Can a conglomeration of bricks, glass, wood, steel and mortar reveal the soul of a city? Maybe even a country? Forged from natural resources and assembled by human ingenuity, these buildings help illustrate how New York evolved from struggling Dutch company town into world capital. There are 700,000 buildings in the city. Here are five of the more inconspicuous yet important ones, along with the events that made them famous.
26 Wall Street, Manhattan
Do you know where Congress approved the Bill of Rights? Or where the nation first debated slavery? Or where the Supreme Court first met? It was not in Boston or Philadelphia.
The federal government was invented in New York City.
New Yorkers are so consumed by the present and the future that many residents don’t realize that their hometown was the nation’s first capital — a fortuitous choice that catalyzed the city’s revival after seven years of brutal British occupation.
The site selection was not an accident; it was the first and last time that the location of the national capital was held hostage to the demand of a prospective cabinet member: John Jay agreed to become secretary of state only if the Confederation Congress — the country’s governing body in the 1780s — vacated Trenton, N.J., and convened, instead in New York.
The old City Hall was renovated, George Washington was inaugurated, and for 531 days, in 1789 and 1790, 95 members of Congress, many of them with rival agendas, innovated, improvised and compromised to flesh out the bare bones of the new 4,500-word constitution.