37-41 Broad Street was constructed in 1928-29 as the Headquarters of the Lee-Higginson Bank and is recognized today as "the most impressible building on Broad Street." The Lee, Higginson Bank Building is significant under Criteria A and C of the National Register standards for evaluation. As the headquarters of an important investment bank, the building is directly associated with the growth of the Lower Manhattan financial district and the U.S. financial services industry. The building embodies characteristics of the austere late 1920's Classical Revival style office building. It is notable for its handsome and well-designed facade. It was designed by architects Cross and Cross Architects, who were for their major office buildings. Two noted artists, Leo Friedlander (sculpture) and Griffith Baily Coale (mural), contributed works that add to the significance of the building.
37-41 Broad Street is located on the east side of Broad Street between Exchange Place and Beaver Street, one block south of the New York Stock Exchange. It is located at a gentle bend in the road; its facade is slightly curved to follow the bend. It is a nine story building with a tenth story penthouse that is set back from the facade. The facade is largely intact including banking doors, bronze windows and architectural detailing. 37-41 Broad Street exhibits the characteristics of the Classical Revival style; it is symmetrically organized with classically derived details that are stately and proper (non-whimsical) in composition.
Lee, Higginson and Company was founded in Boston in 1848 and served New England capitalists and early industrial corporations. Later, the firm became one of the earliest to serve individual investors who marketed stocks and bonds for utilities and industrial companies. In 1892, along with JP Morgan and Company, the firm financed the merger that created the General Electric Company. By that time, Lee, Higginson and Co. was among the top investment banks of the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Broad Street site was chosen to represent the bank's status and prestige. There were not many private banks in the early 20th century that could "afford to build modest-scaled headquarter structures on enormously expensive pieces of land." In 1928, its site, which is visible from Wall Street, was considered to be "one of the most important in the financial district." Located where Broad Street is at its widest to best show off the buildings facade, and opposite a subway stop it neighbored prominent banking and high grade bond houses including the Bankers Trust, the Equitable Trust, and JP Morgan. Its 106 foot street frontage was also a statement of stature.
The Lee, Higginson Bank Building replaced a row of 4, 5 and 6-story brick buildings that at one time faced the famed "curb market" where as many as 500 brokers who traded speculative stocks of new or young industries and companies, worked outside. The broker's clerks watched through windows of the small Broad Street buildings and communicated with traders by hand signals. In 1921, this market moved indoors in a building two blocks away and in 1953 became the American Stock Exchange. In 1928, the loss of these small buildings was considered to be a loss of a landmark.
The estimated cost (construction and land) of the Lee, Higginson building was $3,700,000. Shortly after its construction, it was regarded as "one of the most attractive (building) in the financial district" and "one of the finest examples of architectural beauty in New York City." The exterior is noted for its fine architectural embellishments and included a carved 8-paneled, ornamental frieze is by noted sculpture Leo Friedlander. The building's classical facade conformed to the conservative Wall Street image established its prestigious neighbors. In a way, this conformity proclaimed the banks importance within the financial community.
The large interior banking hall is adorned with marble mosaic columns, trim and floor in the unconventional manner. A painted mural by noted artist Griffith Baily Coale is located at the rear of the space. This public space discreetly suggests the firm's progressive and stylish nature.
Offices of executors and other personnel were wood paneled, and some included fireplaces; many of which remain. Upper floors were rented to such firms as Helbert Wagg and Company of London for its American division. The building had a janitor's apartment in the 10th floor penthouse, as was commonly incorporated into the designs of early 20th century office buildings. This one room apartment was lined with wood paneling to the chair rail height and had a private bathroom. A time capsule with "a rag paper copy of the New York times, a bible, directory and yearbook of the New York Stock Exchange, a history of the firm, list of officers and some coins" was placed in the cornerstone.
Shortly after the building's construction, however, involvement in scandals hurt the bank's reputation and it was forced to vacate its building. In 1933, the building was purchased by the New York Stock Exchange for $2,200,000 for use as a clearing house. By 1939, Lee, Higginson & Company had shut down most of its operations but continued limited business until 1966 when it was merged into Hayden, Stone. Use of the building by the stock exchange also did not last. The building was sold in 1941 at a tremendous loss for $400,000 to the Public National Bank and Trust Company who restored the buildings original banking intent. The Public National Bank and Trust Company was established in 1908 and at the time of the purchase had thirty offices including eleven in Manhattan. This bank occupied the banking floor, mezzanines, basement and sub basement, and the second and third floors. The fourth through ninth floors were rented. The building continued to be utilized as a bank with offices on the upper floors, throughout the 1970's.
In 2003 the space was taken over by MetSchools, Inc, a private education company with plans to use the entire 120,000 square foot space for creating the first ever Pre K-8 private school below Canal Street. After a two year renovation and restoration, the building has been brought back to its former glory, specifically in the banking hall (now known as the Broad Street Ballroom), where previous highlights such as thick bronze doors and breathtaking pillars were complimented with new features including a 200-light, Broadway-quality A/V production system, and restored porcelain-tile floors. Today, the space is owned by Léman Manhattan Preparatory School and is used for educational purposes and special events.
