

Wall Street is a physical location in lower Manhattan, the shorthand term for the Financial District in New York City and a symbol of capitalism, free enterprise and the banking and financial industries in American politics and popular culture. It is also part of the poignantly historic area created by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as the areas associated with the early days of the American republic, when New York was the capital of the new nation, and the historic parts of the Lower East Side that were the first homes in America for generations of immigrants who went on to leave their mark on the growing country. The Wall Street area is easy to get to, has more places than it used to for tourists to eat and stay and shop and should eventually be a part of every visitor’s New York experience.

How Wall Street was built?
The street itself is less than a mile long (1.1 km) and runs for eight blocks from northwest to southeast, between Broadway in the center of lower Manhattan and South Street along the East River. It is the home of two of the world’s largest stock exchanges, and formerly housed several others. Many if not most of the major American financial firms and major banks started there or nearby, even if they are no longer headquartered on Wall Street, or in some cases even located in New York any longer. As a result. “Wall Street” has come to symbolize the financial markets of the United States, the investment and financial sector of the American economy and New York-based financial and business interests.

De Waal Straat was built and named by the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam, the first European community built on Manhattan Island after Pieter Minuit reportedly bought it from the local natives for beads and trinkets that were worth about $24. The generally-accepted version of its naming holds that the street follows the course of an earthen wall built on the northern border of the Dutch settlement, probably to protect against incursions by native Americans, not all of whom were happy with the $24 deal, or by English settlers who were beginning to move into the area. An alternative explanation is that the name derives from waal, which is the Dutch term for a Walloon, the French-speaking inhabitants of what is now Belgium, rather than wal, which is “wall” or “barricade” in Dutch. Among the settlers who arrived on the Dutch ship Nieuw Nederland in 1624 were 30 Walloon families, French-speaking Huguenots who had fled from religious persecution in France after the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestants in 1572.

By 1640 the earthen bulwark had been replaced by picket fences, and a more substantial fortification approximately 12 feet (4 meters) high was built on the north side of these. Governor Pieter Stuyvesant, on behalf of the Dutch West India Company that operated the colony, had streets laid out in 1685, and Wall Street was laid out along the course of the first stockade. This area soon became a center of commerce, as local merchants and traders gathered along the rampart to buy and sell shares in various companies and enterprises that were being set up by the industrious Dutch. This area also became a place where slaves could be sold and indentured servants, Europeans who worked out the cost of their passage to America as servants and laborers, could be hired by the day or by the week.

The British captured New Amsterdam in 1664, and the Dutch formally ceded it in 1667 in return for title to the Spice Islands, which became the Dutch East Indies and later Indonesia. The city was renamed for the Duke of York, later King James II, and became New York. The rampart was removed in 1699, but traders continued to gather there. In 1711, the corner of Wall and Pearl Streets became the site of the city’s first official slave market, at which Africans and Indians could be bought or rented until the slave trade was prohibited in 1762. The city collected a tax on each transaction, and built a wooden enclosure to hold about 50 men.

How Wall Street became a financial center
The financial speculators continued to meet out of doors, and gradually came to gather under a large buttonwood tree at the foot of Wall Street. The Buttonwood Agreement of 1792 was the beginning of the New York Stock Exchange, designed to permit “structured” commerce “without the manipulative auctions” and to charge a uniform commission for each trade and deal. This also became the center of the new nation’s politics: George Washington took the oath of office at Federal Hall on Wall Street, and Congress met in that building to pass the first ten Amendments to the Constitution that had been written and voted on in Philadelphia, which established the Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury and a founding father of both constitutional republican government and the American financial system, is buried in the adjacent Trinity Church cemetery.

