NYSE Building—a Roman temple with glass walls

Facing Broad Street at the corner with Wall Street stands a stronghold of American finance — the mighty Stock Exchange. The building looks like a Roman temple adorned with imposing columns and crowned with classical portico. The resemblance is not accidental: financial structures were meant to project stability, security, and strength.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the previous building that housed NYSE became inadequate and needed to be replaced. New York-born and NYU educated George Browne Post got the commission out of several respected architects who competed for the project. Post was both prolific and successful, but, sadly, many of his creations didn’t make it to the present time, falling victim to New York’s ever-changing architectural landscape. Among his most remarkable works that perished were the New York World Building, standing the tallest building in the world from 1890 to 1894 and demolished in 1955, as well as Cornelius Vanderbilt II House — the largest private residence ever built in New York City, constructed in 1883 and demolished in 1926.

For NYSE, George B. Post chose a neo-classical design typically used for financial institutions. Temple-like marble facade dominated by columns faces Broad Street, but there is more to the building than meets the eye: it has more than one facade, and the second one faces New Street. One of the architectural challenges for the building required the use of natural light. Post achieved it by designing two glass curtain walls behind the colonnade facades, each measuring 96 feet wide and 50 feet high, a height of a 5-story building. In addition to this remarkable feature, the flat roof had a skylight, making the NYSE trading floor one of the best designed interior spaces in the city bathing in natural light.

The trading floor, New York Stock Exchange, ca. 1915

Crowning the facade is a pediment depicting “Integrity Protecting the Works of Man.” At 90 tons, Integrity was once too heavy to even protect herself. It started crumbling under its own weight and was replaced in 1936 with a lighter version of herself. Made out of hollow cooper and painted over to look like marble, the lighter Integrity not only watches over the works of men but also presides over the world’s financial security.

Marble “Integrity Protecting the Works of Man”, ca 1908

NYSE is such an important financial institution that its function often overshadows its architecture. Yet, it is quite remarkable – not overwhelmed by details, its temple-like form reflects its significance and allows plenty of natural light without compromising its solid appearance.

Ca. 1939

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