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Discover The Wall Street Hotel, which was developed over a century ago as the magnificent Tontine Building.

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The Wall Street Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2023, dates back to 1901.


The exchange of securities among New York City’s stockbrokers was a cumbersome affair in the years following the American Revolution. To better regulate the way in which those deals transpired, a group of two dozen brokers decided to sign the monumental Buttonwood Agreement. (National folklore has since attested that the name “Buttonwood” was adopted to honor the tree where much of the earlier trading had occurred.) The document’s influence proved to be far-reaching, for it essentially led to the creation of the Merchants’ Exchange—a forerunner to today’s iconic New York Stock Exchange. Interestingly, a few of the brokers decided to construct a quaint coffeehouse along Wall Street to function as their primary meeting place. Standing four stories in height and made of brick, the structure had been financed through an investment plan commonly referred to as a “tontine.” (The tontine was a collective annuity that increased in value as its various shareholders died, thus giving the survivors access to the vacated shares.) Construction lasted for some time, with the gorgeous structure opening as the “Tontine Coffee House” during the 1790s. Much to the delight of the proprietors, the Tontine Coffee House quickly emerged as the main venue where the city’s community of brokers regularly traded and corresponded. Furthermore, the brokers also began using the building’s upper levels to host exclusive and thrilling soirees in considerable numbers.  

But the nascent Merchants’ Exchange had gradually outgrown the Tontine Coffee House by the beginning of the 19th century, prompting its members to relocate the institution elsewhere on Wall Street. Despite the cessation of trading on-site, the Tontine Coffee House nonetheless remained an incredibly popular place for the brokers to informally meet and discuss contemporary events. In fact, journalists even began printing media publications within the Tontine Coffee House, starting with the prosperous Hudson Brothers Newsroom in the 1830s. The historic structure continued to be one of the most attractive spots for the brokers to gather throughout the rest of the century, although a grander six-story structure had replaced the original Tontine Coffee House right before the outbreak of the American Civil War. However, in the early 20th century, an entrepreneurial real estate developer named William K. Aston had acquired the historic structure upon the death of its most recent owner, Peter J. O’Donohue. Wishing to capitalize on the area’s transformation into the New York City Financial District, he hoped to build a beautiful skyscraper at the location that would attract the brokerages now headquartered nearby. Aston acted on his plan in 1901, hiring the accomplished architectural firm Clinton and Russell to design the prospective building. Clinton and Russell then raised a magnificent 13-story rusticated structure that displayed an ornate amount of breathtaking Beaux-Arts motifs.  

Christened as the “Tontine Building,” the spectacular new skyscraper began hosting insurance firms and financial offices when construction concluded in 1902. Indeed, the Tontine Building was an important cultural fixture in the Financial District for many decades, its tenants playing significant roles in the development of America’s rapidly modernizing monetary system. But as other beautiful buildings started to appear in different parts of Manhattan, the prominent companies based inside the structure gradually left. In their wake arrived the spirited Allan Gerdau, who bought the entire Tontine Building in 1937. Then the president of import-export conglomerate Otto Gerdau & Co., Allan Gerdau leapt at the chance of occupying the units within the prestigious edifice. Gerdau proceeded to oversee the growth of Otto Gerdau & Co. from inside the building over the next several years, expanding into diverse markets like fashion, furniture, and housewares. The greatest enterprise that Otto Gerdau & Co. managed during its time at the Tontine Building was the refinement of its pristine South Sea nacre, which it produced from afar on state-of-the-art Australian oyster farms. Unprecedented wealth graced Otto Gerdau & Co. as such, enabling its animated president to invest heavily into the upkeep of the Tontine Building.  

Gerdau went on to create novel features in the Tontine Building, including the Tontine Emporium in 1965. Packed full of exotic décor and antiques, Gerdau was always proud that the Tontine Emporium excelled at making every visitor feel incredibly welcome. (Gerdau had once expressed the following sentiment to the New York Times in regard to the facility: “I subscribe to the theory expressed by Confucius: behave toward everyone as if receiving a great guest.”) Allan Gerdau and his prosperous company subsequently remained the steadfast stewards of the Tontine Building until the former’s death during the 1980s. Supervised under Gerdau’s estate for many years thereafter, the historic Tontine Building was eventually acquired by the Paspaley family—admirers of Gerdau who also operated a lucrative pearl-collecting business in Australia known as the “Paspaley Pearling Company.” The Paspaleys were perplexed about how to utilize the building though, left only knowing that they wanted to preserve it for future generations to appreciate. After years of much deliberation, the family finally agreed to resurrect the historic structure as an amazing boutique hotel that would reflect Gerdau’s perspectives on hospitality. Construction commenced in 2021 and took months to finish. Architects with Stonehill Taylor worked diligently alongside the Paspaley family throughout the project, brilliantly renovating the interior spaces to offer a splendid collection of 180 ornate guestrooms. Debuting as “The Wall Street Hotel” a year later, the historic site soon emerged as one of the best places to visit in all Manhattan. A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2023, the hotel has since maintained its status as a top-rated destination thanks to the continued zeal of the Paspaley family.

  • About the Location +

    In the early 17th century, several prominent European countries were in the middle of settling the North American continent. Among the group was the Dutch Republic, a predecessor of the present-day Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch Republic was then at the height of its power, having cultivated extensive international trading networks across the globe. One area in particular that drew the attention of the Dutch was New York Bay, specifically the area near the mouth of the Hudson River. Finding the land suitable for agriculture, the Dutch sent an expedition to the location in the early 1620s. Sponsoring the entire endeavor was the Dutch West Indies Company, which hoped to create a fur trading outpost within the settlement. Nevertheless, in 1623, the first settlers arrived in present-day New York Harbor, coming ashore at the southernmost tip of a landmass they referred to as “Manhattan.” The Dutch subsequently spent the next few years developing the city of “New Amsterdam” upon the site, gradually growing it to encompass numerous municipal blocks. Many commercial and residential structures soon lined the shoreline of New Amsterdam as such, giving rise to a prosperous local economy that would thrive for years.

