Financial District, Manhattan, NYC: A Brief History

By: ROS Team June 23, 2021

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The Financial District, also known as FiDi, is located on the southeastern side of Manhattan. FiDi is considered the financial center of the world and is home to the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

FiDi is bounded by the Battery on the south, City Hall Park on the north, the West Side Highway on the west, and Brooklyn Bridge on the northeast. According to the latest census data, its population is approximately 57,627 and has a population density of 49,000/km2.

A Brief History

The Financial District has a rich history, the root of which lies in its prime location. European explorers Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524 and Henry Hudson in 1609 introduced the area to Westerns who came to the area in large numbers and displaced Native Americans who called the land home.

Financial District History

The Dutch East India Company financed Henry Hudson’s voyage, which ultimately paved the way for Dutch settlement at the southern tip of Manhattan by 1624. Following their settlement, they built Fort Amsterdam to protect their interests. They then formed a Dutch colony and named it “New Netherland.”

In 1647, Peter Stuyvesant was appointed Director-General of New Netherland. As soon as Stuyvesant was appointed, he remodeled the southern tip of Manhattan by making changes to the colony’s infrastructure as an expansion strategy. Stuyvesant’s accomplishments also include restructuring the colony to guard itself against future foreign invaders.

Stuyvesant also constructed a famously large wall to help protect the Dutch from their English rivals and Native Americans. This wall is the origin of New York City’s famous Wall Street.

New York City’s famous Wall Street

However, those measures were not enough for Stuyvesant. In 1664, the British sent four large warships to the Dutch colony to seize control. Although Stuyvesant wanted to fight back, he was persuaded by popular opinion to surrender peacefully. As a result, the British were able to take control of the colony in 1664.

New York became a key battleground during the American Revolution. General George Washington and the British Army faced each other several times near Manhattan Island.

Americans defeated the British Army and liberated the island

In 1783, Americans defeated the British Army and liberated the island. Americans soon realized there was a need to build forts in order to defend against future attacks. Especially attacks that targeted the export of local goods. They began building Castle Clinton in 1808. This played a vital role in the evolution of NYC as a financial powerhouse because it served as a major trading site.

Transitioning from a battlefield to political ground, NYC later became an economic and trading asset. From 1789 to 1790, New York City served as the capital of the United States, and the capital building, called Federal Hall, was located in the center of the Financial District.

In 1792, New York City’s greatest symbol of wealth, the New York Stock Exchange, was established. Then, in 1903, the New York Stock Exchange moved to a new location a short distance away.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

In 1914, another feather was added to NYC’s hat when the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was incorporated, becoming one of 12 federal reserve banks in the United States. It went on to become the largest and most prominent bank in the country.

Following the Great Depression, the Financial District experienced an unusual period of unrest and anxiety. People were disheartened to learn of the many corrupt business practices that took place to gain the city’s stature as a powerful financial city. This gave FiDi a bad reputation, and it took several decades before people restored their trust in Wall Street bankers.

One of the most iconic symbols of NYC was the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. They were the tallest buildings in New York City before the tragedy of September 11th’s terrorist attacks. This incident was not important for New Yorkers and the global community as a whole because it sparked a war against terrorism.

The Bottom Line

The Financial District has played a vital role in giving NYC its reputation as a prominent financial city. The story of New York City can’t be fully told without including FiDi.

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