A walk on Wall Street

By Alex P. Vidal

“Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.”—Warren Buffett

I HAVE been asked many times by some Filipinos visiting New York City why they couldn’t immediately locate the historic New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building when they walked on Wall Street in the Lower Manhattan.

Although NYSE has been known to be associated with Wall Street it is not actually located on Wall Street. The NYSE is at 18 Broad Street, an adjacent street.

I learned this a couple of years ago when I decided to make a long walk on Wall Street from the World Trade Center (WTC) going to the Staten Island Ferry.

Upon reaching the Charging Bull (sometimes referred to as the Bull of Wall Street or the Bowling Green Bull,  a bronze sculpture that stands on Broadway just north of Bowling Green in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City), I noticed I hadn’t seen that famous NYSE made of classical features.

I realized that from the WTC, I was supposed to walk east, toward the Brooklyn Bridge. On Wall Street, from the John Quincy Adams Ward statue of George Washington, I looked south down Broad Street. Midway down the block, on the right, I finally saw one of the most famous buildings in the world—The New York Stock Exchange at 18 Broad Street.


Intrigued by stories that the New York Stock Exchange letters are made of pure gold, I visited the place anew on August 29.

Indeed the letters glittered like gold but nobody could confirm they were pure gold.

The NYSE building we see today opened for business on April 22, 1903.

Whether residential or commercial, a building’s architecture makes a statement.

Examining the classical features of the NYSE building may help us understand the values of its occupants. Despite its grand scale, this iconic building shares the many of the same elements found on a typical Greek Revival house.

The NYSE is not a bank. Yet, below ground, a steel safe deposit vault, about 120 feet long and 22 feet wide, was designed to fit securely within the four basements of the building.

Likewise, the famous 1903 facade of this building is not physically located on Wall Street, yet it is closely associated with the financial district, world economies in general, and greedy capitalism in particular.


The NYSE building, often wrapped in the American flag, has been the site of many protests. In September 1920, a great explosion damaged many surrounding buildings. On August 24, 1967, demonstrators against the Vietnam War and the presumed capitalism that funded the war attempted to disrupt operations by throwing money at traders. Covered in ash and debris, it was closed for several days after the 2001 terrorist attacks nearby.

The surrounding streets have been off limits since then. And, beginning in 2011, protesters frustrated with economic disparities marched on the NYSE building in a continued attempt to “Occupy Wall Street.”

The statuary within the pediment was replaced in 1936, during the Great Depression.

When thousands of banks were being closed, stories circulated that pieces of the largest statue, Integrity, were falling to the sidewalk. Some said that the symbolic statuary had become a symbol of the country itself.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission noted that the NYSE building “symbolizes the strength and security of the nation’s financial community and the position of New York as its center.”

The classical details convey Integrity and Democracy. But can architectural design shape public opinion? What would Wall Street protesters say? What do you say? Tell us! (Sources: Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation, July 9, 1985. George R. Adams, The National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, March 1977.)


Another interesting book on sale (only at $5) at the Barnes and Noble in Midtown Manhattan is Pygmalion, a king of Cyprus who could find nothing good in women.

As a result, Pygmalion resolved to live out his life unmarried.

Pygmalion fell in love with his own creation when he carved a statue out of ivory that was so beautiful and so perfect that no living being could possibly be its equal.

At a festival, he consequently prayed to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, that he might have the statue come to life.

To his amazement, Pygmalion found that his wish had been fulfilled when he reached home, and he proceeded to marry the statue he named Galatea.

Author George Bernard Shaw used several aspects of the legend and most prominently one of the names in the title, viewers, writers, critics, and audiences have consistently insisted upon there being some truth attached to every analogy in the myth.


LET’S AVOID MENTAL LAZINESS. From the chin down no man is worth much more than a dollar or two a day.

Even what we do with our hands depends for its value on the amount of sense we use.

We can train and improve our mind as well as our fingers. Mental laziness is the most common disease.

Let’s put in a certain amount of time every day at making our brain more efficient. Let’s read. Let’s study. Let’s think. Let’s not fritter away all our spare time. It’s all habit.

We can get used to hard study as well as to hard work. And it pays. Let’s improve ourselves from the chin up.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)