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14 Wall Street
Northwest corner at Broad Street
Block 46 Lot 9
View from the east
14 Wall Street viewed from the east

By Carter B. Horsley

One of the signature buildings of the Lower Manhattan skyline, the stepped-pyramid top of this skyscraper served for many years as the headquarters of the Bankers Trust Company and for a few years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was planned to be converted to residential condominiums by Leviev Boymelgreen Developers. Ultimately, however, the owner decided not to convert it.

View from the south
View from the south on Broad Street

When they contemplated a residential conversion, Leviev Boymelgreen, a partnership between Shaya Boymelgreen and Africa Israel Investments Ltd., was in the process of converting two nearby buildings, 23 Wall Street, which known now as "Downtown by Starck," and 20 Pine Street, to residential condominiums.

Leviev Boymelgreen acquired the 37-story building at 14 Wall Street from Stellar Management for a reported sales price of about $215 million. Larry Gluck of Stellar Management had acquired the 1,000,000-square-foot building from his Goldman Sachs partners for less than $200 million.

Building's top
Close-up of building's top

Bankers Trust sold the building to GE Investments and the bank was acquired in 1999 by Deutsche Bank whose lease for 250,000 square feet expired leaving the building about 75 percent occupied.

The initial plan of Leviev Boymelgreen for 14 Wall Street called for converting the top of the building to residential condominiums, retaining some office space and converting the rest of the building to commercial condominiums for non-profit groups.

View of the top from the northeast
View of top from the northeast

The 539-foot-high building is an official New York City landmark. It was designed in 1912 by Trowbridge & Livingston and its roof is one of the most distinctive in the city and subsequently became the bank's logo.  When it was completed, it was the tallest bank building in the world.

According to its designation report by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, "this granite-clad tower incorporated the latest in building technologies and was one of the first buildings to employ a cofferdam foundation system."  

"Inspired by the campanile of San Marco in Venice," the report noted, "the building's design is notable for its austere decorative scheme incorporating specific Greek architectural motifs.  Especially noteworthy is the seven-story stepped pyramid which is credited with setting an important precedent for the development of boldly topped skyscraper towers....Over the years the 14 Wall Street Building has become a symbol of the financial district.  Its design was widely copied during the 1920s and remains an inspiration for modern designers."  

The model of the famous Venetian campanile was "first used by Bruce Price in an unexecuted but widely published design for the Sun Building of 1890 and first realized by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower in 1907-09," the report noted, adding that Trowbridge & Livingston "indicated that they had adopted the Greek style because of its adaptability to the problems of modern practice and because 'its simplicity and grace, as well as it its supreme dignity and seriousness combine to make it peculiarly appropriate to the location and purpose of the building.'  Sources for the design included the Ionic order on the Erechtheum at the Acropolis, ancient Macedonian prototypes, and reconstruction drawings of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the model for the stepped-pyramid temple which crowns the building, giving it its distinctive profile against the skyline.  The windowless pyramid housed record rooms and storage spaces as well as the building's mechanical equipment including the main smoke stack which vented through openings in the apex of the pyramid producing 'an effect not unlike a volcano in action.'"

The designation report provided the following history of the bank and building:

"In 1902, Henry Davison, vice president of the influential First National Bank, proposed to a group of commercial bankers that they form a trust company to which they could safely turn over their fiduciary business.  The Bankers Trust Company was organized in January 1903 with a capitalization of $1,000,000 with deposits of about $5,000,000.  Over the next ten years, Bankers Trust grew at a phenomenal rate.  Largely a businessmen's bank, it derived the bulk of its deposits from corporations and banks and lent much of its money on stock exchange transactions.  The company worked closely with J. P. Morgan & Company and the banks and corporations controlled by Morgan and his business partners.  In April 1909, Bankers Trust tripled its capitalization and announced plans to erect a new office building...on the site of the seven -story Stevens building at 12-14 Wall Street.  Later that year the Morgan-controlled Manhattan trust Company purchased the adjacent nineteen-story Gillender Building at 16 Wall Street which was to be demolished and its lot combined with the Bankers Trust site.  Bankers Trust and Manhattan Trust entered into merger negoiations but ultimately decided to remain independent with separate offices and banking rooms in the new building.  Over the next two years BankersTrust purchased a majority holding in the Guarranty Trust Company and merged with the Mercantile Trust Company.  Guaranty Trust retained its own identity and headquaters, but Bankers Trust was forced to alter the plans for its new building to accommodate Mercantile Trusts's staff and operations after Mercantile's offices were destroyed in a fire in January 1912.  This may have been the impetus for Bankers Trust to resume its merger negotiations with Manhattan Trust. ...As the Bankers Trust Building neared completion in 1912, Congress was preparing to launch an investigation into the growing number of mergers among New York banks which had concentrated almost seventy-five percent of the nation's capital and credit in the hands of a small group of financiers and institutions.....While no evidence was found that a banking trust existed as defined by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the hearings raised sufficient concerns about the banking system for Congress to adopt the Federal Reserve Act in 1913.  Presumably in an effort to counter the negative publicity, J. P. Morgan & Company cancelled its plans to move to the thirty-first floor of Banker's Trust new tower and instead commissioned Trowbidge & Livingston to erect a new building at 23 Wall Street that was distinguished by its low-scale, austere classicism, and absence of a name on the exterior."

View from entrance of 45 Wall Street

View from entrance of 45 Wall Street

Samuel Beck Parkman Trowbridge graduated from Trinity College in Hartford and worked with George B. Post and Goodhue Livingtstn was a descendant of a prominent colonial New York family and he also worked with Post.  Their major projects before this building included the B. Altman store on Fifth Avenue at 34th Street and the St. Regis Hotel on Fifith Avenue at 55th Street.  They won this commission in a limited competition with Warren & Wetmore, Carrere & Hastings and Francis H. Kimball.

In their fine book, "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City, Fourth Edition" (Three Rivers Press, 2000), Norval White and Elliot Willensky noted that "When built, it was called the world's tallest structure…on the smallest plot (94 by 97 feet)." A 25-story addition to the building was designed in 1933 by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon.

The elegant building is across the street from Federal Hall National Memorial Hall and one block to the east of Trinity Church on Broadway. 

The building is diagonally across the street from 23 Wall Street, the former headquarters of J. P. Morgan & Company, which was also designed in 1913 by Trowbridge & Livingston.

In recent years, The 14 Wall Street Restaurant occupied for a few years part of J. P. Morgan's penthouse apartment, but it eventually closed recently and an article by Steve Cuozzo in The New York Post indicated that Leviev Boymelgreen may reopen that space on the 31st floor it as "a very special restaurant."

The building is also known as 1-11 Nassau Street and 7-15 Pine Street.

Because of variations in their lot lines, the addition projects 16 feet beyond the tower on Nassau Street.

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