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23 Wall Street
U.S. Historic district
Contributing property
23 Wall Street New York.jpg
23 Wall Street in 2007
Location 23 Wall Street
Manhattan, New York City
Built 1913
Architect Trowbridge & Livingston
Architectural style Neoclassical
Part of Wall Street Historic District (ID07000063)
NRHP reference No. 72000874
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 19, 1972

23 Wall Street (also known as the J.P. Morgan & Co. Building) is an office building in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City, at the southeast corner of Wall Street and Broad Street. The four-story building was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston in the classical style. Constructed between 1913 and 1914, it was originally the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co., later the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company.

23 Wall Street contains an astylar exterior, with plain limestone walls pierced by unadorned windows in deep reveals. The ground story is rendered as a single high piano nobile over a low basement; above it is a second story, a main cornice, and two additional stories. After its completion, the building became known as the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co.—the "House of Morgan"—although its exterior was never marked with the Morgan name. The banking room, which took up nearly the entire ground floor, contained a coffered ceiling with a dome and, later, a large crystal chandelier. There were mechanical equipment and vaults in the basement, as well as executive offices and employee facilities on the upper floors.

23 Wall Street replaced the Drexel Building, which was the banking headquarters for J.P. Morgan & Co. predecessor Drexel, Morgan & Co. It was damaged during the Wall Street bombing in 1920, although J.P. Morgan & Co. did not remove the shrapnel marks in defiance to the perpetrators of the bombing. In 1957, the building was linked to neighboring 15 Broad Street, and the two buildings served as the J.P. Morgan & Co. headquarters until 1988. During the 2000s, both 23 Wall Street and 15 Broad Street were planned to be converted into a condominium complex. 23 Wall Street was sold in 2008 to interests associated with the billionaire industrialist Sam Pa. Since then, the building has been in a state of disuse.

23 Wall Street's simple design was largely praised upon its completion and has been depicted in numerous media works. The building was designated a city landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1972. It is a contributing property to the Wall Street Historic District, a NRHP district created in 2007.

Site

23 Wall Street is in the Financial District of Manhattan, at the southeast corner of Broad Street to the west and Wall Street to the north. The building's land lot has a frontage of about 113 feet (34 m) along Broad Street and 157 feet (48 m) along Wall Street. It abuts 15 Broad Street to the south and west. Other nearby buildings include the New York Stock Exchange Building to the west; 14 Wall Street to the northwest; Federal Hall National Memorial (formerly the sub-Treasury building) at 26 Wall Street to the north; and 40 Wall Street to the northeast. The Broad Street station of the New York City Subway, serving the J and ​Z train, contains entrances directly outside 23 Wall Street.

23 Wall Street's site was previously occupied by the Second Empire style Drexel Building, the banking headquarters for Drexel, Morgan & Co., predecessor of J.P. Morgan & Co. That building, completed in 1873, contained a mansard roof and marble walls. Its seven stories had been connected by a steam elevator, one of the city's earliest such installations. The Real Estate Record and Guide characterized the Drexel Building as "the second fireproof building of importance" to be built in New York City, after the Equitable Life Building.

Wall Street panorama vc
Panoramic view of the site with the George Washington statue outside Federal Hall at far left, 23 Wall Street at center left, and the New York Stock Exchange Building at right

Design

23 Wall Street was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston in the classical style. Marc Eidlitz was the building's main construction contractor, though numerous other engineers and contractors were involved in the building's construction. 23 Wall Street served as the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co., the "House of Morgan", and was nicknamed "The Corner". Many aspects of the building's design were dictated by J. P. Morgan, the leader of the bank when the building was being planned. Unlike skyscrapers in the surrounding area, 23 Wall Street was built with only four above-ground stories. The building originally contained up to five intermediate mezzanine levels, leading Architecture and Building magazine to characterize it as a nine-story building.

The building is shaped like an irregular heptagon, with a chamfered corner at its main entrance at Wall and Broad Streets, as well as a "light court" on the eastern side of the building at the third and fourth stories. The southeast corner contains an extension that protrudes slightly from the southern lot line. The main entrance corner, facing the intersection of Wall, Broad, and Nassau Streets, was intended to make the intersection appear like a public square outside Federal Hall. When the building had been designed, Morgan had stipulated that the architects include an entrance at that corner. The acute angle of the intersection led Trowbridge & Livingston to design that entrance as a chamfer, which was more architecturally appealing. The facade rises about 85 feet (26 m) above street level. Because of the irregular shape, the building only takes up 92 feet (28 m) on Broad Street and 135 feet (41 m) on Wall Street, or about 20 feet less than the lot frontage on either side.

