Kenneth Park Architects | KPA Presents Street Evolution: The Financial District
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18 Mar KPA Presents Street Evolution: The Financial District

Street Evolution: Financial District

The Stock Market. The Federal Reserve Bank. Wall Street.  he Charging Bull. A bustling busy street with people dressed in suits and carrying briefcases.  These are a few of the images that come to mind when you think of Manhattan’s financial district.  The humble beginnings of what is now casually referred to as FiDi, date back as far as the seventeenth century when the Dutch settlers planted their feet upon the rich soil of Island of Manhattan.

While many settlers began immigrating to America to complete missionary work or civilize natives, the Dutch saw a possible business opportunity.  Within three centuries, New York grew to be the financial capitol of the world.  The resulting revenue of this conglomerate is what keeps the city thriving with the development of real estate, banks and luxury goods.

The Original Inhabitants: The Lenape

Before it was casually nicknamed FiDi, the financial district was crowned New Amsterdam by Dutch settlers.  However, before the Dutch, the Lenape Tribe; composed of Native Americans, inhabited Manhattan long before settlers made their way to the underdeveloped city.  Occupying what is now considered Pearl Street, State Street and Bowling Green, The Native American inhabitants played a large role in the history of “Manhatta’s” most notable areas and landmarks.

  1. Manahatta is the Lenape term for “hilly island”.
  2. State Street- was originally known as “Kapsee”, meaning sharp rock place.  When the Dutch arrived, they used the Lenape place-name, calling the site Copsey Street.  It became known as State Street in 1793 when a statehouse was built in the area.”
  3. Pearl Street – At some point in time, NYC was home to “half of the world’s oysters”.  The abundance of shells were used to pave the street and thus inspired the Dutch to name the location “Pearl Street”.
  4. Cherry Street- Could you believe a cherry orchard existed at some point in lower Manhattan?  After the occupation of the Dutch, the term Cherry Street was coined and actually became of the first presidential residences of George Washington.
  5. Bowling Green-  The home to sacred meetings that took place under a sacred Elm tree referred to at the Council Elm.

Source: https://www.6sqft.com/mapping-manahatta-10-lenape-sites-in-new-york-city/

The Dutch and the History of New Amsterdam

While wandering through lower Manhattan, you will find yourself walking through land that was bought by Dutch settlers and renamed.  “Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the Lenape inhabitants in 1626.  New York’s founding document is a real estate deal. Each side traded away something of modest value.  Minuit handed over a collection of hardware and other European goods. From the moment of that transaction, this spot has always been about business.”

Source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/culture-design/books/magnetic-city

5 fun facts about the financial district

  1. How Did Wall Street get its name? From the development of a physical wall. Peter Stuyvesant ordered the construction of the wall in 1653.  By that time, the Dutch had been occupying Manhattan for close to 30 years . It ran from Pearl Street to the Hudson River shore and its purpose was to keep English colonists on the outlying areas of New York from attacking.
  2. Broad Street was originally a canal resulting in a delay in other forms of transportation.  It was eventually paved over at some point and renamed, “Broad Street.”
  3. New York’s first bank—The Bank of New York was founded in 1784 on Wall Street.
  4. With the building of the Erie Canal, NY became the main port for America.  The presence of the Stock Exchange, Bank of New York and Bank of The United States, solidified the development of Wall Street as the financial epicenter.
  5. The Charging bull is a street sculpture created by Arturo Di Modica and represents the courage and can-do spirit of Americans and New Yorkers in particular.  In a melting pot of backgrounds and experiences, Arturo Di Modica installed the bull as an antidote to the causes of the 1987 Wall Street crash: privilege, greed, and excess.”

Source: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/9/26/17900962/wall-street-new-york-city-history

Sourc: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/charging-bull.asp

Financial District Today:

The financial district is now a place where people, live work and play. The number of pedestrians has increased drastically over the years, resulting in the Downtown alliance to call for pedestrianized space and create a more formalized walking environment.

Besides being the home to pertinent financial institutions, the Financial District heeds enormous amount of culture and history with the presence of the National Museum of the American Indians, The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Museum of American Finance.  Zuccotti Park, Bowling Green, The Oculus and 1 World Trade Center are tourist favorites and notable places that represent the resilience and spirit of New York City.  The financial District has evolved from more than just a place known for its prominent place in the US economy. It has grown into a community and shared space that symbolizes prosperity, liveliness and comradery among the people who live and work there day in and day out. 

Join us every week for Street Evolution. We profile a New York City area/street and explore the amazing history it has to offer!

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