New York Songlines: Pearl Street

Centre (Foley Square) | Park Row (One Police Plaza) | Madison St | Wagner (Brooklyn Bridge) | Beekman | Fulton | John | Maiden | Cedar | Pine | Wall | Beaver | Old Slip (Hanover Square) | Broad (Fraunces Tavern) | Bridge | Moore | Whitehall | State (Battery Park)
Pearl Street follows an unusually meandering course for a Manhattan Street because it follows the original, pre-landfill East River shoreline; it was originally called The Strand, i.e. "The Beach." The name Pearl derives from the fact that it was originally paved with oyster shells, which are known as mother of pearl.


Foley Square

Named for Tammany Hall leader Big Tom Foley in 1926, a year after his death. Foley, in addition to being an alderman, sheriff, Tammany district leader and a mentor of Alfred Smith, was a saloonkeeper, and his last joint was located where his square is now. Earlier Matt Brennan, a major figure in Sixth Ward politics in the 1850s, had a saloon at the northwest corner of Pearl and Centre called Monroe Hall.

The sculpture in the fountain here is called The Triumph of the Human Spirit; the boat-like shape represents the slave trade and all U.S. immigration; the black granite forms that rise above the "boat" are patterned on African antelope carvings.

There was an obscure TV show called Foley Square, a legal drama that ran for a few months in 1985-86.

See a 360-degree panorama of Foley Square!


W <===     CENTRE STREET     ===> E

South:

Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse

Block (40 Centre): Designed by Cass Gilbert and Cass Gilbert Jr. as a Classical temple with a 24-story tower topped by a gold pyramid-- reminiscent of the elder Gilbert's Woolworth Tower. Christopher Gray says that the the "suggestively rounded rear section" facing Pearl Street "just skirts indecency."

Completed in 1936, the year of Gilbert's death. Renamed (at Sen. Hillary Clinton's initiative) for the great Supreme Court justice, who on the other side of the bench successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education.

Alger Hiss was found guilty of perjury here in 1950, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg convicted of espionage in 1951.




S <===         HAYES PL

Block (128 Park Row): Metropolitan Correctional Center, a 1974 building by Gruzen & Partners that provides holding cells for the U.S. Courthouse.









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North:

State Court Building

Corner (60 Centre): This hexagonal building with a Roman portico was originally the New York County Courthouse, replacing the Tweed Courthouse. Architect Guy Lowell won a 1912 design competition, though the building was not completed until 1927. Above the columns is a quote from George Washington: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government." The sculptures above the pediment represent Law, Truth and Equity.

This imposing building often appears in films; Kris Kringle was tried here in Miracle on 34th Street, as was Charlie Sheen in Wall Street; Keanu Reeves tried a case here in The Devil's Advocate, Henry Ford had jury duty here in Twelve Angry Men, a rival to The Godfather was assassinated on the steps and Ray Liotta testified here against the Goodfellas-- to name just a few.

The courthouse is built in part on the site of the Old Brewery, one of the filthiest and overcrowded dwellings in the notorious Five Points slum.

502: Forty immigrants from Ireland's County Sligo drilled in a room above a saloon at this address, calling themselves the Sarsfield Light Guards--named for Patrick Sarsfield, one of the defeated Irish commanders at the Battle of the Boyne.

500 (corner): The U.S. Courthouse Annex was built in 1995 and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox with an interesting concave/convex shape.

498: The tenement at this address was populated by Irish immigrants from County Cavan in the pre-Civil War era.


S <===     PARK ROW     ===> N

On July 16, 1854, a black schoolteacher, Lizzie Jennings, boarded a whites-only carriage at this intersection and was removed by police. When she sued the transit company, represented by future president Chester A. Arthur, the judge ruled that "colored persons, if sober, well-behaved and free from disease, have the same rights as others," and awarded her $247.50. By 1860, New York's public transportation was completely desegregated.

West:

One Police Plaza

The headquarters of the NYPD, which moved here in 1973 to replace the old Police Building on Centre Street. Designed by Gruzen and Partners in a Brutalist style.