Wall Street was occupied by both residences and businesses in the early years of the republic, but with the great economic boom caused by the opening of the Erie Canal, which made New York the country’s principal seaport and chief financial center, most of the inhabitants moved northward. This trend was accelerated by the Civil War, which caused resentment and riots in nearby immigrant neighborhoods, especially after the introduction of military conscription, but brought further prosperity to the financial district. Between the end of the Civil War and the First World War, the growing importance first of the industrial sector and then of the financial industry in the generally burgeoning American economy created an increasingly crowded and busy Wall Street and the area around it. New York became second only to London as a financial capital, and in 1884 Charles H. Dow began tracking stock prices and publishing a financial news sheet called the Customer’s Afternoon Letter; in 1889 this became The Wall Street Journal and in 1896 the publication began to publish each day the average of 30 stock prices representative of industrial conditions that Dow and statistician Edward Jones had developed.

Wall Street in the twentieth century
The geology of Manhattan is in most places very suitable for the construction of tall buildings, and the bedrock that underlies lower Manhattan led to the early development of tall buildings there. The Wall Street area came to have a skyline of its own, rivaling the better-known collection of skyscrapers in mid-Manhattan, and those looking at Manhattan today from the east or west will notice two clusters of tall buildings, one in midtown anchored by the iconic Empire State Building and the other on and around Wall Street, once anchored by the twin towers of the World Trade Center and centered since 2014 around the new One World Trade Center or Freedom Tower.

In addition to the displacement of many residents by the growth of the Financial Districts, residential neighborhoods near Wall Street were also subjected to urban renewal and most residents relocated. The area had had a substantial Arab and Eastern European population for many years, and was often referred to as “Little Syria”. The Bowling Green section, which extended from Broadway to the Hudson River and ran from nearby Vesey Street down to the Battery at the tip of the island, was called “Wall Street’s back yard” and felt to have “the worst housing conditions in the city” prior to an aggressive program of slum clearance. By 1970 only 833 residents were recorded south of Chambers Street, but attempts thereafter to build new housing as well as business construction resulted in new neighborhoods such as Battery Park City and Southbridge Towers: by 1990 there were about 14,000 residents, and the city’s celebrated secondary school specializing in science and mathematics, Stuyvesant High School, was relocated there. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 had a catastrophic effect on these neighborhoods near Wall Street, as residents were not able to occupy their homes or in some cases even to visit them for some months, and often found them looted or damaged on their return.

The 9/11 attacks were the worst thing ever to happen in and around Wall Street as in the rest of the country. There had been earlier violent incidents from which some residues can still be seen, however. The 1863 riots known as Draft Week, provoked by the announcement of military conscription to fight the Civil War, prominently involved areas to the north of Wall Street that were inhabited by working-class immigrants, chiefly from Ireland and Germany, who were upset by the prospect of economic competition with freed black slaves and enraged that wealthier men could purchase exemption from the draft while they could not. These disturbances, which remain the most widespread and serious domestic violence in American history aside from the Civil War, could not be contained by the New York City police, and troops had to be brought hurriedly from the just-concluded Battle of Gettysburg to stop the rioting.

Wall Street buildings sustained damage in another wartime incident on July 30, 1916. An enormous explosion at the munitions depot on Black Tom Island, located in the Hudson River between lower Manhattan and Jersey City, New Jersey, produced the equivalent of a magnitude 5.5 earthquake and caused extensive damage and four deaths in Jersey City and lesser damage in Manhattan. The explosion was found to be the work of German saboteurs attempting to prevent the transfer of munitions that had been bought from the United States by Britain and were being stored on the island. This incident was one of the factors in America’s eventual entry into the First World War against Germany.

An incident of unknown cause but probably related to the wave of political radicalism and labor violence that swept the United States after the war focused world attention on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, then as now the busiest in the Financial District and the location of the Morgan Bank. A powerful explosion on September 16, 1920 severely damaged the bank building, killed 38 people and seriously injured 143. The perpetrators were not identified or apprehended, but there were several subsequent bomb threats against banks and the stock exchange, and the area was sealed off for a time in 1921 when police intelligence suggested that another attack was impending.

