View Full Version : J. P. Morgan & Company Bank Headquarters - 23 Wall St - by Trowbridge & Livingston

April 23rd, 2003, 06:27 PM
April 20, 2003
A 1914 Landmark That Reflects Its Founder


IT is remote, reserved and silent just like its founder, J. Pierpont Morgan. The 1914 J. P. Morgan & Company bank headquarters, at Wall and Broad Streets, has been empty for several years, and it is not clear who will turn the lights back on, or when.

J. Pierpont Morgan began dealing in financial instruments around 1860, and in 1871 he joined forces with Drexel & Company. They soon built a white marble headquarters with a mansard roof at the southeast corner of Wall and Broad Streets. The firm emerged as J. P. Morgan & Company in the 1890's.

It was around this time that Morgan, magnetic in personality but also subject to fits of depression and self-doubt, became widely known as the top financial figure in the United States. In 1901 he financed the creation of the U.S. Steel Corporation, a $1.5 billion project. He was also important in stabilizing the American markets in the panic of 1907.

However, by the early 1910's he was near the end of his career, taking more and more time off to travel and concentrate on his art collection. It was in these circumstances that Morgan decided to demolish the old building at Wall and Broad and, according to The New York Times in 1912, "fall in line with the big modern improvements all around him."

This included both smaller, town-house-like bank buildings and a new generation of towering office buildings, like the 37-story Bankers Trust tower diagonally across the intersection, finished in 1912.

PUBLISHED sources do not indicate who came up with the idea and chose the architects, Trowbridge & Livingston. But Goodhue Livingston's granddaughter, Katherine Moore of Rye, N.Y., has researched the careers of the two partners for two decades. She says that an unpublished Livingston memoir of 1930 contains a recollection linking the new Morgan bank with the Bankers Trust building across the street, which was also by Trowbridge & Livingston, after winning a competition. "Mr. Morgan Sr., admiring this building, gave us the commission," Livingston's account says.

Morgan never got to see his new bank. The banker's house on 36th Street and Madison Avenue was draped in black in April 1913, just as demolition began on the old bank on Wall and Broad; Morgan had died in Rome on March 31.

Finished in 1914, the new bank was described by the Real Estate Record and Guide as "a rival to the Parthenon."

"The best skill which Athens could command at the height of her glory was given the construction," the trade journal said, adding, "The quarries at Knoxville, Tenn., were torn to pieces to produce the blocks." This was the same pink marble McKim, Mead & White used in Morgan's library of 1906 on 36th Street east of Madison.

The interior a single large space on the main floor is an irregular pentagon, originally constructed with a ceiling 30 feet high, decorated with a central domed skylight 35 feet wide and hexagonal and circular coffers, the architectural term for sunken ceiling panels. Each of the partners' offices had its own fireplace.

The basement vault had four-inch nickel-steel walls, the 50-ton door with "anti-oxyacetylene cutter-burner-proof sections," Architects and Builders Magazine said. Although the finished structure was only four stories high, The Times in 1914 said the foundation walls were seven feet thick to permit an eventual addition. But the new bank, low among a growing forest of towers, had "an atmosphere of serene reticence," according to the journal Architectural Record.

On Sept. 16, 1920, just as the Trinity Church bells tolled the noon hour, a great explosion rocked the corner of Wall and Nassau a wagon filled with explosives and shrapnel went up, killing at least 36 people. The wagon was parked on the Wall Street side of the Morgan bank, and the main floor was instantly in a shambles, the windows blown in, the skylight severely damaged, the grill-work of the banking cages destroyed.

There were more than 400 employees inside at the time, but only two were killed: William A. Joyce, filling in for another employee on the Wall Street side, and John A. Donohue, who worked in the foreign export department, who died later.

The next day, The Times reported that the Morgan offices were "like a hospital," full of executives at work with bandaged heads. The Wall Street facade was pitted in 40 or 50 places by the cut-up sash weights and other metal intended to kill and maim; it is still possible to see the deadly marks visible in the marble. But the partners never repaired the damage. They may have decided to leave it as a badge of honor or perhaps they wanted to avoid the disruption of replacing the three-foot-thick blocks, which were up to 22 feet long. Shelley Diamond, consulting archivist at what is now J. P. Morgan Chase, says that no minutes or other relevant records from that period survive in the archives.

