Merchants’ Exchange Building
Architect: Isiah Rogers
Location: 55 Wall Street
After I’ve already written an entry for the John Street Methodist Church, I stumble upon an entry in Philip Hone’s diary proving that the building I originally wanted to use for 1841 was, in fact, completed in 1841 and not 1842 like multiple sources says it was. So take that, Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Before this, on this site, was a pioneering Greek Revival building, Merchants’ Exchange Building. Made of marble, and thus supposedly fireproof, it went up with the rest of lower Manhattan in the Great Fire of 1835. Its replacement was even more of a vision: a colonnade a block long, with columns fashioned out of single blocks of granite, and inside, a vast rotunda, one of the city’s great feats of engineering. When the exchange failed, the building’s history became one of endless refashionings and repurposings; old buildings in Wall Street seem to exchange organizations the way viruses exchange strands of DNA. It housed the New York Stock exchange before it left for slightly more modest quarters, then the US Custom House before it moved to even nicer quarters. The National City Bank (a precursor to Citibank) purchased the building and asked McKim, Mead & White to add several new stories, complementing the Ionic colonnade below with a Corinthian colonnade above. Then the bank moved to more Mad-Men modern digs, leaving it as a branch. Luxury restaurant operators Cipriani swooped it up late in the 20th century, and turned it into apartment buildings because nearly every single fucking building on Wall Street is an apartment building now, real estate matching stocks and futures in terms of speculative insanity. Oh, and also a club. It looks beautiful, but I wouldn’t know first-hand, I’m not Cipriani’s crowd.