Facade

Broad Street P
Wider view of 23 Wall Street, with 15 Broad Street behind it

The facade is made of ashlar masonry and pink Tennessee marble, in accordance with Morgan's request that the marble be identical to that used in his 36th Street residence's library. Each of the marble blocks was laid horizontally, with a cross section of 3 by 3 feet (0.91 by 0.91 m) and a length of 7 to 22 feet (2.1 to 6.7 m). To furnish the marble for the project, the Morgans had their own quarry in Knoxville, Tennessee. The walls are astylar in design, with unadorned windows in deep reveals. The facade contains several divots caused by flying shrapnel from the Wall Street bombing, which occurred outside the building in 1920.

The first floor is rendered as a high piano nobile over a low basement. Above that are a shorter second story and the windowless third story; the fourth story is set back and not visible from street level. The main cornice, between the second and third stories, is inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture and wraps around the north, northwest, and west sides. A penthouse containing air-conditioning machinery is atop the original roof.

The main entrance is through the chamfered corner at Wall and Broad Streets; the corner measures 34 feet (10 m) wide. A short flight of five steps leads from the sidewalk to the large rectangular entrance opening, which is slightly recessed from the facade. The entrance opening contains a bronze-and-glass set of doors underneath a transom made of bronze and glass. On either side of the entrance opening, the walls of the chamfered corner are designed to resemble pilasters. Morgan had stipulated that there not be any company-name signs on either of the pilasters, as he planned to decorate them with sculpture, but he died before the plans were finalized. Ultimately, no name plaque was ever placed atop the main entrance, as the building became well known worldwide. The lintel above the doorway is a single continuous stone measuring 19 by 3.16 by 4 feet (6 by 1 by 1 m) and was, at the time of the building's construction, one of the largest stones ever brought to New York City. Above the main entrance, at the second story, there is a single set of three windows. The corner entrance was sometimes known simply as "The Corner".

The remainders of the Wall and Broad Street facades are similar, except that the Broad Street facade has four vertical bays, while the Wall Street facade has five. In each bay, there is a tall rectangular window opening at ground level, as well as a pair of smaller openings at the mezzanine. Each of the ground-story windows measures 22 feet (6.7 m) tall and 12 feet (3.7 m) wide. There were also window openings at basement level, subsequently infilled with marble. Another entrance on Broad Street led to the transfer department in the building's basement.

Features

Substructure and basement

The foundations of the outer walls were made of cofferdams that extended 65 feet (20 m) into the underlying bedrock. The concrete used in the cofferdams was laid 7 feet (2.1 m) thick. The perimeter of the site was excavated with pneumatic caissons averaging about 7 by 28 feet (2.1 by 8.5 m), after which the center of the lot was excavated to a depth of 55 feet (17 m). The foundations were built to be strong enough to support a tower of at least 30 stories.

The basement was accessed through an elevator and stair in the rear of the ground story, as well as through the secondary entrance on Broad Street. It contained a three-story vault that, at the time of the building's completion, was described by Architecture magazine as "one of the largest in existence". The interior of the vault measured either 18 by 22 feet (5.5 by 6.7 m) or 23 by 27 feet (7.0 by 8.2 m). A stair and elevator connected the three levels in the vault. The vault walls were 2.5 feet (0.76 m) thick and were made of steel layers reinforced with concrete. The 50-short-ton (45-long-ton; 45 t) circular vault door, made of a steel composite, could be swung open with one hand. The remaining space in the basement was used to house the building's mechanical systems, such as heating and ventilating systems, as well as vaults and storerooms.

Ground story

The entire ground story was designed as a massive symmetrical double-height space with single-height partitions. The small, irregular lot size meant that Trowbridge & Livingston could not waste any space in the design. Just inside the main entrance was an anteroom with a staircase on the left and an elevator on the right, which led to the upper-story executive offices. The main ground-story space covered 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) and had a 30-foot-high (9.1 m) coffered ceiling with a pattern of gilded hexagons and circles. At the center of the room was a shallow domed skylight, measuring 35 feet (11 m) in diameter. During a renovation in the early 1960s, the glass dome was replaced with plaster, and a massive crystal chandelier was installed under the center of the dome. The 1,900-piece Louis Quinze chandelier was removed and placed in 15 Broad Street during a 2000s renovation of that building.

