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Museum of American Finance
What more appropriate home for the Museum of American Finance than the grand, 30-foot-high banking hall of the former Bank of New York building? The museum - an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution - is the only one of its kind in America. Effectively serving as the New York Stock Exchange's de facto
visitors' center, the museum displays permanent interactive exhibits on finance, money, entrepreneurship and banking. These feature rare examples of Colonial currency, stock and bond certificates dating from the 18th century to the present; high denomination currency including $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills; and hundreds of images of the financial district. The museum includes a room dedicated to Hamilton, founder of the bank and the country's first Treasury Secretary.
48 Wall Street
The Bank of New York - oldest bank in the city, founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton - commissioned a new headquarters (their third on this site) in 1927. The Bank instructed architect Benjamin Wistar Morris to incorporate something of the institution's Colonial history in the design. That history is evident inside the main banking hall, where eight murals by J. Monroe Hewlett illustrate the story of American commerce and the life of the Bank. Outside, the building's major Colonial reference is meant to be seen from a distance: a tower reminiscent of an 18th-century church, but thirty stories up in the air - definitely the only Colonial tower in the Downtown skyline.
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The Bank of the Manhattan Company
This 20th-century skyscraper has roots in late-18th-century New York, and the historic rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Burr, in 1799, helped found the Manhattan Company, chartered to bring the city safe drinking water. Hamilton in 1784 had organized the Bank of New York, the city's only such institution, and frowned on the notion of creating a rival. Being a State assemblyman, however, Burr finagled permission from the Legislature for the newly formed Manhattan Company to devote any capital it might raise beyond two million dollars to a different kind of liquidity, thereby becoming the city's second bank. Eventually, the Bank of Manhattan - having long since abandoned the water business - merged with the Chase National Bank to create Chase Manhattan, a titan on New York's financial scene.
During the 1920s, the Bank of Manhattan engaged in another famous rivalry - for the title of World's Tallest Building. In 1929, the contest narrowed to just two contenders, pitting Downtown against Midtown: the Bank of Manhattan at 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building on 42nd Street, respectively - whose architects, moreover, were former partners. The Bank appeared to be winning when its rooftop flagpole topped Chrysler's most recently announced height of 925 feet by two feet more. Then Chrysler, in the middle of the night, secretly hoisted through the roof a five-part spire, raising the tower's height to 1,046 feet and winning the final round of the competition. And that was that - until, of course, the Empire State Building opened 18 months later.