New York City Below Forty-Second Street – Part 2

Wall Street runs from Broadway to the East River; and at its head on the west side of Broadway is Trinity Church, the parent of the Episcopal Church in America. At the foot of Wall Street there is a skyport where the millionaires may land from their private planes.

The first Church of England services in New York were held in a little chapel near the Battery. In 1697 a grant of land was made to Trinity Church `in or near a street without the north gate of the city, commonly called Broadway,’ and eight years later a further grant west of Broadway was made. Holding tenaciously to this land, now fabulously valuable, has made Trinity one of the wealthiest parishes in the world — I should think the wealthiest by far; its vast income is used for many chapels and a great variety of mission work and social service. But Trinity has been bitterly assailed as a conscienceless land-lord and is practically `the villain’ of the play called `One Third of a Nation,’ which tens of thousands have seen on the stage and millions are soon to see in the movies.

The present edifice is the third on that site, and is an attempt at Gothic, built between 1830 and 1840. As a place of worship it is much used on week-days and little used on Sundays. The churchyard is a popular breathing-place at noon for multitudes of office workers, and not a few attend the noonday services.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, Trinity refused to omit the customary prayers for King George, and was closed — until Howe and Clinton took possession of New York. Then, almost immediately, occurred that disastrous fire which broke out in Whitehall Slip and destroyed most of lower New York, Trinity Church included. At that same time the twenty-year-old Connecticut lad, Nathan Hale, was hanged at what is now First Avenue and 45th Street, regretting that he had but one life to give his country.

In Trinity graveyard Alexander Hamilton is buried. He died in Jane Street, Greenwich Village, where William Bayard had his country home (the site is now numbered 81 Jane Street) on July 12, 1804. His duel with Aaron Burr was fought at Weehawken, on the New Jersey shore opposite 42d Street, on the very spot where his eldest son, Philip, a boy of twenty, had been killed in a duel with a friend of Aaron Burr’s three years before. Robert Fulton lies in Trinity Churchyard, too; and Captain James Lawrence, commander of the Chesapeake, who was mortally wounded in an encounter with the British ship Shannon, off Boston harbor, in June, 1813, and whose dying plea to his men was, `Don’t give up the ship.’

Walk down Wall Street the very short distance past New Street to Nassau Street. On the northeast corner of Wall and Nassau Streets stands the United States Sub-Treasury Building with J. Q. A. Ward’s heroic-sized statue of George Washington standing in front, high above the heads of the throngs which pass it. The Colonial City Hall, built in 1699, stood there (the present building dates only from 1812) with the pillory, stocks, and whipping-post in front and the Debtors’ Prison in the upper story; it was called Federal Hall when Washington took the oath of office in front of it on April 30, 1789, and became the first President of the United States. The stone on which he stood is preserved in the south wall of the present building. After the ceremony he attended divine service in St. Paul’s Chapel, to which you will doubtless go next.

Many events of historic importance took place at the Colonial City Hall, but the one which is, probably, most momentous next to Washington’s inauguration, was that which established the freedom of the press in this country. In 1734 John Peter Zenger’s newspaper, the Weekly Messenger, was publicly burned in front of the City Hall because it had criticized the authorities. Zenger was tried in the City Hall, and acquitted — thereby setting a very great precedent.

Adjoining the Sub-Treasury Building is the United States Assay Office which has five floors of vaults, underground, in which twenty billion dollars’ worth of gold and silver bullion can be stored.

Diagonally across from the Sub-Treasury is the New York Stock Exchange, organized in 1792 by a group of brokers who met beneath a buttonwood tree where 70 Wall Street now stands, and later at the Tontine Coffee House at the northeast corner of Wall and Pearl Streets, close to the old slave market.

Opposite the Stock Exchange, on the east side of Broad Street (Broad Street changes its name to Nassau when it crosses Wall Street), is the House of Morgan, a little marble building only two stories high, occupying what is conceded to be the most valuable piece of real estate in the world.

On September 16, 1920, as Trinity Church clock was striking noon, a terrific explosion took place in front of this building and more than thirty persons were killed. The mystery of who did it, and why, has never been solved.

