1 William Street

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1 William Street
One William Street (WTM by official-ly cool 011).jpg
Former namesJ. & W. Seligman & Company Building
General information
Architectural styleneo-classicism
LocationNew York, New York, United States
Coordinates40°42′17″N 74°00′36″W / 40.7048°N 74.0100°W / 40.7048; -74.0100Coordinates: 40°42′17″N 74°00′36″W / 40.7048°N 74.0100°W / 40.7048; -74.0100
Construction started1906
Technical details
Floor count11
Design and construction
ArchitectFrancis Kimball
Julian C. Levi
Main contractorGeorge A. Fuller Company
DesignatedFebruary 13, 1996[2]
Reference no.1943[2]
DesignatedFebruary 20, 2007[3]
Part ofWall Street Historic District
Reference no.07000063[3]

1 William Street is an office building in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. The building has had a number of names, originally the J. & W. Seligman & Company Building, and later the Lehman Brothers Building. Currently it is also known as the Banca Commerciale Italiana Building.

The building, erected in 1906–1907, was designed by Francis H. Kimball in conjunction with Julian C. Levi. It was created for the Seligmans, a prominent German Jewish family who founded an investment bank called J. & W. Seligman. The building was later the headquarters of investment bank Lehman Brothers from 1929 to 1980, and was subsequently bought by Banca Commerciale Italiana.

The 11-story structure, clad in limestone with a steel frame, is located at the southern corner of the five-pointed intersection of William, South William, and Beaver Streets. It occupies a quadrilateral lot, with an acute angle between South William Street to the west and William Street to the east. In 1996, the building was designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.[2] In 2007, the building was designated as a contributing property to the Wall Street Historic District,[4] a National Register of Historic Places district.[3]


Context and construction[edit]

The Bavarian-born brothers Joseph and James Seligman, in conjunction with several other brothers, founded dry-goods businesses across the United States in the 1840s. They opened a New York City clothing store at 5 William Street by 1848.[5][6][7] With profits from the creation of other branches worldwide, the family received contracts to create Union Army soldiers' uniforms during the American Civil War. After the war ended, the family founded an investment bank called J. & W. Seligman & Co., with headquarters at 59 Exchange Place. The company also developed branches around the world, each headed by one of the brothers, though these branches later became independent.[5][6]

In March 1905, The New York Times reported that Isaac Seligman bought the lots on the south side of William Street from Stone to South William Streets.[8] The five lots purchased by Isaac included the Seligmans' old store, and were two blocks away from Wall Street, where many of New York City's major financial companies and commodities exchanges were located.[9] The next year, architectural plans for the building were filed with the New York City Department of Buildings.[6]: 117 [9][10] The New York Herald said, "It is to be of the Italian Renaissance type with facades of granite [sic] at the first story and limestone above, with decorative tower."[6]: 117 [9] Construction started in May 1906,[9] with work on the foundation beginning the next month.[11] The building was completed by July 1907 at a cost of $1 million, at which point J. & W. Seligman & Co. moved into the space. Originally, the front entrance was on South William Street.[6]: 117 [9]


In 1919, a consortium bought 1 William Street,[6]: 121 [12] and the Seligmans moved nearby, to 54 Wall Street. The same year, a renovation had split the two-story-high banking room into two regular-sized floors.[13]

The investment bank Lehman Brothers bought 1 William Street in 1928.[13][14] At the time, they were located diagonally across the intersection of Beaver, William, and South William Streets. The firm had to move to make way for construction of 20 Exchange Place, and chose 1 William Street because it would provide more space.[13] Lehman Brothers performed a $500,000 renovation of the structure, which included the relocation of the front entrance from South William Street to the corner with William and Beaver Street, as well as the replacement of the South William Street entrance with windows. Lehman Brothers moved into their offices at 1 William Street in June 1929.[13][15] Lehman Brothers originally took half the floor area in 1 William Street, but then occupied additional space vacated by tenants with expiring leases,[13] as well as space in two adjacent buildings.[16]

By the 1970s, Lehman Brothers was seeing financial losses, and under chairman Peter G. Petersen, the company merged with Kuhn, Loeb & Co. in 1977.[17][18] The combined company moved out of the building at the end of 1980, putting the structure on sale for $10 million[17][19] and consolidating its operations at another facility on 55 Water Street.[17][20] The following year, the building was purchased by Banca Commerciale Italiana, which erected an 11-story addition to the south between 1982 and 1986.[17] The annex, which contains a similar design to the original structure, received an architectural award in 1988.[21] The building is now owned by Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy's largest bank.[22]


The building is designed in the Renaissance Revival style, with elements similar to the Baroque Revival style in Britain, such as a curving exterior, sculptural ornament, and towers at the corners.[9][23]


The side facades consist of a water table made of granite. The windows on the ground floor contain elaborate entablatures on their frames, while those on the second floor are rectangular with ornate metal railings.[17] On the third through eighth stories, the windows are rectangular and contain voussoirs, wedge-shaped elements, on the lintels at the top of the frames. A colonnade runs along the facade of the ninth and tenth floors, and the eleventh floor contains square windows. There are water towers on the roof and a chimney on the South William Street side.[24]

