Walk 4: St. Paul's to City Hall

The residential section of the city gives way to commerce creating the northern section of what was then the singular business district of the city, the Battery to City Hall.

When it was still an affluent residential quarter of the city, Trinity Church built a small chapel. This church, St. Paul's Chapel, is the city's finest pre-Revolutionary War building. A fine example of English/American 18th century church design, St. Paul's chapel sits in the middle of a large churchyard. The empty air above the churchyard might now be considered a valuable asset for future development near the church. Row houses on Broadway surrounded St. Paul's, and made an appropriate setting for the church during the early 19th Century. Nearby is the impressive City Hall which was built atop a small triangular park. Architects Mangin and McComb won a competition in 1803 and created an exceptional building with elaborate detailing far in excess of other city buildings. City Hall seems to sit at the top of the early 19th Century city to its south, embracing the city below.

Gradually the houses gave way to commerce and the location near City Hall caused Park Row to evolve into a street of politicians' quarters, then the newspaper industry. At Park Row, the buildings rose higher as the newspaper business grew, making it the site of some of the city's first skyscrapers. The introduction of the telephone freed reporters from the need to be near City Hall, leading to the relocation of newspapers uptown in the early 20th century.

Another business closely associated with the City Hall region is the insurance industry, which was concentrated on and above Chambers Street.

The modern hotel also originated near City Hall with the great Astor Hotel of the early 1830s. Joining the world of visitors and commerce came a number of shops which were placed in the old red brick row houses, making Broadway the premier shopping center of the United States. At Chambers Street at Broadway the enterprising merchant, A.T. Stewart opened America's first department store in a white marble Renaissance palace in 1846.

Large as City Hall seemed in the early 19th century, it was inadequate to serve the needs of the large New York City community by the end of the century. City government buildings sprung up around City Hall and two notable turn-of-our-century examples remain. We visit first the Hall of Records, now called Surrogate's Court. This elaborate Beaux Arts building, a politician's festival, has a stunning interior court. Just east of the Surrogate's Court, the city's other major new government building, the Municipal Building, soars over the city. Begun in 1907, the building was a construction nightmare since the city's bedrock falls off here, and the first IRT subway roared beneath it. The Municipal Building mimics City Hall but it was built on a 20th Century scale.

St. Paul's Chapel, Broadway between Fulton and Vesey Streets, architect believed to be Thomas McBean (1764-66). Later additions by James C. Lawrence [1780s, 1790s]
Woolworth Building, 233 Broadway, Cass Gilbert [1913]
Newspaper Row, Park Row [1840s until the turn of-the-century]
New York Times Building, 41 Park Row, George B. Post [1889]
Potter Building, 38 Park Row [1883]
City Hall, City Hall Park, John McComb, Jr. and Joseph Francois Mangin [1803-1812]
A.T. Stewart Dry Goods Store, 280 Broadway, Joseph Trench and John B. Snook [1846]
Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., John Kellum/Leopold Eidlitz [1858-78]
Surrogate's Court/Hall of Records, 31 Chambers Street, John R. Thomas/Horgan and Slattery [1899-1911]
Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, McKim Mead and White [1914]
Municipal Building Subway August Belmont (financeer) [1900-1904]
New York City Police Headquarters, between Park Row, Pearl St and Avenue of the Finest, Gruzen and Partners (Architect), M. Paul Friedberg and Associates (Landscape Architect) [1973]

The Walks: [Lower Manhattan] [Seaport] [Wall Street] [City Hall] [Soho] [East Village] [West Village] [Ladies Mile] [Upper West Side] [Morningside] [Grand Central] [Park Ave.] [Rockefeller Center] [Home]