BROOKLYN HEIGHTS. BROADWAY AND WALL STREET.
The East River and South Street are just in front of us and across the river can be seen Brooklyn Heights, at 'me time a very fashionable residential section, but now large abandoned by its old families and given over to hotels and boarding houses.
Crossing to the South side of Wall Street and retracing our steps to Broadway, we come upon the offices of the American Sugar Refining Company. Office buildings of the great coffee and sugar interests now succeed each other up to the corner of Pearl Street, where a tablet erected by the Lower Wa11 Street Patriotic Association marks the location of another famous pre-Revolutionary building—the old Merchants' Coffee House.
Many famous conferences were held here by the patriots before the breaking out of actual hostilities, and plans perfected which had important results. Hamilton organized the Bank of New York here. Murray's Wharf came up to the Coffee House in olden days and it was here that Washington landed when he came from Mt. Vernon to he inaugurated. The tablet gives a full history of the Coffee House, which was a remarkably important building historically. A painting of it has fortunately been preserved and may be seen at the New York Historical Society.
Important financial institutions, including the old Baltimore firm of Brown Tros. & Co., succeed each other, till we come to one of the most prominent banks in the country, the National City Bank, occupying what is probably the largest and costliest premises in the country devoted to financial business. The building was formerly the United States Custom House, and was erected on the site of the original Merchants' Exchange, destroyed in the Great Fire of 1835.
The building is impressive by its massive proportions and dominates the section on which it stands. Adjoining the City Bank is the old Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company, one of our pioneer marine insurance companies; the United States Trust Company, the Equitable Trust; O. G. Orr, insurance, and other well known institutions. Part of the site of the next building is associated with one of the greatest of all New Yorkers, General Alexander Hamilton. He owned an L-shaped piece of land extending from No. 35 Wall Street around into Broad Street. There is some dispute as to which street his residence fronted, but the General's grandson and biographer, Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton, says Wall Street. About 1792 he sold the property, or at least the Wall Street part of it, to Gulian Verplank, who resided there till his death in 1799. At that time he was president of the Bank of New York.
Next comes perhaps the most widely known bank in the world—that of J. P. Morgan & Co., housed in a low, impressive, classic looking structure on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, the last 30 feet of which is on the Hamilton site just mentioned.
This corner later became police headquarters, with Mr. Jacob Hays as High Constable, the title corresponding with that of Police Commissioner today.
From the prominence of his position and the remark-able vigor and judgment with which he discharged the duties of his office, High Constable Hays became the best known citizen in New York. He is often portrayed as a comic figure, but such characterization is unjust, for not only did he enjoy universal respect, from the law-abiding and from the criminal as well, but he also possessed (and deserved) an international reputation as the ablest police officer in America and the equal of any in Europe. Appointed by Mayor Livingston in 1802, he was reappointed by each succeeding Mayor until his death in 1850, at the advanced age of seventy-eight.
The first building on the Kidder Peabody corner opposite was a Dutch house with a gable toward the street, from the stoop of which in 1795 Alexander Hamilton made a speech advocating the Jay treaty with England. He evidently spoke with less persuasiveness than usual, for the applause he received was a shower of stones.
It is not generally known that Washington Irving was a lawyer, but a full-fledged attorney he was, having received his training in the office of Josiah Ogden Hoffman. He and his brother, John T. Irving, had an office in the building on the east corner of New Street, and it was here that Irving received a generous offer from Mr. George P. Putnam to become his publisher.
In his delight at this good turn in his fortunes, Irving kicked over the desk in front of him and cried: "There is no necessity, John, of my bothering any further with the law. Here is a fool publisher willing to give me a thousand dollars a year for doing nothing." The connection thus formed continued till Irving's death in 1859 and proved much more remunerative than the sum quoted. To this day the Putnams have been the logical publishers for everything connected with Irving.
At the same address is found another brother, Dr. Peter Irving, M. D. This was in 1807, '09 and '10. A few years later on one of the New Street corners, probably the same building, was the bookstore of Charles Wiley and Company, a favorite resort of Halleck, Bryant, Paulding, Irving, Drake and other literary men of the time.
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