Attention was again focused on Wall Street in late October, 1929, when one of the greatest stock market crashes in history created the enduring impression of bankers and brokers jumping to their deaths from the upper stories of financial institutions. Although crowds did gather on Wall Street in front of the stock exchange, largely made up of worried investors who could not otherwise find out what was going on because the overwhelmed stock ticker ran hours behind the frenzied trading, there were very few suicides. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who studied and wrote extensively about the crash and the subsequent Depression, found that the U.S. suicide rate went up each year between 1925 and 1932, but that there were actually fewer suicides than expected in the last quarter of 1929.

Present-day Wall Street
By 2001 some financial institutions had moved uptown or relocated to other cities less crowded or costly. The New York Stock Exchange remained the “largest and most prestigious stock market” in the world, however. The destruction of the World Trade Center severely affected the premises of the stock exchange and crippled the communications network and support and transportation facilities on which it depended; it was estimated that about 45 per cent of the best office space on or near Wall Street was lost in the attack. The nearby premises of the commodity exchange, the New York Board of Trade, were completely destroyed. The stock exchange remained closed until September 17, and thereafter the trend of financial institutions to move to midtown Manhattan or to relocate from New York altogether was accelerated. The attacks led to a substantial downturn in the financial services industry, with the year-end bonuses by which stockbrokers are customarily paid decreasing by $6.5 billion in the next year.

The subsequent decade was a time of economic volatility, culminating in the financial crisis of 2008 that continues to exert adverse effects on the American economy and those of other developed countries, as well as a period of slow recovery for the building and real estate industries, culminating in the opening of the first of the new buildings planned to replace the destroyed twin towers and the structures around them. The New York Board of Trade, along with a number of other concerns, moved into the World Financial Center across the street from the World Trade Center site. The New York Stock Exchange was widely believed to have outgrown its famous premises as the building approached its century mark, but the exchange was offered tax incentives to keep it in lower Manhattan in 1998 and had developed rebuilding plans that had to be delayed after the 9/11 attacks. The building is now a National Historical Landmark as well as being on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood around it has again acquired residents, and it is estimated that 25,000 people live in the vicinity of Wall Street, most of them in upscale apartment buildings served by an increasing number of upscale retailers. The area is one of the safest parts of Manhattan, due to a large police presence during the business day and comprehensive building security at night, and has been one of the few sections of the city in which no murders are reported in most years.

What to see on Wall Street
One of the interesting features of Wall Street is its collection of notable buildings, many of them dating from the Gilded Age in the late 19th century. Wall and other streets are narrow and sometimes winding, as they were laid out in the 17th and 18th centuries and do not follow the grid plan used in Manhattan north of Houston Street after 1811. The tall buildings create artificial canyons, sometimes with spectacular views. The older skyscrapers are also noteworthy because they display classical Greek and Roman influences and often have gargoyles and other elaborate facades of a type not used in business architecture for many years. These are mixed in with some surviving 18th century buildings. Structures to see include Federal Hall, the first United States capitol building, and Trinity Church, which remained standing as the World Trade Center came down around it. Other landmark buildings are the “House of Morgan” at 23 Wall Street, which is still pockmarked from the shrapnel of the 1920 explosion, the Bankers Trust Company at 14 Wall Street, and 40 and 60 Wall Street, in addition to the Stock Exchange at number 11. The former Bank of Manhattan at number 40 now houses Donald Trump’s offices and number 60, a later J.P. Morgan headquarters into which Deutsche Bank moved after 9/11, represents the last major investment bank that is still located on Wall Street.

How Wall Street was built?
The street itself is less than a mile long (1.1 km) and runs for eight blocks from northwest to southeast, between Broadway in the center of lower Manhattan and South Street along the East River. It is the home of two of the world’s largest stock exchanges, and formerly housed several others. Many if not most of the major American financial firms and major banks started there or nearby, even if they are no longer headquartered on Wall Street, or in some cases even located in New York any longer. As a result. “Wall Street” has come to symbolize the financial markets of the United States, the investment and financial sector of the American economy and New York-based financial and business interests.

