A Walking Tour of New York City's Financial District
by Doug Gelbert
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way.
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
The Dutch established the first European settlements in Manhattan, which were located at the lower end of the island. The first fort was built at the Battery on th eshore at the southern tip of the island. The original settlement stretched only a few hundred yards to the north to present day Wall Street, where the settlers had indeed built a wall to protect themselves from Indians, pirates, and other dangers. The path had become a bustling commercial thoroughfare because it joined the banks of the East River with those of the Hudson River on the west. The path was named Wall Street. Early merchants built their warehouses and shops on this path, along with a city hall and a church.
In 1771, Bear Market was established along the Hudson shore on land donated by Trinity Church, and replaced by Washington Market in 1813. Washington Market was located between Barclay and Hubert S In March, 1792, twenty-four of New York City’s leading merchants met secretly at Corre’s Hotel to discuss ways to bring order to the securities business and to wrest it from their competitors, the auctioneers. Two months later, on May 17, 1792, these merchants signed a document named the Buttonwood Agreement, named after their traditional meeting place, a buttonwood tree. The agreement called for the signers to trade securities only among themselves, to set trading fees, and not to participate in other auctions of securities. These twenty-four men had founded what was to become the New York Stock Exchange. The Exchange would later be located at 11 Wall Street.
New York was the U.S. national capitol from 1785 until 1790 and Federal Hall was built on Wall Street. George Washington was inaugurated on the steps of this building. The first stock exchange in America was actually founded in Philadelphia in 1790. The New York merchant group, realizing that their stock exchange was now in decline after the early tumult of revolutionary war bonds and stock in the Bank of the United States, sent an observer to Philadelphia in early 1817. Upon his return, bearing news of the thriving Philadelphia exchange, the New York Stock and Exchange Board was formally organized on March 8, 1817.
The exchange rented a room at 40 Wall street and every morning the president, Anthony Stockholm, read the stocks to be traded. The exchange was an exclusive organization, new members were required to be voted in, and a candidate could be black-balled by three negative votes. In 1817 a seat on the exchange cost $25, in 1827 it increased to $100, and in 1848 the price was $400. Members wore top hats and swallowtail coats.
The Financial District of Lower Manhattan has come a long way since then. To see what the princes of commerce have wrough, this walking tour will begin where the Dutch began back in 1623, Battery Park...
- Doug Gelbert, January 2010
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