Near the southeast corner of the building is a memorial to Revolutionary War POWs that incorporates a window from the Rhinelander Sugar House, built in 1763 and demolished in 1892. Because of their thick walls and small windows, sugar warehouses were used by the British to hold prisoners--with deadly results--though the Rhinelander building's use for this purpose is actually disputed.

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Chatham Green Houses

Block (1 Madison St): A 21-story public housing building put up in 1960 with an unusual serpentine form.












W <===     MADISON STREET     ===> E

West:

Murry Bergtraum High School

411 (corner): A fortress-like structure built 1975 to house a business-oriented public high school. It's named for a president of the Board of Education who was also active in the furriers' union.

Bell Atlantic

375 (corner): A switching center built in 1976 The AIA Guide calls it a "humorless, windowless, high-rise monster" and blames it for upstaging the nearby Brooklyn Bridge.

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ST JAMES PL     ===> N

Al Smith Houses

A housing project named for Al Smith, who as New York governor promoted, among other progressive reforms, government-subsidized housing. In 1928, he became the first major Catholic candidate for president, losing to Herbert Hoover. There's a ' statue of Al Smith in the courtyard of these buildings.

362: This was the first New York City home of John Jacob Astor, later the richest man in America. He moved here into a house owned by his new mother-in-law in 1786, and started a business selling musical instruments and sheet music.


W <===     AVE OF THE FINEST/WAGNER PL     ===> E

Brooklyn Bridge

Construction on the bridge began in 1870; when completed in 1883, it was half again as long as any other suspension bridge in the world. At least 16 people died in its construction, including its architect, John Augustus Roebling, who contracted tetanus after his foot was crushed by a ferry. His son Washington Roebling, who inherited the project, was stricken by compression sickness while working in cassions, leaving Washington's wife Elizabeth Warren Roebling to become the de facto chief engineer.

Soon after it was opened, on Memorial Day 1883, a panic on the bridge resulted in a dozen people being trampled to death.

Con artists actually have succeeded in repeatedly selling the Brooklyn Bridge to gullible victims.

Affixed to the bridge near the corner of Pearl and Dover streets is a plaque marking the approximate spot of the house George Washington lived in when he first became president-- 1 Cherry Street.

The Brooklyn Banks, located here under the bridge, have been an internationally famous skateboard spot since the 1980s.


W <===     FRANKFORT ST/DOVER ST     ===> E

West:

Corner: Southbridge Towers, a public-housing complex from 1969 designed by Gruzen & Partners.









329: This address was the offices of Harper & Brothers publishers, destroyed in a massive fire in 1853. Two years earlier, the company had published Moby Dick.

327: Here was a porterhouse, or tavern, run by Martin Morrison, creator of the porterhouse steak (though he came up with it at a later porterhouse on Cherry Street).






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326: The site of Walton House, a four-story building from 1752 that was considered the most beautiful home in America. British members of parliament cited the extravagent parties held here as proof that the colonists could afford to pay higher taxes. After the Revolution, in 1784, it became the first home of Alexander Hamilton's Bank of New York. Later serving as a boardinghouse, it was torn down in 1881.

324: The Bindery, an 1881 building that occupies the site of Walton House.


PECK SLIP         ===> E







W <===     BEEKMAN STREET     ===> E

West:


















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WATER ST         ===> S

Pearl Street Playground

This seems to have been the former site of 278 Pearl Street, where artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg had a loft together from 1951-55.

W <===     FULTON STREET     ===> E

West:

Corner (40 Fulton): Seaport Tower, a 1986 29-story building by Fox & Fowle.

255-257: This address was the site of Thomas Edison's first commercial electrical generators, which started serving 59 customers on September 4, 1882.

241: Back Yard Chicken

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Block (200 Water): A 1971 International Style building by Emery Roth & Sons was built as an office tower (then known as 127 John Street) but was converted to residences in 1997. For a time it was NYU at the Seaport, the college's largest dorm until it was closed in 2009.





W <===     JOHN STREET     ===> E

West:

Block (116 John): A 1931 building with 35 floors, designed by Louis Allen Abramson and Charles Glaser.


W <===         PLATT ST



215: A 1830s Greek Revival warehouse were torn down here in 2007 to make room for a new 28-story building. Housed La Borsa di Roma, Italian.

