The Wall Street Inn
9 South William Street
New York, NY 10004
South William Street History
History of South William Street site
On the southern half of this site, landowner Weasel Evertsen built a house (c. 1660) for Poser Levy, a Jewish butcher and moneylender who successfully fought for permission from the town "to keep guard with other burghers" despite the disinclination of his fellow townsmen to serve with Jews. Levy retained the property for ten years, then conveyed the house and lot to Jan Herberding (a/k/a John Harpendingh), who later leased land on the west side of today's South William Street to Congregation Shearith Israel for its synagogue. At the northeast corner of the site Jacob Haey (a/k/a Jacob Heij, d. 1658), who had been a prosperous trader in Curacao and Santa Cruz, erected a comfortable house (c. 1648), Haey also owned a large plantation, in what is now Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which was cultivated by African slaves. His widow, whose second husband was shipmaster David Jochemszen (a/k/a Jochems), continued to live in the Stone Street house until at least 1686.The lane adjacent to this property was very narrow, and remained so for a century; in 1754 residents petitioned to widen it, as it was the "only passage thro Mill Street Commonly Called the Jews Ally [...] to Duke Street. " The Haey/Jochems house and its garden were then sacrificed for the widening of the lane; however, documents indicate that the site of 59-61 Stone Street soon again contained two structures. The southern half of the site (No. 59 Stone Street) was associated with Gershom Mendes Seixas (1746-1816) the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, chief spokesman for American Jewry, and Revolutionary patriot. Seixas was among the city's first philanthropists and for many years was a regent and trustee of Columbia University. Meanwhile the northern half of the site (No. 61 Stone Street) was owned by Matthew Clarkson, probably the army officer and philanthropist (1755-1825) who participated in many important Revolutionary War battles, was elected to state-wide offices, and served as president of the Bank of New York for the two decades prior to his death; and Jotham Post, Jr. (1771 -1817), a physician and drug importer who held political office at the state and national levels.
History of the building
Just before the 1835 fire, No. 59 Stone Street was the home of sailmaker Joan Cole and was owned by merchant Edwin Lord. By 1836 that building had been replaced by a brick store and loft building with a granite base; at first it was occupied by the firm of E. & C.G. Fehr. Later tenants included Zollikoffer & Wetter importers; and Ralli & Company, commission merchants. No. 59 was owned for many years by importer Christian H. Sand and later owned and occupied by merchants Alexander M. and George P. Lawrence.
Immediately prior to the Great Fire No. 61 was also owned by Edwin Lord and was run as a boardinghouse by Catharine Allies, a widow. By 1836 that building was replaced by a brick store and loft structure which was occupied by importer Christian H. Sand and soon thereafter by other importers, including the German importing firm of Frederick Victor and Thomas Achelis. Long-term owners of No. 61 included Amos R. Eno (1810-98), partner in one of the city's leading wholesale drygoods firms and later an important real estate investor who built the famous Fifth Avenue Hotel (see introductory essay); Francis Vose, whose firm Vose, Perkins & Company occupied the building; and the members of the prominent Cutting family.
During the 1920s, insurance executive William H. McGee, through his Eleven South William Street Company, employed architect William Neil Smith to remodel the site for McGee's marine insurance firm, founded in 1883. In 1924-25 [Demo 326-1924; Alt 2562-1924] Smith raised the building on the southern portion of the site from five to seven stories. In 1928-29 (Demo 319-1928; Alt 1973- 1928), he demolished the five-story structure on the northern half of the lot and replaced it with a six-and-one-half-story building fronted in limestone and surmounted by a slate-covered mansard roof. By 1929, the building was reoriented toward South William Street and Mill Lane, and largely unified on the exterior by its neo-Gothic cladding and mansard roof. The enlarged structure accommodated 345 workers of William H. McGee & Company, marine insurance underwriters. Smith was concurrently building a private club at 21-23 South William Street for an affiliate of the McGee firm.
At mid-century Lehman Brothers occupied the building (then known as 9 South William) as an annex to its larger building across Mill Lane (outside the boundaries of this district). Originating as a mercantile trade and commodities firm before the Civil War, Lehman Brothers established a base in New York in 1868 and soon shifted to investment banking. The only such firm to survive the Great Depression with its prestige intact, it financed many successful businesses such as Hollywood studios and large department store chains. The company, which occupied No. 1 William Street from 1928 to 1980, expanded into No. 9-11 South William Street in 1961. At the time of its sale to American Express in 1984, Lehman Brothers was Wall Street's oldest continuing banking partnership.