Leo Friedlander (1890 - 1966) who carved the eight-panel frieze which adorns the seventh floor of the Lee, Higginson building, was an American sculptor who studied in New York, Paris, Brussels, and at the American Academy in Rome. Among his many noted works are the sculptures on Washington Memorial Arch, Valley Forge, PA; reliefs for the National Chamber of Commerce, Washington, DC; the main central pediment of the Museum of the City of New York; facades for the Jefferson County (ala.) Courthouse; and groups for the RCA (now GE) Building, Rockefeller Center, New York City.
Griffith Baily Coale (1890-1950)
Griffith Baily Coale was born inBaltimore, Maryland, the eldest son of a prominent family that encouraged his interest in art. Eventually he studied at the Maryland Institute of Art where he served as president of the Art Student's League for two years. He later studied mural painting inEurope for three years. Returning to Baltimore, he worked as a professional painter for seven years, and when World War I broke out, Coale worked as Marine Camoufleur for the U.S. Shipping Board from 1917 to 1918. In 1922, Coale moved to New York where he painted portraits, decorative paintings for buildings, and murals. He executed murals in a number of prominent buildings, including the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building, the Criminal Courts Building, the City Bank Farmers Trust Building. His work was not confined to New York City, but is seen throughout the East. In 1941, sensing that war was imminent, Coale approached Admiral Chester W. Nimitz with the idea of having combat artists on board navy ships to observe operations and document what they saw in paintings. From his experience in World War I and knowing that the British Navy had a successful war art program, Coale wanted to convince the U.S. Navy of the value of art in documenting war. Artworks could go beyond the photographic image and written document in providing a different perspective of the experience of war. Admiral Nimitz agreed to the plan and established the Navy Combat Art program.
On August 8, 1941, Coale received a commission as a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve working as a Combat Artist for the Office of Public Affairs. His first assignment put him on a patrol in the North Atlantic, where he witnessed the sinking of the U.S.S. Reuben James. He described and illustrated this experience in a book entitled North Atlantic Patrol. His next assignment took him to the Pacific, where after observing the wreckage from the attack on Pearl Harbor and hearing eyewitness accounts, he rendered illustrations of that disaster. He also observed troops training for the invasion of Midway and traveled to that island shortly after its recapture. This led to the publication of another book, Victory at Midway. Navy Public Affairs next sent him to the Southeast Asia Command and Ceylon, and for his final assignment at the end of the war he painted two murals (now lost) for the Naval Academy, depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway.
Coale left the Navy in 1947 with the rank of commander and returned to his home in New York, where he died in 1950.
There are fifty-three works in the Navy Art Collection by Commander Griffith Baily Coale.
Cross and Cross
Cross and Cross was an architectural partnership between John Walter Cross (1878 - 1951) and his younger brother Eliot Cross (1884-1949). Their commissions were primarily in New York City and were chiefly upscale. They are recognized as "one of New York's most distinctive native firms" who combined "great character and refinement" in their buildings.
John W. was schooled at Yale, Columbia School of Mines and at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris; Eliot at Harvard. This New York collaboration began in 1907 and remained successful for 35 years. John W. usually was the designer Eliot, who served in the construction department of the Red Cross in the World War I, had strong real estate interests and founded Webb & Knapp development firm in 1922. In 1941, John W. retired due to health problems, but in 1946, established a new firm with his son H. Pane Cross with the name Cross and Son, in which John W. remained active until his death at the age of 73.
Cross and Cross is best known for their Art Deco style skyscrapers and commercial buildings constructed in the 1930's but the firm also produced a number of fine neo-federal and neo-Georgian town houses, country estates, apartment houses and churches. The firm was equally adept in the classical styles of architecture as they were with 1930s modern. Their later works were executed in what is now described as "diffuse moderne styling." Cross and Cross architects produced many significant works, each with exceptional ornamentation and attention to details. Noted works of Cross and Cross architects include the City Bank Farmers Trust Company Building at 20 Exchange Place; The General Electric Tower at 570 Lexington Avenue which was built in 1929-1931 as the headquarters for the RCA Victor Radio Company; and the Church Street Federal Office Building and Post Office (1934 - 38) at 90 Church Street. As with the facade of the Lee, Higginson Bank Building, the exterior decor for the City Bank Farmers Trust Company Building includes sculptured themes and engraved details that are considered to be among the finest ornamentation of its construction period. The spire of the 195 foot tall GE building incorporates lightening bolt motifs depicting radio transmission waves. 90 Church Street is also noted for its fine interior detailing.
The Church of Notre Dame in the Morningside Heights area of New York City was designed by Cross and Cross in 1910. Based on Notre Dame in France, this small chapel has detailing similar to the Lee, Higginson Bank Building and exemplifies the architect's talents to adopt classical details and proportions on a variety of building types. Both buildings are noted for their sculptural frieze bands and the use of smooth and unadorned stone walls to allow the entrance porticos to stand out.
Other works of Cross and Cross include the neo-Classical Postum Building (1924-25) at 450 Park Avenue, The Guaranty Trust Company Branch Bank (1918) at Madison and 60th Street, the Hanover Bank Building (1930-32) at 35 East 72nd Street, the Barclay Hotel (1927) on East 48th Street and dozens of row houses on New York's upper east and west sides. The Tiffany & Company building (1939-40) is perhaps their best known.