IN 1929, Trowbridge & Livingston designed a new 38-story building next door on Broad Street for the Equitable Trust Company The building is now known as 15 Broad Street. J. P. Morgan & Company bought 15 Broad in 1953, and in 1959 merged with the Guaranty Trust Company, to form the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. The next year the bank joined the two buildings, creating a jet age modern interior in parts of the lower floors of the buildings, although generally sparing the main banking hall of the old Morgan building, in an alteration designed by the architects Rogers & Burgun.

A 1964 book "23 Wall Street: Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York," said that the Morgan building's foundations could take another 30 floors, "something contemplated when the companies merged." Perhaps with this in mind, the new Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the 1914 building a landmark among its earliest actions, in 1966.

Morgan Guaranty merged with Chase Bank in 2000, and soon left its longtime headquarters. In 1998, the New York City Economic Development Commission proposed demolishing all the buildings on the Morgan block, except for the landmark itself, for a new New York Stock Exchange and 900-foot-high office tower; the original Morgan bank building was to become a visitor's center. But the deal fell apart and reports are circulating that Chase is shopping both the Morgan bank and 15 Broad Street to real estate developers, perhaps for a residential conversion.

Over the last five months, Tom Johnson, a spokesman for J. P. Morgan Chase, has declined to comment on the reports or to allow access to the 1914 building, saying only that the bank was "considering its options." Perhaps the bank is concerned that the landmarks agency might also designate the interior of the Morgan building; although closed now, in the past it was open to the public. *

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

April 23rd, 2003, 06:40 PM
I don't see anything spectacular about it.

April 23rd, 2003, 07:33 PM
Perhaps the bank is concerned that the landmarks agency might also designate the interior of the Morgan building; although closed now, in the past it was open to the public.

Hrm, I didn't know the agency could do that on private property without the consent of the owner?

I don't dig that.

April 23rd, 2003, 07:34 PM
Perhaps you don't appreciate refined masonry, but the real drama is inside: *The interior a single large space on the main floor is an irregular pentagon, originally constructed with a ceiling 30 feet high, decorated with a central domed skylight 35 feet wide and hexagonal and circular coffers, the architectural term for sunken ceiling panels. Each of the partners' offices had its own fireplace.

April 23rd, 2003, 10:41 PM
its an important historic landmark in that you can actually still see and touch the marks left in the stone by the bomb explosion, its better that the stone was not replaced

April 24th, 2003, 09:25 AM
Amidst all the towers and congestion of Wall Street, I always viewed this building as the thoroughfare's cornerstone.

April 24th, 2003, 09:39 AM
You're right. It's what makes a cityscape interesting - like Delmonico's restaurant.

April 24th, 2003, 10:29 AM
Location, location, location.

TLOZ Link5
April 24th, 2003, 04:48 PM
What's the street address of this building? *It's quite fascinating, very elegant.

April 25th, 2003, 12:44 PM
I thought it was 29 Wall - anyone know for sure?

April 25th, 2003, 01:04 PM
23 Wall Street, I'm pretty sure.

April 25th, 2003, 03:35 PM
Great building - prominent corner among high rise beauties. *A nice symbol of the old-school, financial dominace of Wall St. and NYC in general.

TLOZ Link5
April 25th, 2003, 06:38 PM
Thanks. *I just wanted to establish that it wasn't 55 Wall, which is now a Regent Hotel if UI'm not mistaken.

Hal A. Pena
March 1st, 2005, 05:58 PM
The building is on the SW corner of Wall and Broad.

March 1st, 2005, 06:30 PM
SE corner :)

March 1st, 2005, 06:35 PM
Can anybody post photos from the building's interior? Sounds like a very imposing space.

March 2nd, 2005, 01:04 AM
Thanks. I just wanted to establish that it wasn't 55 Wall, which is now a Regent Hotel if UI'm not mistaken.

Yes, the Regent is slated to be converted to condos very soon.

