Four-hundred years ago, the New York City people know and love was called New Amsterdam. And 85 Broad Street — now part of Manhattan’s Financial District — was situated in this former 17th-century Dutch settlement. To bring back a part of this location’s rich history while also experimenting with digital media and software-driven lighting, ESI Design recently gave the corporate lobby of 85 Broad a vibrant renovation.
Most notably, a 400-year-old cobblestone-paved street runs through this Lower Manhattan office building, which is highlighted by the 1,800-square-foot curved lobby corridor that replicates the street’s route. The historic path, sometimes referred to as the Stone Street Corridor, has been a part of 85 Broad since its original construction in 1981. As the design studio’s website put it, “the past, present and future of New York City come together at 85 Broad Street.”
Stone Street used to run from Broad Street to Hanover Square, but 85 Broad segmented the street into two sections. Untapped Cities tour guide, Justin Rivers, who runs our Tour of the Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam, tells us that Stone Street used to be called Hooge Straet which translates to High Street. “It’s reputed to be the first paved road in New Amsterdam by Stuyvesant,” he says. “…when they Americans won their independence, they changed the name to Stone to commemorate the fact that it was the first paved street. Apparently the lore was that a rich Brewer’s wife wanted Peg-leg Pete to pave that street because she lived on it and the dust from the horses was ruining her drapes.”
The building’s construction helped spearhead the initiative to landmark the Dutch street grid, one of the only street grids in the country to have landmark status. Now, the eastern part of Stone Street and the surrounding buildings, including 85 Broad, are protected by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which ensures they will not be changed or obscured in any way.
ESI Design preserved the unique aspect of 85 Broad without altering its original history. However, the design studio also approached the renovation process from a 21st century perspective. To bolster the presence of the 400-year-old cobblestone underfoot, ESI Design installed over 101 animated LED light bars to create a custom low-resolution video ceiling.
Image courtesy ESI Design
These interior lights display different patterns throughout the day. One projects clouds and sky similar to what a passerby would have seen during a time when the corridor was outside opposed to within an office building. The lobby of 85 Broad also features seven relief maps on the walls and elevators bays, accounting for 1,100-square-feet in total. ESI Design wanted to capture this neighborhood of New York City’s transformation over the course of four centuries in the renovation.
Today, 85 Broad Street is home to WeWork among others high profile occupants. The cobblestone-paved path reminds corporate employees and history buffs alike of New York City’s Dutch roots, which you can learn more about on our Tour of the Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam.