Finance and Fantasy


2018-02-08 16:42 GMT+8

By Rachel

In the wondrous fantasyland of international travel the words ‘financial district’ don’t tend to elicit much excitement. New York is the exception. In any other city you might find yourself among banks and finance companies and swiftly pull out a map to see where you went wrong. But here in New York the financial district in south Manhattan is one of the most trafficked tourist destinations in the city.

Why have these seemingly everyday skyscrapers and power suits become such an attraction?

This area is the global Mecca for capitalism. 

There is certain magnetism to the culture and pace of the New York finance sector, no doubt enhanced by the dynamic history of this area. The stock market crash of 1929 had brought to an end the golden days of the ‘20s and threw New York, and the world, into the Great Depression.

Crowds had gathered in the streets surrounding the New York Stock Exchange and some of the most iconic images of the era are of crowds massing in front of banks in the district.

The economy recovered and in the 1980’s, with some help from Hollywood, the mystique of the financial district and the people who worked within it was greater than ever.

This area is the global Mecca for capitalism. It is host the world’s largest stock exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, on the world famous Wall Street. The aesthetic exudes confidence in the system, a façade which fell during the 2007/8 financial crisis which saw many of the area’s inhabitants out of work.

News media had a field day with images of people walking from their offices with boxes full of their belongings. In 2011 the press returned to cover the Occupy Wall Street movement, a sustained protest against the risky and negligent behaviors of banks and other financial firms which had led to the crash.

The district is a must for any traveler. Whether you admire history, architecture or atmosphere you will find something here. Some the oldest buildings date to the time of the depression, with 40 Wall Street being completed in 1930, just months after the crash. More recently, One World Trade Center was completed in 2014 to become the tallest building in the United States and its neighbor, 3 World Trade Center, is due to be opened this year.

These two buildings stand beside one of the most significant sites in New York – the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This memorial marks the site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. No trip is complete without a walk down Wall Street.

This is one of the oldest known streets in the country, having been marked on maps of the area from as early as 1685. This was the site of New York’s first slave market which ran from 1711 to 1762. The street also hosted the first US Presidential inauguration with the inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

Perhaps the most famous location on the street is the New York Stock Exchange at 11 Wall Street. An icon of Wall Street is the Charging Bull statue located in Bowling Green. The statue represents the power and aggression of capitalism and was originally placed by artist Arturo Di Modica.

In 2017, sculptor Kristen Visbal caused a stir when her piece, Fearless Girl, was placed facing the Charging Bull, in an act of defiance against the sexism in the finance industry.

Both statues stand in opposition to this day, each of them guerilla artworks which have perfectly captured the zeitgeist. A visit to this district of Manhattan is a must for every traveler so that you can feel that magnetism which brings hundreds of people everyday into these energetic streets.

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