213: A similar 1830s building here was also torn down here; from 1956 until shortly before the demolition, it was Don Pancho aka Pancho Magico, perhaps New York's longest-running Mexican restaurant.

211: This Greek Revival warehouse was built in 1831 by William Colgate, whose soap business eventually became Colgate-Palmolive. Later in the 1830s, Seth Low had a Far East import shop here, selling Chinese gongs and Turkish opium. It was much later a bar called Rosie O'Grady's. When the rest of the block was torn down, the facade here was torn down to be incorporated into the new building.

205: Sophy's Restaurant, Cuban


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218: This was the address of Hercules Mulligan, an Irish-born tailor and member of the Sons of Liberty who served as a secret agent for the rebels during the British occupation of New York City. On November 25, 1783, the day that George Washington liberated the city, he and four of his officers stopped by Mulligan's house to thank him for his services to the revolution. There's now a 24-story building from 1970 at this address.

212 (corner): A one-story building from 1975.


FLETCHER ST     ===> E









W <===     MAIDEN LANE     ===> E

West:







W <===         CEDAR ST

American International Building

Block (70 Pine): This 66-story Art Deco tower is the world headquarters of the American International insurance group. Built in 1932, it was the last skyscraper to be built in the Financial District until 1961, and the tallest one until the first World Trade Center tower was built in 1972. Now it is again the tallest building downtown. Designed by Holton & George and Clinton & Russell.

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East:

Block (110 Maiden): 1 Wall Street Plaza






















W <===     PINE STREET     ===> E

West:





Corner (74 Wall): This round-arched building was put up in 1926 as the Seamen's Bank for Savings Headquarters (hence the seahorses, mermaids and other nautical motifs); the architect was Benjamin Wistar Morris. The AIA Guide calls it a "friendly, romantic addition."

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Corner (80 Wall): Tontine House, a 13-story building by Clinton & Russell whose name commemorates the Tontine Coffee House, which became the first indoor meetingplace of the New York Stock Exchange.


W <===     WALL STREET     ===> E

New Amsterdam's wall had a gate here, at what was then the shoreline. Known as the Watergate, it was shut every night at 9 p.m.

Everything between Wall Street and Coenties Alley was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1835.

West:

Cocoa Exchange

Block (67 Wall): This 25-story triangular building, originally known as the Munson Building, was designed in 1906 by Kenneth M. Murchison for the Munson Steamship Company. From 1931 until 1972 it was the New York Cocoa Exchange. Converted to a co-op in 2003.


S <===         BEAVER ST

Corner (82 Beaver): From 1939 until 1967, this was home to the Commodity Research Bureau. In the 1980s and '90s, the Spanish restaurant El Rincon de Espana was here--closed in 2002. In 1960, the Spanish restaurant El Patio, which orginally opened in 1850, moved to this location.

Corner (76 Beaver): Known as 11 Hanover Square, this 1930 building designed by Chester James Storm rises 25 stories. The National Council for Research on Women is in this building; Cafe Bravo is on the ground floor.


N <===   HANOVER ST

Hanover Square

This bit of open space has been a public commons since 1637. It's named for the House of Hanover, the British ruling family starting with King George I. The statue here is of Abraham de Peyster, one of the Dutch colonial governors.

119-121: At the back of the square was the home of Captain William Kidd--or rather, the mansion of Mrs. Sarah Oort, New York's wealthiest widow, whom he married in 1691. He lived here from then until 1699, when he sailed to the Indian Ocean and piracy history.

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East:

Corner (75 Wall): The Barclays Bank Building was built in 1987, designed by Welton Becket Assocs. for the British banking house that was founded in 1690. The company sold the building to JP Morgan in 2005, which in turn sold it to condo developers. There's a little public plaza here with a waterfall.









126: Mercantile Bar Grill


























Corner (10 Hanover Square): A 1971 Emery Roth & Sons building, 22 floors, converted to residences c. 2006.


W <===     OLD SLIP     ===> E

West:

India House

Corner (1 Hanover Square): An Italian Renaissance building put up in 1851-54 for the Hanover Bank. From 1870 until 1885 it was the New York Cotton Exchange, the U.S.'s first commodities exchange. It then served as the headquarters for W.R. Grace. In 1914 it became a clubhouse for merchants interested in foreign trade, named in homage to the Dutch West India Company, the first colonizers of Manhattan.

