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1 William Street
One William Street (WTM by official-ly cool 011).jpg
Former names J. & W. Seligman & Company Building
General information
Architectural style neo-classicism
Location New York, New York, United States
Coordinates 40°42′17″N 74°00′36″W / 40.7048°N 74.0100°W / 40.7048; -74.0100
Construction started 1906
Completed 1907
Height 157′
Technical details
Floor count 11
Design and construction
Architect Francis Kimball
Julian C. Levi
Main contractor George A. Fuller Company
New York City Landmark
Designated: February 13, 1996
Reference #: 1943

1 William Street is an office building in the southern portion of the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. The building has had a number of names, originally the J. & W. Seligman & Company Building, and later the Lehman Brothers Building. Currently it is also known as the Banca Commerciale Italiana Building.

The building, erected in 1906–1907, was designed by Francis H. Kimball in conjunction with Julian C. Levi. It was created for the Seligmans, a prominent German Jewish family who founded an investment bank called J. & W. Seligman. The building was later the headquarters of investment bank Lehman Brothers from 1929 to 1980, and was subsequently bought by Banca Commerciale Italiana.

The 11-story structure, clad in limestone with a steel frame, is located at the southern corner of the five-pointed intersection of William, South William, and Beaver Streets. It occupies a quadrilateral lot, with an acute angle between South William Street to the west and William Street to the east. In 1996, the building was designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. In 2007, the building was designated as a contributing property to the Wall Street Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places district.


Context and construction

J. & W. Seligman & Co. was founded by the Bavarian-born brothers Joseph and James Seligman, in conjunction with several other brothers. Their first location opened in 1846 at 5 William Street. With profits from the creation of other branches worldwide, the company received contracts to create Union Army soldiers' uniforms during the American Civil War. After the war ended, the company became involved in investment banking, with headquarters at 59 Exchange Place. The company also developed branches around the world, each headed by one of the brothers, though these branches later became independent.

In March 1905, The New York Times reported that Isaac Seligman bought the lots on the south side of William Street from Stone to South William Streets. The five lots purchased by Isaac included the Seligmans' old store, and were two blocks away from Wall Street, where many of New York City's major financial companies and commodities exchanges were located. The next year, architectural plans for the building were filed with the New York City Department of Buildings. The New York Herald said, "It is to be of the Italian Renaissance type with facades of granite [sic] at the first story and limestone above, with decorative tower." Construction started in May 1906, with work on the foundation beginning the next month. The building was completed by July 1907 at a cost of $1 million, at which point J. & W. Seligman & Co. moved into the space. Originally, the front entrance was on South William Street.


In 1919, a consortium bought 1 William Street, and the Seligmans moved nearby, to 54 Wall Street. The same year, a renovation had split the two-story-high banking room into two regular-sized floors.

The investment bank Lehman Brothers bought 1 William Street in 1928. At the time, they were located diagonally across the intersection of Beaver, William, and South William Streets. The firm had to move to make way for construction of 20 Exchange Place, and chose 1 William Street because it would provide more space. Lehman Brothers performed a $500,000 renovation of the structure, which included the relocation of the front entrance from South William Street to the corner with William and Beaver Street, as well as the replacement of the South William Street entrance with windows. Lehman Brothers moved into their offices at 1 William Street in June 1929. Lehman Brothers originally took half the floor area in 1 William Street, but then occupied additional space vacated by tenants with expiring leases, as well as space in two adjacent buildings.

By the 1970s, Lehman Brothers was seeing financial losses, and under chairman Peter G. Petersen, the company merged with Kuhn, Loeb & Co. in 1977. The combined company moved out of the building at the end of 1980, putting the structure on sale for $10 million and consolidating its operations at another facility on 55 Water Street. The following year, the building was purchased by Banca Commerciale Italiana, which erected an 11-story addition to the south between 1982 and 1986. The annex, which contains a similar design to the original structure, received an architectural award in 1988. The building is now owned by Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy's largest bank.


The building is designed in the Renaissance Revival style, with elements similar to the Baroque Revival style in Britain, such as a curving exterior, sculptural ornament, and towers at the corners.


The side facades consist of a water table made of granite. The windows on the ground floor contain elaborate entablatures on their frames, while those on the second floor are rectangular with ornate metal railings. On the third through eighth stories, the windows are rectangular and contain voussoirs, wedge-shaped elements, on the lintels at the top of the frames. A colonnade runs along the facade of the ninth and tenth floors, and the eleventh floor contains square windows. There are water towers on the roof and a chimney on the South William Street side.

To smooth out the acute angle created by the intersection of William and South William Streets, where the building's main entrance is located, the designers included a curved facade at the lower floors, as well as a concave building corner element above the eighth floor. This element is capped by a corner tower, which is round and resembles a "tempietto". The doorway contains double doors made of glass and metal, as well as iron gates, a short flight of granite steps, a flagpole around the doors, a metal plaque, and decorative iron grilles on the transom and second story. The third through eighth floors on this section are rounded, and above the eighth-floor window is a sculpted cartouche.

The South William Street side contained the original front doorway for the building, which comprised a door underneath an arch with glass screen. The magazine New York Architect characterized the building as being "the most complete private banking institution in the city", with a form and sculptural elements that provide a maximum "breadth and solidity in the treatment of the exterior."

Studio Architetti Valle, along with Fred Liebmann and Jeremy P. Lang Architects, designed an 11-story annex in 1982. The annex, located south of the original building contains black granite and limestone cladding, as well as a turret at the southern corner, which complements the other turret at the entrance of the original building. The annex features double doors facing South William Street, as well as a service entrance at Stone Street.


Upon the building's completion, the basement, ground floor, and mezzanine housed the banking offices, and there was a "richly decorated" board room on the mezzanine, as per the company's requirements. The two-story banking room included a barrel-vaulted ceiling and was split into two floors by 1919.

When Lehman Brothers occupied 1 William Street, it maintained a fancy private dining facility for its employees in the building. In 1979 The New York Times deemed 1 William Street's lunchroom as the best corporate lunchroom in the Wall Street area, saying, "Perhaps nowhere on Wall Street is the food as good and Old World dining carried on with the same care and flair." At the time, chief Pierre Colin prepared 75 meals a day for lunch. Colin said that the dinners were "much more elegant than eating at a midtown restaurant". During dinners, hors d'oeuvres were served on the third floor before guests moved to the eighth-floor Partners' Dining Room, which contained a table made of mahogany wood and silver inlays; Hepplewhite-brand chairs; linen napkins; crystal and china cutlery; oil paintings on the walls; and windows with slight views of the nearby East River. After BCI took over the building, the original decor was kept, but the dining facilities served "only Italian food and wine".

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