    However, the Dutch became nervous that New Amsterdam was vulnerable to attack and commissioned the creation of an earthen fortress called “Fort Amsterdam.” While Fort Amsterdam instilled confidence in New Amsterdam for a time, the Dutch nonetheless began to consider enhancing the city’s defenses. Central to these growing concerns was the intense rivalry the Dutch Republic had formed with England, which had colonies located nearby in New England. Those fears were seemingly realized when the First Anglo-Dutch War erupted between the two countries during the 1650s. To prevent a possible English assault, the Dutch constructed a wooden palisade along the border of a street named “Het Cingel” or “the Belt.” The palisade essentially acted as the official northern border for New Amsterdam, although newer Dutch settlers routinely raised farms beyond it. Fortunately for the Dutch, the English never attempted to attack New Amsterdam throughout the course of the conflict. But that was not the case when another war broke out a decade later, with the English successfully capturing the city without a shot being fired.

    Even though the Dutch briefly recaptured the settlement during the third and final Anglo-Dutch War, the settlement—renamed as “New York City”—was firmly under the control of the English (and British) for the next century. With no clear foreign enemies to threaten the community, the English eventually deconstructed the palisade. But the wall had become a cultural landmark for the residents of New York City, who had taken to calling the neighboring road “Wall Street.” The name stuck for many decades thereafter, even as the rest of the city began extending well north of the erstwhile wall. Meanwhile, the site of the original Dutch settlement was increasingly connected to finance. In fact, merchants started to gather regularly underneath a buttonwood tree at the foot of Wall Street in order to exchange various stocks. As their practices evolved, the traders realized that they needed a codified set of rules to guide them. The businesspeople thus created the Buttonwood Agreement shortly after the end of the American Revolution, which laid the foundation for the modern New York Stock Exchange. (Wall Street also functioned as the home for several important civic institutions, including Federal Hall—the original national capitol building.)

    Lower Manhattan’s affiliation with the young American financial sector only continued to grow throughout the 19th century, with Wall Street serving as the epicenter for all its business dealings. The traders themselves formed specialized firms that made a profit exclusively speculating on stock. Several of the firms would produce legendary investment bankers, as well, like J.P. Morgan. (Not only did Morgan create one of the most powerful banks—the self-eponymously named “J.P. Morgan & Co.”—he also formed the nucleus for the nation’s corporate finance industry during the Gilded Age.) Driving this development was the emergence of New York City as a major economic hub in the United States, as American companies sought to leverage the monetary might of the Wall Street financiers to fund their own projects. Many corporations even relocated to New York City to strengthen their ties with those firms, such as John D. Rockefeller’s prolific Standard Oil. Various financial institutions on Wall Street grew in significance as a result, especially the New York Stock Exchange. The business activity changed the geography of Wall Street, too, as both the street and the surrounding neighborhood saw the construction of towering skyscrapers. This development lasted for years, which gradually forced most of the residents to move to locations elsewhere in the city.

    By the dawn of the 20th century, the entirety of Lower Manhattan had been transformed into a sprawling cityscape that many across the nation took to calling the “Financial District.” Wall Street even became synonymous with the district itself, thus establishing its place within modern America’s collective consciousness. The region has since remained one of the most economically important sites in the country today, having come to act as the home for numerous influential financial establishments. The New York Stock Exchange in particular has become the largest stock exchange in the world, although it has not always enjoyed continuous prosperity as evidenced by the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the 2007—2008 Global Financial Crisis. Furthermore, Wall Street is close to many New York City landmarks, such as the Federal Hall National Memorial, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the World Trade Center site, and Trinity Church, which is where Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is buried. The U.S. Department of the Interior has even listed Wall Street and its neighboring thoroughfares as a district in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Fewer areas in New York City are as truly monumental as historic Wall Street and the greater Financial District.

  • About the Architecture +

    Originally designed by the architectural firm Clinton & Russell, The Wall Street Hotel displays architectural motifs inspired by the famous Beaux-Arts movement. Preston himself was accomplished in the use of Beaux-Arts architecture, having graduated from the renowned École des Beaux-Arts many years prior in 1861. Located in the heart of Paris, the École des Beaux-Arts was an art school where the Beaux-Arts first took shape during the 1830s. There was much resistance to the Neoclassism of the day among French artists, who yearned for the intellectual freedom to pursue less rigid design aesthetics. (This is especially ironic given Preston’s later fascination with Neoclassic architecture during his time in Boston.) Four instructors in particular were responsible for establishing the movement: Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer. The training that these instructors created involved fusing architectural elements from several earlier styles, including Imperial Roman, Italian Renaissance, and Baroque. As such, a typical building created with Beaux-Arts-inspired designs would feature a rusticated first story, followed by several more simplistic ones. A flat roof would then top the structure. Symmetry became the defining character, with every building’s layout featuring such elements like balustrades, pilasters, and cartouches. Sculptures and other carvings were commonplace throughout the design, too. Beaux-Arts only found a receptive audience in just a few countries though, as most Western architects gravitated toward British design principles. That being said, Beaux-Arts was received incredibly well throughout the United States, emerging as one of its most enduring architectural forms. Indeed, many Beaux-Arts-designed structures still survive in America today, with some even bearing a listing in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.