In the center of the room was a main lobby shaped like an irregular hexagon. It contained bank officers' enclosures and a public hall. It had mosaic floor tile and was surrounded by a screen of pink Knoxville marble with bronze-and-glass grilles, as well as columns of Skyros marble. Upon this screen were Italian Renaissance-style carvings sculpted by Charles Keck. On one side of the screen were depictions of the sea, the earth, and the air, inspired by Greek mythology. On the other side was a depiction of Hiawatha, a mythological character depicting agriculture and arts. Zodiac symbols were placed at the center of the floor, as the signs of the zodiac were an emblem of J. P. Morgan's club. The screen was replaced with shorter marble railings in the early-1960s renovation.

The ground floor's outer walls had a wainscoting 11 feet (3.4 m) high. Above the wainscoting were large mosaic panels with marble frames. Along the hexagonal lobby's western and southern walls, to the right of the main entrance, there were conference rooms and partners' offices. The lobby's northern wall, to the left of the entrance, had two waiting rooms and the foreign exchange department. On the eastern wall of the hexagonal lobby, doors led to a rectangular banking space flanked by various offices. Two elevators and a set of stairs were in the southeast corner of the space. The elevators and stairs, as well as a correspondence office at the rear, were not part of the ground-level main space. A painting of J. P. Morgan was hung on the south wall above a marble fireplace. An arch on the rear wall opened into 15 Broad Street.

Upper stories

The superstructure is made of a steel frame, but the beams are hidden within the walls because Morgan had requested that they not be visible. Consequently, the upper floors are hung from a series of steel trusses measuring 14 feet (4.3 m) deep and 100 feet (30 m) long; they are supported by steel columns within the walls. The second floor contained the private offices of the partners and their secretaries. J. P. Morgan's office was directly above the main entrance to the building. The second-floor offices were designed based on the preferences of each partner. Each room had fireplaces and generally contained English oak decorations. A central, oak-lined corridor connected the rooms.

The third floor contained private dining rooms, a kitchen, and bedrooms for executives. The fourth floor contained janitors' quarters, other minor divisions, and a roof garden facing the New York Stock Exchange. The roof garden measured about 24 by 42 feet (7.3 by 12.8 m) and could be covered by an awning, doubling as additional conference space during the winter. The fourth floor also contained a small barber shop. When 15 Broad Street was converted to condominiums in the 2000s, the roof of 23 Wall Street became a 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) garden with children's pool and dining area, accessible to the residents of the development.

History

Drexel, Morgan & Co., headed by Anthony J. Drexel and J. P. Morgan, was renamed J.P. Morgan and Company after Drexel's death in 1895. During the late 19th century, the bank became one of the most influential institutions in the United States, and Morgan, one of the country's most powerful financiers. By the first decade of the 20th century, the Drexel Building at Wall and Broad Streets had become too small for the bank's needs, and Morgan wanted a larger structure, akin to the National City Bank of New York's headquarters at 55 Wall Street one block away. Additionally, J.P. Morgan & Co. was leasing the Drexel Building from Anthony Drexel's estate instead of outright owning it. The building site was considered the most valuable lot in the United States by the early 1910s. At the time, there had been an unsuccessful proposal to replace the Drexel Building and the adjacent Mills Building.

Construction

23 Wall Street (1914)
Seen in 1914

In February 1912, numerous publications reported that J.P. Morgan & Co. had bought the Drexel Building from the Drexel estate. Morgan founded a company to purchase the structure, although it was still unclear at the time whether the Drexel Building would be replaced. That September, the company finalized its purchase of the neighboring Mechanics and Metals National Bank building between 29 and 33 Wall Street. By that time, J.P. Morgan & Co. had decided to demolish and replace the structure. The Mechanics Bank lot, covering 6,000 square feet (560 m2), was valued at $1.62 million, while the 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) Drexel Building lot was valued at $2.7 million. The replacement building would be among the numerous ongoing redevelopment projects in the neighborhood. By early 1913, Trowbridge & Livingston were chosen as architects for the new structure. Although the means of their selection was not mentioned in published literature, an unpublished memoir by one of the firm's principals, Goodhue Livingston, indicated that they had won an architectural design competition.

