The New York Stock Exchange Building

As the 20th century dawned, the NYSE was firmly established as one of America’s preeminent financial institutions.  It was also experiencing a sustained rise in trading volume.  Trading in listed stocks had tripled between 1896 and 1899.  It would nearly double again by 1901.

More space was clearly needed.  So the Exchange invited eight of New York City’s leading architects to join in a competition to design a grand new building.  Their instructions:  The trading floor was to have more space, more light, and more convenience for the transaction of business.

The Exchange chose the neoclassic design of architect George B. Post.  Today, the Exchange building is considered one of Post’s masterpieces and is a New York City and national landmark.

 

From Design to Reality

May 1, 1901:  The demolition of the old building at 10 Broad Street begins.  The construction of the new building, which will occupy that site as well as newly-purchased land to the immediate north and south, is slated to take just one year and cost $1 million. 

September 9, 1901:  The cornerstone for the new building is laid.  A copper box is placed within the cornerstone filled with documents and mementos representative of the NYSE’s history.

Demolition problems with removing the old building and vaults, labor issues, and design changes cause delays and increase costs.  But the approximately $4 million final cost is explained by R.H.Thomas, chairman of the Building Committee:  “Where so many of our members spend the active years of their lives, they are entitled to the best that architectural ingenuity and engineering skill can produce.”

April 22, 1903:  The new Exchange building at 18 Broad Street opens to fanfare and festivity.  It’s recognized from the first as an example of masterful architecture.  The six massive Corinthian columns across its Broad Street façade impart a feeling of substance and stability and, to many, it seems the very embodiment of the nation’s growth and prosperity.

Among its marvels:

  • The trading floor:  At the time, one of the grandest spaces in the nation.  It measures 109 x 140 feet and its marble walls rise 72 feet to meet the ornate gilt ceiling.
  • Window wall:  The entire front of the building is glass, making practically one stupendous window, 96 feet long and 50 feet high.  Another window of the same size forms the New Street front.
  • Skylight:  The trading floor is surmounted by a vast skylight, 30 feet square.
  • Air conditioning:  The Stock Exchange building is one of the first structures in the world to employ it.
  • Annunciator boards on each end wall of the trading floor are used to page members.  Over 24 miles of wiring are installed to run the boards.

The new building is also notable for its many amenities, including dining rooms and an emergency hospital with a physician in constant attendance.

Integrity Above All

The great figural sculptures on the NYSE building’s façade are among the building’s most recognizable and photographed features.

In 1903, John Quincy Adams Ward, a prolific and well-known American sculptor, designed the pediment.

Entitled “Integrity Protecting the Works of Man,” the classical design depicts the 22 foot figure of Integrity in the center, with Agriculture and Mining to her left and Science, Industry and Invention on her right, representing the sources of American prosperity.  The waves on either extreme of the pediment symbolize the ocean-to-ocean influence of the Exchange.

In 1936, due to the combined effects of the statuary’s weight—90 tons—together with the ravages of pollution and flaws in the marble, the Exchange replaced the marble figures with lead-coated replicas weighing only 10 tons.

Constant Growth and Change

Much has changed since 1903, yet the NYSE has always kept pace with member and investor need for trading space and the latest technology.

Some of the most significant changes include:  

  • 1922:  The 11 Wall Street building, designed by Trowbridge & Livingston to harmonize with the existing building, opens.  It includes a 23-story office building and an addition to the trading floor named the "Garage."
  • 1969:  A third trading room, the "Blue Room," is opened to meet the demands of increased volume.  It increases the size of overall trading space by 20 percent and features the latest technologies.
  • 1988:  The "Blue Room" is expanded, creating the "Extended Blue Room" or "EBR."  The Blue Room and Extended Blue Room are closed in November 2007.
  • 2000:  A fifth trading room located at 30 Broad Street opens.  It features redesigned straight-line trading posts and the latest market-information display technology.  This trading room is closed in February 2007.
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