De Waal Straat was built and named by the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam, the first European community built on Manhattan Island after Pieter Minuit reportedly bought it from the local natives for beads and trinkets that were worth about $24. The generally-accepted version of its naming holds that the street follows the course of an earthen wall built on the northern border of the Dutch settlement, probably to protect against incursions by native Americans, not all of whom were happy with the $24 deal, or by English settlers who were beginning to move into the area. An alternative explanation is that the name derives from waal, which is the Dutch term for a Walloon, the French-speaking inhabitants of what is now Belgium, rather than wal, which is “wall” or “barricade” in Dutch. Among the settlers who arrived on the Dutch ship Nieuw Nederland in 1624 were 30 Walloon families, French-speaking Huguenots who had fled from religious persecution in France after the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestants in 1572.

By 1640 the earthen bulwark had been replaced by picket fences, and a more substantial fortification approximately 12 feet (4 meters) high was built on the north side of these. Governor Pieter Stuyvesant, on behalf of the Dutch West India Company that operated the colony, had streets laid out in 1685, and Wall Street was laid out along the course of the first stockade. This area soon became a center of commerce, as local merchants and traders gathered along the rampart to buy and sell shares in various companies and enterprises that were being set up by the industrious Dutch. This area also became a place where slaves could be sold and indentured servants, Europeans who worked out the cost of their passage to America as servants and laborers, could be hired by the day or by the week.

The British captured New Amsterdam in 1664, and the Dutch formally ceded it in 1667 in return for title to the Spice Islands, which became the Dutch East Indies and later Indonesia. The city was renamed for the Duke of York, later King James II, and became New York. The rampart was removed in 1699, but traders continued to gather there. In 1711, the corner of Wall and Pearl Streets became the site of the city’s first official slave market, at which Africans and Indians could be bought or rented until the slave trade was prohibited in 1762. The city collected a tax on each transaction, and built a wooden enclosure to hold about 50 men.

How Wall Street became a financial center
The financial speculators continued to meet out of doors, and gradually came to gather under a large buttonwood tree at the foot of Wall Street. The Buttonwood Agreement of 1792 was the beginning of the New York Stock Exchange, designed to permit “structured” commerce “without the manipulative auctions” and to charge a uniform commission for each trade and deal. This also became the center of the new nation’s politics: George Washington took the oath of office at Federal Hall on Wall Street, and Congress met in that building to pass the first ten Amendments to the Constitution that had been written and voted on in Philadelphia, which established the Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury and a founding father of both constitutional republican government and the American financial system, is buried in the adjacent Trinity Church cemetery.

Wall Street was occupied by both residences and businesses in the early years of the republic, but with the great economic boom caused by the opening of the Erie Canal, which made New York the country’s principal seaport and chief financial center, most of the inhabitants moved northward. This trend was accelerated by the Civil War, which caused resentment and riots in nearby immigrant neighborhoods, especially after the introduction of military conscription, but brought further prosperity to the financial district. Between the end of the Civil War and the First World War, the growing importance first of the industrial sector and then of the financial industry in the generally burgeoning American economy created an increasingly crowded and busy Wall Street and the area around it. New York became second only to London as a financial capital, and in 1884 Charles H. Dow began tracking stock prices and publishing a financial news sheet called the Customer’s Afternoon Letter; in 1889 this became The Wall Street Journal and in 1896 the publication began to publish each day the average of 30 stock prices representative of industrial conditions that Dow and statistician Edward Jones had developed.

Wall Street in the twentieth century
The geology of Manhattan is in most places very suitable for the construction of tall buildings, and the bedrock that underlies lower Manhattan led to the early development of tall buildings there. The Wall Street area came to have a skyline of its own, rivaling the better-known collection of skyscrapers in mid-Manhattan, and those looking at Manhattan today from the east or west will notice two clusters of tall buildings, one in midtown anchored by the iconic Empire State Building and the other on and around Wall Street, once anchored by the twin towers of the World Trade Center and centered since 2014 around the new One World Trade Center or Freedom Tower.