Trowbridge & Livingston submitted their plans for the structure to the New York City Department of Buildings in February 1913. Morgan died the next month, shortly before work began on the new headquarters. All occupants of the two buildings were ordered to vacate by May 1, 1913. The demolition of the Drexel and National Bank buildings began on that date. Two heroic statues from the Drexel Building were taken for storage to the Morgan Library, while six columns were taken by a family member. The site was completely cleared by late July 1913 and foundation installation began. The foundation work required underpinning the Mills Building with nineteen pneumatic cylinders, excavating the site's perimeter using caissons, and excavating the interior of the lot. By that November, the foundation was completed and the superstructure had reached the first floor. A ceremonial cornerstone was laid in December 1913 by J. P. (Jack) Morgan Jr., who had succeeded his father as head of J.P. Morgan & Co. The facade of 23 Wall Street was substantially completed in June 1914, when protective scaffolding surrounding the building site was removed.

23 Wall Street officially opened on November 11, 1914, although the bank's departments had gradually moved to the building from temporary headquarters during that month. The total cost of construction was estimated at over $5 million, of which $4 million had been allocated to land acquisition. 23 Wall Street had no name plaque on its facade, in contrast to the Drexel Building, where the company's name had been engraved above the doorway. Despite the lack of exterior name identification (the company's name was only visible inside the vestibule of the main entrance), the building quickly became associated with J.P. Morgan & Co.

Early 20th century

Wall Street bombing 1920 damage2
Exterior damage from the Wall Street bombing in 1920

After Jack Morgan funded the Allies of World War I, he received numerous death threats. To protect him, detectives were stationed outside and around 23 Wall Street for several months. According to the building's co-designer Livingston, a wire net across the roof would deflect any missile or bomb dropped onto the building, and the thick walls would prevent against damage from explosions. On September 16, 1920, the Wall Street bombing occurred outside the building, killing thirty-eight people and injuring hundreds more. The vast majority of the deaths and injuries were outside the building, but one Morgan employee died. The bomb damaged many of the interior spaces of the Morgan building after shrapnel had entered through its large windows; the estimated damage at the building alone was assessed at $500,000 to $600,000. The exterior only received superficial pockmarks from shrapnel. J.P. Morgan & Company said that, in defiance to those who committed the crime, it would not repair the exterior damage. The pockmarks were described in The New York Times more than four decades later as "a badge of honor".

During the late 1920s, Trowbridge & Livingston designed 15 Broad Street, an "L" shaped skyscraper that wrapped around 23 Wall Street to the south and east. The skyscraper contained a truss above the Morgan building. To allow the inclusion of this truss, J.P. Morgan & Co. leased the air rights above 23 Wall Street to the Equitable Trust Company, for which 15 Broad Street was being constructed. Heavy timbers were placed on 23 Wall Street's roof to protect it while the skyscraper was being built. By then, 23 Wall Street did not have sufficient space for J.P. Morgan & Co.'s needs, so the bank leased some space in 15 Broad Street from 1929. Trowbridge & Livingston prepared plans in 1930 for an addition to the Morgan building. The plans called for four rooms to be built above a small court on the southeast corner of the building at a cost of $74,000. As built, 23 Wall Street's top two floors had wrapped around that court and did not occupy the whole lot area.

Mid- and late 20th century

Even after expanding into 15 Broad Street and adding rooms at 23 Wall Street, J.P. Morgan & Co. still did not have space to fit all of its facilities at its Wall and Broad Street location. Additional space was rented elsewhere, such as the employees' cafeteria, which was placed several blocks away at 120 Wall Street. In late 1955, J.P. Morgan & Co. arranged to purchase 15 Broad Street from the Chase Manhattan Bank. The formerly separate buildings were linked at their common floors in mid-1957.

