State Street, at the southern tip of Manhattan was lined with graceful Federal-style residences in the years following the American Revolution. The cooling breezes off the harbor and the ability to watch ship traffic made the location ideal for the homes of the wealthy merchant class. So it was here that James B. Watson commissioned John McComb Jr. to design his new home at 7 State Street in 1793.
McComb, who would become famous for designing landmarks like New York's City Hall and the Archibald Gracie Mansion, provided Watson with a superb merchant-class home worthy of his status. Watson, a Yale graduate, was not only a successful importer and exporter, he was a New York State Senator, a Speaker of the New York State Assembly and a Federal Senator.
|Photograph from the collection of the New York Public Collection|
As the neighborhood continued to change, the venerable homes of State Street were, one by one, razed for office buildings. Fortunately, through the efforts of Charlotte Grace O'Brien the Catholic Church purchased 7 State Street from the government in 1870 for the total sum of $1.00. O'Brien, an Irish immigrant herself, was concerned with the plight of poor Irish immigrant women. While these women were leaving Ireland for a better life in America, white slave traders were waiting for them as they debarked. Without help, the girls were at the mercy of ill-intentioned criminals.
In the spring of 2010 restoration began on the facade under the direction of Easton Architects, LLP. Seventeen coats of paint were removed from wooden trims to determine original colors. It is the last surviving residence of the Federal Period in the Financial District. The facade restoration brought the appearance of the structure approximately back Moses Rogers's 1806 alteration.