Undiscovered New York: Hidden Wall Street

It’s no surprise New York City bankers are not too popular these days. Between the housing meltdown and the bank bailouts, New York’s most famous financial thoroughfare, Wall Street, seems to be in the news a lot, and definitely not for good reasons. Many visitors have long-agreed, regarding the area as a dead zone for good reason. Sure, there’s a giant flag down there on the stock exchange and a metal bull, but once you snap a few photos it’s time to move on, right?

But to write the district off does it a serious injustice. Beneath the veneer of mega-banks, frenzied stock buying and selling and pinstripe suits lies a very different Wall Street, an area with a history dating back to New York’s earliest days as a North American settlement. In fact, the street gained its name because it was exactly that – an enormous wall constructed in the 17th Century to protect the small Dutch settlement from attacking Native Americans and British settlers.

To really get to know what Wall Street is about, in other words, you’ve gotta move past the banker cliches. Unless you dig a little deeper how would you know that Wall Street is brimming with history? Interested in visiting an African Burial Ground? Want to see what a stack containing one fourth of the world’s gold bars looks like? How about a drink in one of New York’s oldest bars?

Step inside Undiscovered New York’s guide to “Hidden Wall Street” to learn more…
The Lost City of Gold

Deep within an underground vault 80 feet below street level, resting on the bedrock of the island of Manhattan, sits a king’s ransom of treasure, filling an entire room from floor to ceiling. Think we’re talking about some hidden pirate treasure or Pharaoh’s tomb? It’s actually the physical manifestation of one of the world’s largest official monetary gold reserves, held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, located at 33 Liberty Street.

Containing around 266 million troy ounces of gold, the precious metal reserve is estimated to account for between 25 and 30 percent of the entire world’s monetary gold supply. Each weekday a select group of visitors is allowed in for tours of the Federal Reserve Building and its gold vault. It’s a fascinating look inside the U.S. economy (or what’s left of it) and an incredible trove of real-life treasure.

Ancient African Burial Grounds
The year was 1991, and construction crews were hard at work on the foundation of new office building in New York’s financial district. Suddenly the crews came upon the skeletal remains a few men, women and children. A research team was called into the site and soon had discovered the remains of a sprawling 6 acre burial site, containing more than 400 free and enslaved Africans laid to rest in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

In honor of the newly rediscovered burial ground, the site was renamed as the African Burial Ground and commissioned as a National Historic Landmark managed by the National Park Service. Stop by the Visitor Center located at 290 Broadway, check out the nearby monument and make arrangements for tours covering African presence in early New York.

Bridge Cafe
Undiscovered New York first took a look at some the city’s oldest bars back in November of 2008. But there was one bar we didn’t get to cover – the 1700’s-era Bridge Cafe, which is located close to Wall Street in the South Street Seaport. This Revolutionary War-era tavern is the self-proclaimed “oldest surviving tavern in New York.” Not only is the tavern still serving up pints of suds over 200 years later, it’s also the site of a former 1800’s brothel and apparently is haunted by ghosts. If you’re looking to enjoy some one-of-a-kind history and a legit New York historical landmark, look no further.