J.P. Morgan & Co. became the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company in 1959 following a merger with the Guaranty Trust Company. As part of the consolidation of the two companies, the bank sought to have its headquarters in one building. Morgan Guaranty considered constructing additional stories atop 23 Wall Street as well as replacing both structures with one headquarters. A major renovation commenced in the two buildings in 1962, in preparation for their conversion into a headquarters for Morgan Guaranty, and the interior spaces of 23 Wall Street were reconfigured. The Guaranty Trust Company's old headquarters at 140 Broadway was being demolished to make way for the Marine Midland Bank Building, and some artifacts from the old headquarters were transported to 23 Wall Street. Morgan Guaranty officially moved to 23 Wall Street and 15 Broad Street in February 1964. While some of the 4,200 employees had started moving into both buildings several months earlier, the address change had not been finalized until that date.

Morgan Guaranty announced that it would purchase and fully occupy a proposed tower at 60 Wall Street, a larger and more modern building two blocks to the east, in 1985. Three years later, the company's operations were moved from 23 to 60 Wall Street. 23 Wall Street was extensively renovated in the 1990s as a training and conference facility for J.P. Morgan & Co. By the late 1990s, the New York Stock Exchange proposed to build a trading floor across from their existing building, in or next to 23 Wall Street. The plan would have demolished several adjacent buildings for a new facility while retaining 23 Wall Street as a visitor center. After the September 11 attacks in 2001 resulted in the collapse of the World Trade Center nearby, the NYSE maintained its intention to build a trading floor in the structure. However, the NYSE ultimately decided against the proposal.

21st century

15 Broad Street August 2017 03
Main entrance to 23 Wall Street seen in 2017

23 Wall Street and the adjacent 15 Broad Street were sold in 2003 for $100 million to Africa Israel and Boymelgreen. The two buildings were slated to become a condominium development, Downtown by Philippe Starck, named for its designer Philippe Starck. Starck made the roof of 23 Wall Street into a garden and pool, accessible to the residents at 15 Broad Street. 23 Wall Street's interior was to be used as retail space. Later that year, nonprofit group Wall Street Rising convinced the owners of 23 Wall and 15 Broad to light the buildings during the night. Africa Israel gained full control of the two buildings in 2007. Subsequently, they used 23 Wall for film shoots as well as broker events. By 2008, although the condominiums had been sold for $380 million, but the apartments were unfurnished and the amenities had not been installed.

23 Wall Street was sold to a partnership of the China International Fund and Sonangol Group in 2008. The building remained unoccupied for several years, even though the building's brokers were marketing the interior as space for a luxury retailer. In 2015, a Latitude 360 entertainment center was proposed for the space, though neighborhood residents strongly opposed the plan. Sam Pa, believed to be a key leader of the China Investment Fund and the Sonangol Group, was arrested the same year. In early 2016, as part of a settlement over the 15 Broad Street apartments, Africa Israel was ordered to complete the renovation of 23 Wall Street. Shortly afterward, artist Simon Birch planned to run a temporary art exhibition in the unused space, but the show was postponed and ultimately canceled because of a lack of funding.

Jack Terzi of JTRE Holdings went into contract to purchase 23 Wall Street in August 2016 for $140 million. That December, Terzi started negotiating with clothing retailer Uniqlo, which wanted to lease 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) in the building, though the lease negotiations stalled several months later. After several months, the building's sale had still not been finalized, leading Terzi to sue Sonangol in late 2017. Terzi had refused to place a down payment for the building because Sonangol would not guarantee that Pa would not receive any of the money. In 2018, Sonangol's request to dismiss the lawsuit was denied, and fitness chain Blink Fitness signed a lease for 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) in the basement. As part of a court settlement in January 2020, Terzi chose to lease the building for 99 years from Sonangol, rather than buy it.

Impact

Wall Street by Paul Strand, 1915
23 Wall Street in Wall Street (1915) by Paul Strand

Landmark designations

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building's exterior a landmark on December 21, 1965. It was one of the first landmarks to be designated by the LPC in Manhattan. Subsequently, 23 Wall Street was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. In 2007, the building was designated as a contributing property to the Wall Street Historic District, a NRHP district.

Media depictions

23 Wall Street has been depicted in numerous works of media. Shortly after its completion, the building was pictured in the photograph Wall Street (1915) by Paul Strand. The photograph, taken from Federal Hall, was described by the Whitney Museum of American Art as being notable for "abstract formal patterns and structures". Additionally, the building has been used for film shoots, such as for the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, where it depicted the fictional Gotham City Stock Exchange. Part of the 2014 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was also filmed at 23 Wall Street.

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