To smooth out the acute angle created by the intersection of William and South William Streets, where the building's main entrance is located, the designers included a curved facade at the lower floors, as well as a concave building corner element above the eighth floor. This element is capped by a corner tower, which is round and resembles a "tempietto".[9][23] The doorway contains double doors made of glass and metal, as well as iron gates, a short flight of granite steps, a flagpole around the doors, a metal plaque, and decorative iron grilles on the transom and second story.[17] The third through eighth floors on this section are rounded, and above the eighth-floor window is a sculpted cartouche.[24]

The South William Street side contained the original front doorway for the building, which comprised a door underneath an arch with glass screen. The magazine New York Architect characterized the building as being "the most complete private banking institution in the city", with a form and sculptural elements that provide a maximum "breadth and solidity in the treatment of the exterior."[9][23]

Studio Architetti Valle, along with Fred Liebmann and Jeremy P. Lang Architects, designed an 11-story annex in 1982.[17][21] The annex, located south of the original building contains black granite and limestone cladding, as well as a turret at the southern corner, which complements the other turret at the entrance of the original building.[17] The annex features double doors facing South William Street, as well as a service entrance at Stone Street.[24]


Upon the building's completion, the basement, ground floor, and mezzanine housed the banking offices,[9] and there was a "richly decorated" board room on the mezzanine, as per the company's requirements.[23] The two-story banking room included a barrel-vaulted ceiling[9][23] and was split into two floors by 1919.[13]

When Lehman Brothers occupied 1 William Street, it maintained a fancy private dining facility for its employees in the building. In 1979 The New York Times deemed 1 William Street's lunchroom as the best corporate lunchroom in the Wall Street area, saying, "Perhaps nowhere on Wall Street is the food as good and Old World dining carried on with the same care and flair."[25] At the time, chief Pierre Colin prepared 75 meals a day for lunch. Colin said that the dinners were "much more elegant than eating at a midtown restaurant".[25] During dinners, hors d'oeuvres were served on the third floor before guests moved to the eighth-floor Partners' Dining Room, which contained a table made of mahogany wood and silver inlays; Hepplewhite-brand chairs; linen napkins; crystal and china cutlery; oil paintings on the walls; and windows with slight views of the nearby East River.[25] After BCI took over the building, the original decor was kept, but the dining facilities served "only Italian food and wine".[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1 William Street at Emporis
  2. ^ a b c Landmarks Preservation Commission 1996, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b c "National Register of Historic Places 2007 Weekly Lists" (PDF). National Park Service. 2007. p. 65. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  4. ^ "Wall Street Historic District" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. February 20, 2007. pp. 4–5. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Landmarks Preservation Commission 1996, p. 2.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Muir, R. L.; White, C. J. (1964). Over the Long Term: The Story of J. & W. Seligman & Co. Seligman. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  7. ^ Birmingham, Stephen (1996) [1967]. Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York. New York: Harper & Row. p. 43.
  8. ^ "Mr. Seligman Buys Site". The New York Times. March 22, 1905. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Landmarks Preservation Commission 1996, p. 4.
  10. ^ "In the Real Estate Field". The New York Times. April 13, 1906. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  11. ^ Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. C.W. Sweet & Company. 1906. p. 704. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  12. ^ "Big Firms Buying Homes In Wall Street District". The New York Times. May 18, 1919. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Landmarks Preservation Commission 1996, p. 5.
  14. ^ "Latest Dealings In The Real Estate Field; Lehman Bros. Buy On William Street". The New York Times. April 26, 1928. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  15. ^ "Lehman Bros. To Open New Offices Today; Banking Firm Has Made Extensive Alterations on Its Building in William Street". The New York Times. June 10, 1929. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  16. ^ Landmarks Preservation Commission 1996, p. 8.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h Landmarks Preservation Commission 1996, p. 6.
  18. ^ Sloane, Leonard (November 29, 1977). "Lehman and Kuhn Loeb to Merge". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  19. ^ Crittenden, Ann (December 20, 1980). "Lehman's Office Move Marks End of an Aura; Lehman Leaves One William Street 'The Place Is a Pigsty' High Return on Capital". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  20. ^ Auletta, Ken (February 17, 1985). "Power, Greed and Glory on Wall Street: The Fall of the Lehman Brothers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Architecture Awards for Restorations". The New York Times. May 30, 1988. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  22. ^ "1 William Street | TRD Research". Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  23. ^ a b c d e The New York Architect. Harwell-Evans Company. 1908. p. 192. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  24. ^ a b c Landmarks Preservation Commission 1996, p. 7.
  25. ^ a b c Bogart, Jeffrey D. (August 5, 1979). "The Wall Street Dining Rooms". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  26. ^ Louie, Elaine (May 3, 1989). "Private Domains: Inside Corporate Dining Preserves". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

External links[edit]