March 4th, 2005, 10:00 AM
The other remarkable aspect of the building was that, when others were building taller as signs of strength and growth, JP Morgan came in and built this place that did not go for height. Instead he put a two storey building that, in arguably the best piece of NY commercial real estate at the time, even amidst the giants of wall street (both buildings and forms), still stands as a bastion on that corner. There is great symbolism in that building, whe you consider JP Morgan, the man, and the Company, at that time in history. That building says strong, confident, reliable, conservative, here to stay, with a hand on the pulse of all things financial. It really is more of a JP Morgan Monument.

alex ballard
March 4th, 2005, 04:34 PM
In a semi-related question, does JP Morgan Chase still have major operations in the area?

March 4th, 2005, 06:37 PM
Their HQ's are located here in NYC.

March 4th, 2005, 09:53 PM
In a semi-related question, does JP Morgan Chase still have major operations in the area?

There headquarters are in Midtown Manhattan.

February 21st, 2010, 12:29 AM
The current building replaced the Drexel Building. Morgan wanted to show it was rich enough to build a smaller 4 story building on some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

The Library of Congress (http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/3160168344/sizes/o/)

I've been doing some research on Wall Street and many sites are up to their 4th generation of buildings in under 200 years.

February 27th, 2010, 09:33 PM
Great shot! I love to see the Bowlers, (still officially in the business?) vs. the small fedoras, (associated, casual, and or semi- retired?) part of the Business.

The Guy in the center is a still working wall street broker type talking to a retired, semi-retired WS business type (scrungy portable hat) still speculating on a day to day basis.

Forget about the kids (runners) and or junior clerks in their caps.

The real beauty in all this setting is the lamp post (center), no doubt a model for the modern repos dotting NYC landscape today.

Great photo of NYC history!

February 28th, 2010, 10:38 AM
Note all the "atmospheric perspective" (these days called "air pollution").

February 28th, 2010, 12:46 PM
I also like the use of apostrophes to mark every single contraction/ellision between letters: B'L'D'G

Someone was a stickler for his grammar.

March 4th, 2010, 09:41 PM
I don't remember if the article had been posted here, but there were plans to convert this into an Apple store. Check out that nice touch where the sidewalk meets the street.

straatis (http://www.flickr.com/photos/40045986@N00/3096828333/sizes/o/)

Old Wall Street
cornelluniversitylibrary (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cornelluniversitylibrary/3678915312/sizes/l/)

PhotographyBoy (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jtj3/3935038648/sizes/l/)

A trend I don't like happening all over the city is the clutter security measures are producing. Cones, barricades, bollards, cameras. It's ugly and discomforting.

March 6th, 2010, 03:24 PM
Post 26, middle photo, "Old Wall Street", with horse carts and such in the streets.

On magnification I see like 98 knobs? on utility pole holding 98 wires and look at the roof lines of other buildings. Are the wires electric, telephone or telegraph wires? Anybody have a clue?

March 6th, 2010, 04:34 PM
Mostly telegraph wires and later those for telephone.

Some info HERE (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/onceandfutureweb/database/secb/case2-artifacts/menu-video.html) from the National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health -- watch the vid there for additional images of the mess of wires above Wall Street.


Wall Street in New York City. The financial district was a thicket of telegraph wires running between brokerage houses and trading floors all intended to move information at ever faster speeds. Already known as a mechanical whiz, Edison was commissioned to design new stock tickers that reported the price of gold and silver. He also developed a revolutionary new telegraph that could send four messages on the same wire. Edison wrote to his parents: "I am now what you democrats call a bloated eastern manufacturer." Most of what he manufactured was purchased by the huge telegraph company Western Union.

Western Union put Edison on a retainer basically. They signed contracts with him. They said: "anything you invent in this line we'll buy."

[Second Man]
He was now working for the largest corporation in America. And the only national corporation in the 1870's was Western Union. So he was right at the heart of corporate capital.

