Situated on an oddly shaped block along the curve of William Street, 20 Exchange Place, is in the heart of the Financial District. Although the 59 story tower is no longer home to City Bank-Farmer’s Trust (now Citibank), evidence it was once the headquarters of one of America’s largest financial institutions covers the building.
In the late 1920s architecture firm Cross & Cross designed the building to be a 66-story monstrosity, taking the “world’s tallest building” title away from the Woolworth building. Before construction could begin the stock market crashed and the City Bank-Farmers Trust scaled back its plan by almost 200 feet
The main entrance, along one of the longer sides of the block, is framed with eleven coins, carved out of granite. Each coin represents the various countries in which the National City Bank had offices. Most of these coins are recognizable, an Indian Head nickle, coins from Europe, Asia, even a coin from ancient Greece. But there is one unrecognizable, a coin that depicts an eagle killing a rabbit.
A majestic set of round nickel silver doors on the smallest side of the block, Hanover Street, depict a history of transportation in true Art Deco style. The panels to the left and the right of the doors are decorated the same, with three panels illustrating modern transportation from that time period (1930). Prop planes, a steamship, and a charging locomotive are framed by Art Deco embellishments. Both doors are also hold the same three panels, this time with the predecessor to the mode of transportation on the panels; hot air balloons, a sailboat, early steam locomotive.
Other symbols of modern industry are scattered throughout the building. If you are looking for a rousing game of I-spy try to find the panel of a squirrel eating nuts, as well as a portrait of the building itself.
The narrow streets of lower Manhattan are watched over by the building’s “giants of finance” carved into the granite and limestone pillars. After the pillars end, the building continues to rise up. Upon completion in 1931 it was the world’s tallest stone-faced building.
Today 20 Exchange Place is the sixth tallest building in downtown Manhattan and is home to people and businesses. Floors 16 through 57 were converted into luxury apartments.
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