At the northeast corner of Wall Street and William Street (the first street east of Nassau) is the Bank of New York, founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton, who wrote its constitution. It is No. 48 Wall Street, and has murals showing how Wall Street looked when Hamilton knew it. At No. 52 is the New York Life Insurance Company, whose building stands on ground part of which was owned by Captain Kidd, until his death in 1701. I wonder if you know that Kidd led an exemplary life for more than fifty years, and earned all the obloquy that attaches to his name in the short space of two or three years? He went to London with a sloop of his own, to trade, in 1695, and the next year received a commission from the King (William III) to cruise against pirates in the Eastern Seas and arrest all he could catch. He sailed from Plymouth on this worthy enterprise, and got to Madagascar where, in-stead of capturing pirates, he became one. He was arrested in this country and sent to London for trial. There he was found guilty of murder and piracy, and hanged at Execution Dock, Wapping.

Your destination now is Fulton Street which is six short blocks north of Wall Street. If you want to see the famous Fulton Market take Pearl Street north from Wall Street. A shorter route would be to return to Broadway.

At the corner of Fulton Street (named for Robert Fulton) and Broadway, is St. Paul’s Chapel, one of the eight chapels maintained by Trinity Church. It was built in 1764-66, and in it you may see Washington’s pew and recall the service he attended there immediately after his inauguration. General Richard Montgomery, killed at Quebec, is buried here. The monument to him was ordered in Paris by Benjamin Franklin, in 1776, but his remains were not brought back from Quebec till 1808. Others who worshiped at St. Paul’s were Lord Howe and Major Andre. The Broadway end of the edifice is the back. It fronted on a pleasant lawn sloping down toward the river, which then flowed where Greenwich Street is now, two blocks west of Broadway.

On John Street (the street south of Fulton) there used to be, at No. 17, the John Street Theater where `Hail Columbia’ was first sung by its composer, Fayles, to an audience that included President Washington. Before that, it was the scene of many plays given by British officers, including Major Andre, who is said to have had quite a talent for acting. The gallant young Major has always had a place in my heart; he was the first character out of history to lay hold on my childish imagination and pity, and anything associated with him always appeals to me.

Another famous old theater of New York was the Park Theater on Park Row, south of City Hall Park. There Junius Brutus Booth made his debut. There Edmund Kean and Edwin Forrest played, and Charles and Fanny Kemble. There America first heard Italian opera (in 1825) and there it first saw a ballet. In 1842 a ball was given there in honor of Charles Dickens.

The famous old Astor House was on Broadway between Vesey Street (the first street north of Fulton) and Barclay Street. It was opened in 1836, and the roster of its guests includes most of the great names, from Andrew Jackson on, for fifty years.

Where the World Building now stands on Park Row at Frankfort Street was the site of Tammany Hall’s first permanent headquarters. The organization came into existence in 1789, the same year that gave us the Constitution and Washing-ton’s presidency.

There are several stories about the origin of this political power which has ruled New York, with only occasional interludes, since 1800; but the most picturesque one is that Colonel Marinus Willett, mayor of New York, came up from the South where he had been visiting the Creek Indians, bringing with him a chief and twenty-eight warriors of the tribe; and when they got to New York they were welcomed by a delegation dressed in full Indian costume, which conducted the Creeks to Federal Hall and into the presence of the Great White Father. This was done not to impress the Indian visitors, but as a `publicity stunt,’ to impress upon New York that a new political organization had been formed to express the power of `the pee-pul’ against those more or less aristocratic men who had founded this new government.

An explanation less picturesque is that many of the societies of Colonial New York, which had remained loyal to King George, were called for St. George, St. Andrew, St. David. So certain revolutionists, having heard of an Indian named Tammany who was noted for his benevolence and for his love of liberty, dubbed him a Saint, and called themselves Sons of St. Tammany. And when our new nation was only twelve days old, an upholsterer in New York, named William Mooney, founded the Society of St. Tammany, whose officers were given Indian titles. Its object was to represent the middle class who were opposed to the aristocratic leaders. At first it expressed itself mainly in speeches and occasional parades. Then Aaron Burr was largely instrumental in making it a political power opposed to the Federalist Party, and as such it had a big share in electing Thomas Jefferson, in 1800; at which time also its leaders won election to some of New York City’s municipal offices. Burr controlled Tammany until his downfall caused by the killing of Alexander Hamilton.