More from Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=KDBIAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA324&dq=stock+%22wire+house%22+date:1800-1925&lr=&num=100&as_brr=0&ei=mDkZSamZBpWszASd3tS6Aw#v=onepage&q=stock%20%22wire%20house%22%20date%3A1800-1925&f=false):

The Work of the Stock Exchange
By James Edward Meeker
New York, NY: The Ronald Press Company
1922; Pg. 324:

... with the steady westward thrust of population and wealth into our southern and western states, the demand for stock market facilities has led to a similar extension of the Stock Exchange system into all parts of the nation, through the rise of the “wire house” type of Stock Exchange commission firm. The first sign of this coming development was shown in 1873, when a prominent Wall Street firm established a private telegraph line to its up-town office at 23rd Street—a great convenience at a time before the elevated railroador telephone system, when it took over an hour to communicate between the two offices. The obvious advantages of such (Pg. 325—ed.) speedy means of communication soon bore more extensive results. In 1879 private wires were obtained by various Wall Street firms to their offices in the neighboring centers of Boston and Philadelphia ...

A NY Times article (http://phones.quickfound.net/telephones_first_ten_years_1886.html) from January 1886 on the 10th anniversary of the implementation of telephone service regarding lines in NYC:

Much attention has been given by the telephone companies and much money has been spent in the matter of underground service, and, in this city, although it is not generally known, the Metropolitan Telephone Company already has over 600 miles of its wires underground. They are not in very long lengths, it is true, but they are just in those places where the aggregation of wires was very great. They are working comparatively well, and with such satisfaction to the Metropolitan Telephone Company that it has planned and laid before the Subway Commission a scheme that will do away with more than two-thirds of all its present overhead wire mileage.

In the city of Washington three-fourths of all the telephone company's trunk lines are underground, the wide streets and broad sidewalks of the capital offering special advantages for this sort of work.

It is very different in New York. Below Canal-street the space under Broadway is full already, for in putting in the sewers, water pipes, gas pipes, and steam pipes, &c., but little regard was paid to economy of space or the possible demands of the future, so that the question of putting wires underground in New-York is quite as much a mechanical as an electrical problem...

March 6th, 2010, 09:05 PM
Thanks for the research Lofter1. It fits perfectly with timeline clues in photo. The Cornel University photo lists it as ca. 1865 - ca. 1895.

The 1895 end date seems correct because the Stevens Building (1880-1895) seems intact before being torn down for Gillender Building (1896-1910) torn down for Bankers Trust Tower (1912).

The flag I think has 43 stars. Cannot count them, but by process of elimination by star pattern on end, I would put this photo between 1890 - 1895.

March 6th, 2010, 11:32 PM
Thanks for sharing your deductive analysis of that, it's cool to see what kinds of clues you'd choose to examine.

March 7th, 2010, 10:22 AM
When I see photos like that old one showing horse-drawn carts and carriages all about it makes me wonder about the stench of manure (http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/our-economic-past-the-great-horse-manure-crisis-of-1894/) that must have infused NYC back in the day:

The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894

... all these horses produced huge amounts of manure. A horse will on average produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day. Consequently, the streets of nineteenth-century cities were covered by horse manure. This in turn attracted huge numbers of flies, and the dried and ground-up manure was blown everywhere. In New York in 1900, the population of 100,000 horses produced 2.5 million pounds of horse manure per day, which all had to be swept up and disposed of. (See Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 [New York: Oxford University Press, 1999]).

In 1898 the first international urban-planning conference convened in New York. It was abandoned after three days, instead of the scheduled ten, because none of the delegates could see any solution to the growing crisis posed by urban horses and their output ...

March 9th, 2010, 10:49 AM
^ These days, the solution is "diapers." How come it took centuries to come up with that --like little wheels on suitcases?

March 21st, 2010, 01:24 PM
This would have been a nightmare. The tower would have wiped out the entire block except for the Morgan Building.



It's funny that none of us cared about the preservation of the buildings when the project was announced. I could imagine the outrage on this forum now, which still gripes about the Drake.

What's also ridiculous is that the project was on an interesting shaped block, but SOM still designed a perfectly square tower.

The project would have knocked down the 540' Equitable Trust Building (now residential).
I had no idea the building had a ziggurated top since it's all now enclosed in a hideous mechanical bulkhead.

April 22nd, 2010, 10:46 PM
I've been working at the Skyscraper Museum on some weekends and they just opened up a new exhibit titled "The Rise of Wall Street"



It's pretty amazing to see how parts of the city have been rebuilt over and over again due to high land values.
I did some of the research and all the small models. Admission is only five dollars, but if you want to get in for free, pm me and we'll work something out. http://wirednewyork.com/forum/images/icons/icon6.gif