In addition to the displacement of many residents by the growth of the Financial Districts, residential neighborhoods near Wall Street were also subjected to urban renewal and most residents relocated. The area had had a substantial Arab and Eastern European population for many years, and was often referred to as “Little Syria”. The Bowling Green section, which extended from Broadway to the Hudson River and ran from nearby Vesey Street down to the Battery at the tip of the island, was called “Wall Street’s back yard” and felt to have “the worst housing conditions in the city” prior to an aggressive program of slum clearance. By 1970 only 833 residents were recorded south of Chambers Street, but attempts thereafter to build new housing as well as business construction resulted in new neighborhoods such as Battery Park City and Southbridge Towers: by 1990 there were about 14,000 residents, and the city’s celebrated secondary school specializing in science and mathematics, Stuyvesant High School, was relocated there. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 had a catastrophic effect on these neighborhoods near Wall Street, as residents were not able to occupy their homes or in some cases even to visit them for some months, and often found them looted or damaged on their return.

The 9/11 attacks were the worst thing ever to happen in and around Wall Street as in the rest of the country. There had been earlier violent incidents from which some residues can still be seen, however. The 1863 riots known as Draft Week, provoked by the announcement of military conscription to fight the Civil War, prominently involved areas to the north of Wall Street that were inhabited by working-class immigrants, chiefly from Ireland and Germany, who were upset by the prospect of economic competition with freed black slaves and enraged that wealthier men could purchase exemption from the draft while they could not. These disturbances, which remain the most widespread and serious domestic violence in American history aside from the Civil War, could not be contained by the New York City police, and troops had to be brought hurriedly from the just-concluded Battle of Gettysburg to stop the rioting.

Wall Street buildings sustained damage in another wartime incident on July 30, 1916. An enormous explosion at the munitions depot on Black Tom Island, located in the Hudson River between lower Manhattan and Jersey City, New Jersey, produced the equivalent of a magnitude 5.5 earthquake and caused extensive damage and four deaths in Jersey City and lesser damage in Manhattan. The explosion was found to be the work of German saboteurs attempting to prevent the transfer of munitions that had been bought from the United States by Britain and were being stored on the island. This incident was one of the factors in America’s eventual entry into the First World War against Germany.

An incident of unknown cause but probably related to the wave of political radicalism and labor violence that swept the United States after the war focused world attention on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, then as now the busiest in the Financial District and the location of the Morgan Bank. A powerful explosion on September 16, 1920 severely damaged the bank building, killed 38 people and seriously injured 143. The perpetrators were not identified or apprehended, but there were several subsequent bomb threats against banks and the stock exchange, and the area was sealed off for a time in 1921 when police intelligence suggested that another attack was impending.

Attention was again focused on Wall Street in late October, 1929, when one of the greatest stock market crashes in history created the enduring impression of bankers and brokers jumping to their deaths from the upper stories of financial institutions. Although crowds did gather on Wall Street in front of the stock exchange, largely made up of worried investors who could not otherwise find out what was going on because the overwhelmed stock ticker ran hours behind the frenzied trading, there were very few suicides. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who studied and wrote extensively about the crash and the subsequent Depression, found that the U.S. suicide rate went up each year between 1925 and 1932, but that there were actually fewer suicides than expected in the last quarter of 1929.

Present-day Wall Street
By 2001 some financial institutions had moved uptown or relocated to other cities less crowded or costly. The New York Stock Exchange remained the “largest and most prestigious stock market” in the world, however. The destruction of the World Trade Center severely affected the premises of the stock exchange and crippled the communications network and support and transportation facilities on which it depended; it was estimated that about 45 per cent of the best office space on or near Wall Street was lost in the attack. The nearby premises of the commodity exchange, the New York Board of Trade, were completely destroyed. The stock exchange remained closed until September 17, and thereafter the trend of financial institutions to move to midtown Manhattan or to relocate from New York altogether was accelerated. The attacks led to a substantial downturn in the financial services industry, with the year-end bonuses by which stockbrokers are customarily paid decreasing by $6.5 billion in the next year.

