Monday, September 24, 2018

The Lost New York Stock Exchange Bldg - 10 Broad Street

The Stock Exchange Building in 1899.  In the foreground to the left is the J. P. Morgan & Co. headquarters.  photo from the collection of the New-York Historical Society
On December 11, 1865 The New York Herald announced "The new Stock Exchange building, on Broad, Wall and New streets, was opened to the public on Saturday, and the board held its first session there.  The acoustics of the board room, which is only a small portion of the entire structure, have not been sufficiently studied in its construction, and drapery, or something of the kind will have to be resorted to in order to make the voice of the presiding officer audible over the room, the glass windows on both sides of which have much to do with the non-conduction of sound from end to end."

The new building was shaped more or less like a T.  The main facade faced Broad Street, while a narrow wing (more like a corridor) opened onto Wall Street and a larger section faced New Street.  Decades later Gustav Kobbe explained why the narrow passage from the main building to Wall Street existed, saying simply "but of course it would have been absurd for the institution which rules and sometimes almost ruins the country financially, not to have an entrance on Wall street."  The building was not the property of the Exchange, as might be expected, but was rented.

The New York Stock Exchange had been formed in 1792 "when the originators formed the association under a button-wood tree in front of what is now No. 60 Wall Street," as remembered by Henry Clews in his 1888 book Twenty-Eight Years in Wall Street.  It met in various locations over the early years, until 1842 when it moved into the new Merchants' Exchange building.  Fifteen years later it moved again to what Clews called the "Dan Lord's Building" with entrances on William and Beaver Streets.

Then, in 1863 membership and business increased rapidly and a second building, on Broad Street, was taken to handle the overflow.  Before long plans were laid for a single Exchange headquarters at No. 10 Broad Street.

The Exchange as it appeared in December 1865.  Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, 1865 (copyright expired)
The name of the architect seems to have been lost; but his stone-faced Italianate structure was impressive.  Four stories tall, its main entrance on Broad Street was within a columned portico.  The openings wore classically-inspired pediments and the whole was crowned by a carved stone cornice.

It would not take long for the Exchange to outgrow its new accommodations.  The directors were also faced with another problem:  many of the manufacturing and retail groups were leaving the downtown area, moving further uptown to Tribeca and beyond.   There was the possibility that the banking industry would follow.

On November 19, 1870 The New York Herald announced that the Stock Exchange had purchased the Broad Street building for $57,500.  "This arrangement will benefit the Stock Exchange to a considerable extent, as in five years the amount of their saving will be equal to the present cost of the building.  The question whether the business of Wall street, like the other branches of commerce, is to take its course further up town remains yet to be decided."  The cost of the Exchange paid for the building would equal about $1.1 million today.

from the collection of the New York Public Library
But owning the building did not solve the spacial problems.  The directors quickly purchased the abutting structure at No. 12 Broad Street and hired architect James Renwick, Jr. to combine and remodel the structures into a single Stock Exchange Building.

The renovated headquarters opened in September 1871.  Renwick faced the structure in white marble and widened the portico, adding paired red granite columns that upheld the long entablature.  He turned from Italianate to French Second Empire, replacing the classical pediments with arched openings

Only eight years later the Exchange had again outgrown its new home.  On October 31, 1879 The New York Times reported "More than a year ago the necessity of enlarging the Stock Exchange conveniences, and of erecting an edifice commensurate to the increasing business of the Metropolis, was seriously discussed by the members, and a Committee of Arrangements was appointed, with power to purchase additional land, or to buy a new site."

Negotiations for the abutting properties to the south, owned by the John D. March estate had dragged on until now, when the owners agreed to sell for $375,000.  The Exchange now owned, in addition to its current building, Nos. 14 through 20 Broad Street and Nos. 14 through 18 New Street.  "The intention of the Exchange is to improve and rent the buildings now on it for the present, and at a future time to cover the entire plot with a magnificent Exchange Building," said The Times.

That magnificent building would have to wait; but in September 1880 the directors called back James Renwick, Jr. to enlarge the building once again.  No. 14 Broad Street was demolished and the structure widened and a fifth floor in the form of a mansard added.  The portico was extended to accommodate three entrances.   The building now stretched 65 feet wide along Broad Street.

