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Although the term "Wall Street" has become synonymous with financial influence and power, it's technically just a street in Lower Manhattan, so named because from 1653 to 1699, a wall there protected the northern boundary of the city of New Amsterdam from the British and Native Americans. But it’s the New York Stock Exchange at 11 Wall Street, plus the headquarters of international banks like J.P. Morgan, that make it the center of American finance. Since 9/11, security has blocked off the stock exchange from tourists, but anyone can still pose by George Washington's statue at Federal Hall—the country's first capitol, where he was sworn into office in 1789. Limestone architecture constructed during the Gilded Age dominates the street, although there are some Art Deco jewels as well, like the Bank of New York Building at 1 Wall Street, which has a fantastic mosaic atrium inside. Wall Street frames historic Trinity Church at one terminus at Broadway and runs to South Street. Though at one time it was a ghost town when the stock exchange wasn’t in session, today luxury residences have a presence there, as do as sports clubs, chic retailers like Tiffany & Co., and Cipriani's glitzy, blockwide event space.Tours
The Downtown Alliance provides 90-minute walking tours, leaving from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian every Thursday and Saturday at noon. Call 212-606-4064 for more information.