The subsequent decade was a time of economic volatility, culminating in the financial crisis of 2008 that continues to exert adverse effects on the American economy and those of other developed countries, as well as a period of slow recovery for the building and real estate industries, culminating in the opening of the first of the new buildings planned to replace the destroyed twin towers and the structures around them. The New York Board of Trade, along with a number of other concerns, moved into the World Financial Center across the street from the World Trade Center site. The New York Stock Exchange was widely believed to have outgrown its famous premises as the building approached its century mark, but the exchange was offered tax incentives to keep it in lower Manhattan in 1998 and had developed rebuilding plans that had to be delayed after the 9/11 attacks. The building is now a National Historical Landmark as well as being on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood around it has again acquired residents, and it is estimated that 25,000 people live in the vicinity of Wall Street, most of them in upscale apartment buildings served by an increasing number of upscale retailers. The area is one of the safest parts of Manhattan, due to a large police presence during the business day and comprehensive building security at night, and has been one of the few sections of the city in which no murders are reported in most years.

What to see on Wall Street
One of the interesting features of Wall Street is its collection of notable buildings, many of them dating from the Gilded Age in the late 19th century. Wall and other streets are narrow and sometimes winding, as they were laid out in the 17th and 18th centuries and do not follow the grid plan used in Manhattan north of Houston Street after 1811. The tall buildings create artificial canyons, sometimes with spectacular views. The older skyscrapers are also noteworthy because they display classical Greek and Roman influences and often have gargoyles and other elaborate facades of a type not used in business architecture for many years. These are mixed in with some surviving 18th century buildings. Structures to see include Federal Hall, the first United States capitol building, and Trinity Church, which remained standing as the World Trade Center came down around it. Other landmark buildings are the “House of Morgan” at 23 Wall Street, which is still pockmarked from the shrapnel of the 1920 explosion, the Bankers Trust Company at 14 Wall Street, and 40 and 60 Wall Street, in addition to the Stock Exchange at number 11. The former Bank of Manhattan at number 40 now houses Donald Trump’s offices and number 60, a later J.P. Morgan headquarters into which Deutsche Bank moved after 9/11, represents the last major investment bank that is still located on Wall Street.

There are several other landmarks beside the buildings. Federal Reserve gold vaults 80 feet below the level of the street are reported to contain $100 billion worth of the precious metal. Nearby Zuccotti Park was the center of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 and occasional performance art can still be seen there, although today it is notable chiefly for two large sculptures that reside there, one a 70-foot-high red steel installation and the other a large bronze businessman by pharmaceutical heir and sculptor J. Seward Johnson. Another famous sculpture nearby is the “Charging Bull”, a 7000-pound (3175 kg) bull originally placed illegally in front of the Stock Exchange after the 1987 crash; the statue was first removed but had become a beloved symbol of stock market optimism, and was reinstalled in Bowling Green Park.

Walking tours of Wall Street highlight the highs and lows of the Financial District. Tours of one and two hours are conducted by past and present Wall Street insiders, can be combined with other lower Manhattan sites, notable food experiences and sightseeing in other parts of the city. The Stock Exchange and Board of Trade can no longer be visited for security reasons, but the Federal Reserve Bank offers tours that include the gold vaults (advance reservations are needed) and the Museum of American Finance, part of the Smithsonian, is at 48 Wall Street.

How to get to Wall Street
Wall Street is visited by every New York City sightseeing tour, and two Wall Street subway stations can be reached: on the 2 and 3 lines at Broadway and on its eastern end, by the Lexington Avenue subway (4 and 5 trains). J and Z trains from Queens serve the nearby Broad Street station. Port Authority trains (the “Hudson tube”) to New Jersey serve the World Trade Center station that was destroyed in 2001 but has now been rebuilt, and the Eighth Avenue subway (A, C and E) can be caught here. Because of the heavy commuter traffic, there is bus service to and from Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal as well as the M15 bus line and express bus service to and from New Jersey. Subway and local bus fare is $2.75 and express buses cost $6.50. Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street serves ferries and water taxis on the East and Hudson Rivers and you can get there by helicopter through the Downtown Manhattan heliport at Pier 6, in addition to taxis and car services.