93: Ulysses Bar & Restaurant is in

89: The Armitage Building, a seven-story structure that combines to older storehouses. Altered in 1919 for Chubb & Son marine underwriters. As 54 Stone Street, it houses Adrienne's Pizzabar.

85: Also known as 52 Stone Street.

83: Gerardi's

81: At this address was William Bradford's printing press, the first in the New York colony, set up in 1693. Bradford published New York's first newspaper, the New York Gazette (launched October 16, 1725), as well as New York's first paper money and the first printed legislative proceedings in America. Pearl Stone Chinese Restaurant is now here.

79: Pearl Bar; Waterstone Grill

77: Address of a number of eateries, including Million Gourmet, My Daddy's Pizza, New Golden Chopsticks, Souperman, Soups Etc. and Terrace Fish & Chip. Bingo is the deli on the corner.

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Corner (7 Hanover Square): Guardian Life Building, a 28-floor 1983 design by Emery Roth & Sons, housing the insurance company. The Italian Renaissance-style W.R. Grace & Company Building was here until the company moved uptown to 42nd Street; unable to find a buyer for the building, the company demolished it in 1974, leaving it a vacant lot for nearly a decade.




















80: Was Riverside deli

78: Torn down; a vacant lot.

76: Nu Sushi

74 (corner): L'atelier des Fleurs, florist


N <===     COENTIES ALLEY/SLIP     ===> S

North:






61: This is the address of the first property whose sale was recorded by New York County's Register's Office. The then-waterfront lot was sold by Cornelius Van Tienhoven on October 12, 1654 to Dr. Jacob Hendricks, who resold it the next day to Jacob Steendam.

Goldman Sachs Building

Block (85 Broad): The investment bank occupies this 1983 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill building of nearly a million square feet. (Its bulk derives in part from buying Fraunces Tavern's air rights.) Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869 by Bavarian immigrant Marcus Goldman. Its recent top executives include Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Sen. Jon Corzine and Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

The octagonal building erased part of historic Stone Street, with the building's curved elevator lobby tracing the missing segment. More history can be seen in the building's plaza: Prior to construction, an archeological dig turned up the foundations of a public inn built by the Dutch West India Company in 1641, which became New Amsterdam's first city hall, or Stadt Huys, in 1653, and served as the seat of local government until 1699. Its outlines are marked in brick on the sidewalk, along with those of the King's House, a tavern set up in 1670 by Gov. Francis Lovelace. (The tavern's actual foundations can be seen through a window in the pavement.)

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66 (corner): Zigolini's, Italian, is on the site of a house built on Manhattan's first landfill project, started in 1684, that was home to the parents of John Jay, America's first chief justice and co-author of The Federalist Papers; he seems to have been born here on December 12, 1745.

64: Was Landmark Gourmet Deli

62: Perle, French bistro

60: Baluchi's Masala, formerly American Masala; once Pearl Palace.

Fraunces Tavern

54 (corner): In 1762, Samuel Frances turned a mansion recently built on landfill into a tavern called The Queen's Head, after its identifying portrait of Queen Charlotte. It was a popular meetingplace, hosting not only the first New York Chamber of Commerce in 1768 but also clandestine meetings of the Sons of Liberty plotting for colonial independence.

George Washington became Fraunces' friend, and chose his tavern to host an emotional farewell to his officers on December 4, 1783, at which he declared: "I most devoutly wish that your later days may be as prosperous as your former ones have been glorious and honorable. Fraunces later served as steward to President Washington's household-- which was, of course, in New York City; Washington, D.C. not having been built yet. During the Washington administration, the departments of Foreign Affairs, Treasury and War were located here.

The current building is a tiny bit of the original tavern combined with a great deal of imaginative reconstruction c. 1900.