The Manufacturer and Builder projected the cost of the alterations at $230,000 (or about $5.7 million today).  Henry Clews estimated the cost of maintaining the building, including staff, at another $200,000 a year.

Hughson Hawley's 1882 print clearly shows the red granite columns.  from the collection of the New York Public Library.
Clews called it "a fine, solid structure, devoid of anything showy, pretentious or decorative" and added "The apparatus for ventilating the building is one of the best.  It cost $30,000, and supplies an abundance of pure air and perfumes at the same time.  The heating and cooling arrangements are the best of their kind and the lighting is admirable."

Regarding the perfumed air, Harper's New Monthly Magazine commented "'What bouquet have you this morning, doctor?' is not an uncommon inquiry of the superintendent."

James Renwick's exotically decorated Board Room (or main trading room) was brilliantly stenciled.  Three massive electric lighting fixtures illuminated the space. Twenty-Eight Years in Wall Street, 1888 (copyright expired) 
Amazingly, given the time period, the main floor (called the board room) was electrically lit.  "There are three chandeliers containing 200 electric lamps, which throw a floor of beautiful soft light around the whole interior."  The were offices for members, lavatories, and closets.  Securities were kept in large vaults which in turn contained more than 1,000 safes.

The "Long Room" for telegraph apparatus was lit by a stained glass ceiling.  King's Views of New York City 1893 (copyright expired)
As is the case today, tempers sometimes flared on the trading floor.  Harper's New Monthly Magazine noted "Fines also are charged in the half-yearly bills, and are levied on the exuberant and indiscreet at the rate of from twenty-five cents to ten dollars, at the discretion of the presiding officer, for such offenses as knocking off hats, throwing paper wads, standing on chairs, smoking in the halls (five dollars), indecorous language, interrupting the presiding officer while calling stocks, or calling up a stock not on the regular list."

from the collection of the New-York Historical Society

Gustav Kobbe in his 1891 travel guide New York and It's Environs described the Board Room saying "The turmoil of this room must be heard to be appreciated--to describe it is impossible.  It surpasses even the proverbial bear garden.  Perhaps it is more like a tribe of Indians executing a war dance than anything else."

Far different from today, however, was the existence of the Stock Exchange Glee Club, which gave concerts at least once at year at Chickering Hall and sometimes elsewhere.  And at Christmas all bitterness and rivalry was set aside for what was called the Christmas Carnival after the closing bell on the last business day before the holiday.  The dignified brokers suddenly acted like impish college boys.  Harper's explained:

At the Christmas season it luxuriates in the blowing of tin horns and bugles, smashing of broker hats, pelting with blown bladders, wet towels, and surreptitious snow-balls, and in the sly insertion of the cooling crystals between the collars and necks of unsuspecting brethren.  Hot pennies are sometimes substituted.

Normally stuffy brokers dance together during a Christmas Carnival in the Exchange.  Harper's New Monthly Magazine, November 1885 (copyright expired)
Surprisingly, given the up-to-date systems built into the building, the Stock Exchange got a failing grade when Sanitary Engineers Golden and Hooper inspected it on August 4, 1885.  The Times reported "They found the plumbing in a very defective condition, and also the means of ventilation entirely inadequate."  It was apparently a condition not even perfumed air pumped through the vents could disguise.  The Building Committee promised to correct the problems.

In January 1899 the Exchange purchased another abutting property, the six-story building at No. 8 Broad Street.  Six months later a competition among three prominent architects--George Kramer Thompson, Bruce Price and George B. Post--to design a new structure that would cover all of the Exchanged-owned properties was held. 

On December 14, 1899 the New-York Tribune reported that the Governing Committee of the New-York Stock Exchange had not yet been decided "whether a new building covering the whole area will be erected or merely alterations designed to increase the Board Room space will be made."  Nevertheless, architect George B. Post had already won the competition and submitted his plans.

It did not take the Board long to make up its mind and in July 1900 the Stock Exchange was moved to temporary quarters in the Produce Exchange while the old building was demolished and a new one constructed.  George B. Post's $1 million structure--an icon of New York City and American finance today--was completed in 1903.

The newly-completed Stock Exchange sits next to the 1890 Wilks this early postcard view.

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