Nestled amongst the hustle and bustle of Wall Street’s financial towers and office buildings there is a rather unassuming bank with a spectacular secret inside. Through the gold revolving doors at the 6 Hanover Street entrance, guests are instantly transported to the glamour of 1920s and 30s New York. A massive mural full of hidden symbols, original silver Art Deco ornamentation, and the invigorating scent of coffee beckon you inside. The decor is stunning and the backstory is fascinating, but as you take a closer look, everything is not as it seems.

Conwell Coffee at 20 Exchange Place

A sign on the wall of the coffee shop inside this historic Financial District landmark, “Conwell Tower,” tells of the Conwell Coffee company and the building’s backstory. This tale is echoed on the Conwell Coffee Hall website. The sign claims that the banking hall was once occupied by the “legendary Life and Trust Bank.” A visit to the Life and Trust website promises to help you obtain safety and security, extraordinary wealth, power and privilege, or the ability to unleash hidden passions. The bank has been “traditionally quite guarded over their secrets,” but it is now “delighted to host this one-of-a-kind dining establishment in their historic space.”

J.G. Conwell was one of the bank’s “most influential CEOs and chairmen,” the story continues. Conwell was also a “noted philanthropist and influential patron of the arts in New York City: serving on the board of directors for a number of New York cultural institutions, as well as funding a number of groundbreaking scientific discoveries.”

One of those scientific discoveries was made right here inside the banking hall when Conwell met with coffee merchant Wright Gillies and psychopharmacology pioneer Emil Kraepelin. The three men discovered that caffeine paired well with Conwell’s Cough Syrup, one brought you up, while the other brought you down.

Gillies and Conwell concocted the perfect coffee blend in 1924 and named it The Skyscraper. Conwell, who “believed the best ideas came to him over a stiff drink… caffeinated or otherwise,” dubbed the coffee blend “the taste of success.” The coffee and bank tycoon unfortunately “died unexpectedly and suddenly under tragic circumstances” before he was fully able to preserve his cultural legacy. And so, the Conwell Foundation now honors J.G. Conwell with Conwell Coffee Hall inside the iconic Life and Trust Bank building.

While Gillies and Kraepelin’s backgrounds check out, Conwell has proven to be a more elusive figure. Despite his illustrious profile, nothing can be found about the man online. There are also some curious incompatibilities between the dates in Conwell’s story and the construction of “Conwell Tower,” which history and architecture buffs may know as 20 Exchange Place, originally home to the City Bank–Farmers Trust Company. The building was completed in 1931. Perhaps the explanation lies in subtle clues such as the name of one of Conwell Coffee’s blends, Sleep No More, the casually placed copy of the novel Rebecca in this Instagram photo, or the business cards for Speakeasy Magick found at a stand that once held deposit slips. As we wait for more of Conwell’s secrets to be unveiled, we can enjoy “a taste of success” inside the stunning historic space.

Teapot, tea cup and book on a table

At the teller windows where New Yorkers once made deposits or withdrawals, customers now place their orders for food and beverages. Conwell Coffee Hall offers a variety of food and drink choices for breakfast and lunch as well as snacks to pair with evening cocktails. The menu boasts classic coffee drinks and breakfast offerings like croissants, cookies, and a yogurt parfait alongside fancy toasts topped with whipped ricotta and poached rhubarb or spinach rarebit among other toppings. The coffee is smooth and flavorful and comes in three roasts, Sleep No More, Skyscraper, and The Vault. Cocktails bear names like Dorian’s Portrait, Girl on the Red Swing, and Devil’s Dummy (the devil is also featured in the coffee hall’s logo). A robust non-alcoholic selection rounds out the drink offerings.


A beautiful WPA-era style mural, titled Destiny, the Great Caretaker, hangs above the bar. According to Conwell Coffee Hall’s Instagram, the Life and Trust Bank commissioned the mural in the early 1920s. The artist remains a mystery. This dramatic Art Deco piece sets the scene for the cafe. It seems to tell the industrial story of New York, detailing the Financial District framed by the bank at its core. Multiple other paintings have occupied this spot before. A map of Canada hung at this spot when the Canadian Bank of Commerce operated out of the banking hall. Later, a WPA mural replaced the map. You can see it here!

Conwell Coffee Hall at 20 Exchange

A walk through the seating area of the coffee hall reveals vintage-style couches and tables, filled with financial consultants on their break or tourists visiting the exciting new coffee destination. Conwell Coffee Hall has preserved the bank’s marble pillars and tall ceilings, Art Deco elements that make the open space feel decadent yet peaceful. Customers can take their drinks to go or choose to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.

Couches at Conwell Coffee Hall

We experienced a perfect afternoon during our visit to Conwell Coffee Hall. We ordered a latte and sat by a large window on a comfy couch one might expect to find in a private library. We spent time sipping, reading, and enjoying the classical jazz playing throughout the bank lobby.

The entrance to Conwell Coffee Hall is at 6 Hanover Street in New York’s Financial District for anyone interested in stopping by and entering the past!

Next, check out The Best Coffee Shops in Greenwich Village