New York City Travel
Banks of New York, Info on Banks, and banking, History of New York banks.    


Two other events are worth recording before the curtain is rung down on the final scene. In 1804 John Pintard and his friends organized within its walls the New York Historical Society which today occupies a million dollar building of its own in Central Park West; and the Chamber of Commerce, now our most influential business organization, used it as a meeting place.

The Sub-Treasury is one of the buildings which will provide a most interesting item in the day's record. Startling scenes are frequently witnessed. It is not at all unusual to see a dozen heavily guarded express wagons drive up loaded with many millions in gold from London or Paris.

Untold wealth is always in evidence, either going out or coining in, and the half hour spent looking it over is sure to be a pleasant experience. It is open from 10 A. M. to 3 P. M. In order to see the vaults wherein is stored bullion amounting to many hundred millions, it is desirable to obtain a card of introduction from a New York bank.

Adjoining the Sub-Treasury until recently stood the building well remembered as the old Assay Office. It was originally erected to house the New York Branch of the Bank of the United States. After President Jackson had succeeded in killing "The Bank" and had also ruined half the country in the process, the building was let to private parties. At one time it was occupied by Henry Clews and Company and others. Then it became the Assay Office. The facade of this building, a rare piece of classical design, has fortunately been preserved by a public spirited New Yorker, Mr. I. N. Phelps Stokes, the well known architect. At some future time it may again adorn some appropriate building and recall the story days of "Old Hickory" in finance.

The site of the next building, the fifth west of William Street, has been occupied for a hundred and twenty years by the Manhattan Company, which purchased the plot in 1799. This bank was originally organized as a water company and for years rejoiced in the possession of a statue which gazed complacently at the passers-by from a perch on the roof. It was supposed to represent Oceanus (not Bacchus) reclining in a comfortable position and pouring water out of a jar, probably in-tended to be symbolic of the blessings so generously bestowed by the company upon the thirsty populace.

When the Croton project was being agitated Recorder Riker opposed the enterprise, contending that the water furnished by the Manhattan Company was good enough for anyone and in proof of the assertion adduced the fact that he drank a tumbler of it every morning. The rest of those present, while applauding the reckless courage of Mr. Riker, decided to protect the good man from himself and unanimously voted to build the Croton Aqueduct.

Going along the street to the corner of William Street, we pass four century old banks in a row. No. 46, on the corner of 'William Street, was leased by the Bank of New York about 1798 as the residence of its cashier, whose son, Charles Wilkes, junior, as Commander Wilkes of the U. S. Navy, became famous in the Civil War for Jthe seizure of Mason and Slidell, Confederate Commissioners to Great Britain. The same site, some years previous, was the residence of Major Nathaniel Pendleton of the Continental Army, who was one of General Hamilton's seconds at the fatal duel with Burr.

On the northeast corner of William and Wall, near where once stood a marble statue of William Pitt, now in the Historical Society's custody, is the oldest one of them all, the Bank of New York. The second oldest is the Bank of Manhattan. The third is the Merchants' Bank, and the fourth the Bank of America. The first was organized by Alexander Hamilton and the second by Aaron Burr, and recalls the rivalry between the two men. At '48 Wall Street is a tablet to mark the site of one of the bastions that stood in the wall at this point.

Down Wall Street as far as Pearl Street, the financial and banking houses continue in evidence, one having a tablet to mark the first office devoted to the business of life insurance in this country. This business was introduced by Morris Robinson, a Scotchman from Canada.

A few doors below the insurance company once stood the house in which Captain Kidd resided for some time. Just before Pearl is the Seaman's Bank for Savings. Beyond Pearl Street is the Tontine Building, which recalls the Tontine Coffee House, a famous meeting place of the merchants of Old New York and where the Stock Exchange originated. The first meeting place of the latter was under a now famous buttonwood tree in front of No. 70. A few exporters still occupy the remaining buildings of the street, but these are of no historical importance, beyond the fact that they face what was at one time a slave market, as the extra width of the street at this point will serve to indicate.

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