Dive Into The Wall Street Inn History
The Wall Street Inn history is an exceptional account of how the hotel grew from New York’s earliest days. Detailed records indicate that this location has seen many changes, survived devastation and been rebuilt by enterprising businessmen. No matter who owned the property, the history of The Wall Street Inn tells us that it has always been a place of growth and determination.
Centuries of Development
South William Street is named for William Beekman, who came to New York with Peter Stuyvesant and served nine terms as mayor. It is one of the oldest streets in New York and is on the Gastello Plan of New Amsterdam. On the southern half of our hotel site, landowner Weasel Evertsen built a house (c. 1660) for Poser Levy. He was a Jewish butcher and moneylender. He successfully fought for permission from the town “to keep guard with other burghers” despite his fellow townsmen's disinclination to serve with Jews. Levy retained the property for ten years, then conveyed the house and lot to Jan Herberding. He 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 prosperous trader in Curacao and Santa Cruz erected a comfortable house (c. 1648). His widow 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 since it was the “only passage thro Mill Street Commonly Called the Jews Ally […] to Duke Street.” The Haey/Jochems house and its garden were sacrificed for the widening of the lane.
From the mid-1600s until 1730, Congregation Shearith Israel rented space on Beaver Street and subsequently on Mill Street (today known as South William Street). In 1730, they built the first structure in America designed and constructed to be a synagogue on the property that now houses The Wall Street Inn. They replaced it with a larger structure on the same site in 1818. In commemoration of this, South William Street has been co-named “Mill Street Synagogue/Seixas Way.”
The Great Fire of 1835 occurred on December 16, 1835. It began at 25 Merchant Street (now called Beaver Street) at the intersection with Pearl Street between Hanover Square and Wall Street. This fire was the largest blaze ever to have occurred in America. It destroyed America’s financial capital in one night. Virtually every structure south of Wall Street and east of Broad Street was reduced to rubble or damaged beyond repair. But within a few years, citizens and business owners rebuilt the entire Financial District.
The Construction Of The Wall Street Inn
A new building was erected on this site in 1836 and occupied by various importers. In the 1920s, insurance executive William H. McGee remodeled the site for his insurance 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. 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, they 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 were Wall Street’s oldest continuing banking partnership. They subsequently sold the building and moved their offices elsewhere.
In the 1990s, Frances and Leon Birnbaum purchased the building. Survivors of the Holocaust, they immigrated to America in the 1950s. Through hard work and determination, they built a new life in New York. Starting as a peddler on the street, Leon became a successful businessman with Frances’ help. After a total renovation of the building, they opened The Wall Street Inn in 1999. Leon passed away in 2012. Frances still lives in New York, enjoying her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Their family continues to own and operate The Wall Street Inn to this day. It is a proudly woman-owned business.