In the very heart of the busiest financial district in the world known as Wall Street, we find the Federal Hall building, which had a rather significant role in the history of America. It was here that George Washington took the first presidential oath to the American people in 1789.
The 1842 Federal Hall is probably the first building in New York City to be built in the Greek Revival style, designed by Ithiel Towne and Alexander Jackson Davis. The facade and the back of the building are decorated with a colonnaded hall with eight 10-meter-high Doric columns. Dominating everything is the statue of George Washington, created in 1883 by John Quincy Adams Ward. Washington is depicted with his hand over a Bible as he takes his oath as the country’s first president.
Every day, crowds of Wall Street financiers pass this place with a very rich colonial history, but few of them have any idea what the building has to do with George Washington. On the steps in front of Federal Hall, many bank and stock exchange employees spend their lunch break, it’s fun to watch the seriously dressed gentlemen and ladies eat their hamburgers here.
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Federal Hall first served as a city hall, in the years 1789-1790 as a meeting building of Congress, for 20 years it housed the US Customs Service, and since 1955 it has been a national monument and museum, where you can see an exhibition about the American Constitution. As the building was also damaged during the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, it is currently undergoing extensive renovations.
The Bank of Manhattan Building – now the Trump Building, completed in 1961 – rises just behind the Federal Hall. With its 283 meters and 60 floors, it was the tallest building in New York in 1929-1930. It was then surpassed by the Chrysler Building. Another interesting building in the vicinity of Federal Hall is the first national bank building, the National City Bank Building, abbreviated Citybank, which was built in 1840. It was completed with sixteen Ionic granite columns that had to be transported to Wall Street by 40 oxcarts. In 1907, the bank building was rebuilt and expanded.
Wall street is not only interesting for banking and stock exchange experts, but also attracts a number of tourists who want to walk along the street that has become synonymous with money and wealth. The surrounding streets have also become popular with local residents, who come here after work or on weekends to sit, read the newspaper, chat or just watch the surrounding activity. The name of the street originated in the 17th century, when it represented the northern border of the New Amsterdam settlement. Plots and residences in the colony were enclosed by wooden fences. A little later, in 1652, a four-meter wall of wood and clay, fortified with palisades, was built here. This wall was eventually strengthened and served as a defense against Native American tribes, as well as colonists from New England and the British. It was only dismantled by the British in 1699. However, the name of the street derived from this historic wall is still used today.
A kind of spiritual oasis among the skyscrapers, which are a symbol of trade and profit, is the Neo-Gothic Trinity Church, which has been at the head of Wall Street for 300 years. In 1705, Queen Anne gave him large tracts of land in Manhattan. In 1789, a service was held here in honor of George Washington on the occasion of his inauguration. Today’s building is already the third church on this site, the first one from 1698 burned down during a big fire, the second one from 1787 was demolished. After the demolition of the building, architect Richard Upjohn designed the current form of the church in neo-Gothic style. Trinity Church was finally built in 1846 from dark sandstone, its tower is 85.3 meters high and until the 1860s it was the tallest landmark in the city and an important landmark. At present, however, even with the church tower, it is lost among the Manhattan skyscrapers.
The church is decorated with a bronze door with three sculptures, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, as a memorial to the wealthy parishioner John Jacob Astor. The church houses a museum displaying newspapers, records of burials, maps and other documents and artefacts. Adjacent to the church is also a cemetery, which is the final resting place for many important New Yorkers, such as the influential creator of the emerging New York, Alexander Hamilton, or the inventor of the steamboat, Robert Fulton. There is no entrance fee to enter the church, only voluntary donations are accepted.