N <===     BROAD STREET     ===> S

North:

Block (90 Broad): A 33-story pre-war building with a Beaux Arts lobby



W <===         BRIDGE ST

Corner (100 Broad): The New York Clearing House Association, which coordinates check clearance between different banks, built this "funky little building" (AIA Guide) in 1962 (Rogers & Butler, architects). In 1986, the 27-story mirrored glass Broad Financial Center, designed by Fox & Fowle, was allowed to overhang the building so as to justify its name. (It's actually on Whitehall Street.)

39: This was the address of the first building in New Amsterdam dedicated solely to religious purposes, a church built in 1633 and used until 1642.

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This block was the site of the Merchants Exchange Building, which served as the New York State capital building from 1784 until 1796, when the capital was moved to Albany. The U.S. Supreme Court held its first session here on February 17, 1790; earlier, the first U.S. District Court convened here on November 3, 1789. In keeping with New Yorkers' early disdain for history, the building was torn down in 1799.





MOORE ST     ===> S

3 New York Plaza





N <===     WHITEHALL STREET     ===> S

This intersection was the site of Manhattan's first produce market, established by Peter Stuyvesant in 1656.

North:

Block (21 State): One Battery Park Plaza is a 36-story building that went up in 1971, designed by Emery Roth & Sons. An example of the bogus address phenomenon.

23: During the Revolutionary War, when Pearl Street was known as Queen Street, this was the address of the tailor shop of Hercules Mulligan, a member of the Sons of Liberty who served as a secret agent for the rebellion during the Revolutionary War--he's credited with using information he picked up from British officer clients to save George Washington's life twice.

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Corner (34 Whitehall): This 33-floor Emery Roth & Sons building, completed 1969, goes by the name of 1 State Street Plaza, though it is not on State Street.

6: Herman Melville was born at this address on August 1, 1819, and lived here until he was five.





Corner (17 State): This 41-story building, designed by Emery Roth & Sons, has a convex side facing Battery Park whose reflections of the harbor sky are one of the most striking features of the skyline as seen from the Staten Island Ferry. It was built in 1988, replacing the Seamen's Church Institute Building, which was less than 20 years old.


N <===     STATE STREET     ===> S

Battery Park

As the sailors sing, The Bronx is up and the Battery's down. Manhattan's southernmost tip is also its largest greenspace south of Central Park-- more than twice as big as Washington Square--and the only sizable park south of Houston Street. It was mostly under New York Harbor until the mid-19th Century, when it was created by successive waves of landfill. The name comes from the cannons that were placed here as early as 1683 to protect the city from invasion by sea.

There is a wild turkey, nicknamed Zelda, who has lived in Battery Park at least part of the year (hunting season?) since 2003.

Castle Clinton

This fort was built in 1807 on a small islet off the southern tip of Manhattan, connected by a 200-foot causeway, as a response to the tensions with Britain that eventually culminated in the War of 1812. Perhaps because of this and other preparations, the British did not try to invade New York, and the fort has never been actively involved in combat.

Originally named Castle Williams, it was renamed in 1815 for DeWitt Clinton, a U.S. senator from 1802-03 (he resigned because he didn't like D.C.) and mayor from 1803-15. At the time of the renaming, he hadn't yet become governor of New York or arranged for the building of the Erie Canal, which is today considered his main claim to fame.

The castle was decommissioned in 1821 and given to the city in 1823; a year later, it reopened as Castle Gardens, a public auditorium where Samuel Morse demonstrated the telegraph in 1842, and where P.T. Barnum presented the national debut of Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, in 1850.

From 1855 until 1890, the castle served as the State Emigrant Landing Depot, where 8 million immigrants were processed--two-thirds as many as were handled by the more famous Ellis Island, which opened in 1892. About 70 percent of the immigrants coming to the U.S. during this period came through Castle Garden.

In 1896, the castle was remodeled once again (this time by McKim, Mead & White) to serve as the New York Aquarium. It closed in 1941--an event alluded to in the musical On the Town (the cab driver sings of the fish, "They're in the Bronx instead/They might as well be dead")--and the building was almost destroyed for an access road to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Public outcry saved it, however, and it became a national monument in 1946; it's been restored to its original appearance, though it's not clear how much of what's there today was actually part of the 1807 fort.





What's missing from Pearl Street? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

Pearl Street, New York. A brief history of the street.

New York Songlines Home.

Sources for the Songlines.

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