Towering office complexes meld with old world conversions and new luxurious residential constructions in the Financial District (FiDi). Tourists, vendors and corporate workers mesh in a daily dance amongst everyday conveniences ranging from coffee shops and quick lunch spots to fine dining and shopping. All roads and transport paths in New York seem to begin or end here. Such is a quick snapshot of life in the Financial District, home to the largest financial institutions in the world and reasonably-priced, full-served high-rise apartments. Walking around today, it's hard to believe this was once the cradle of New York City, but ever so often you'll get a glimpse. As you move towards the "foot" of the island where you can find signs that depict former locations of structures from the early 1600s, or weave between its cozy streets, one can clearly imagine what once was. Much revitalization of former government buildings, financial institutions and older housing constructions is breathing new life into FiDi as the residential population of the area remains on the rise. This is expected to continue with the refurbishment of the highly-utilized subway hub at Fulton Street.
The Financial District is literally the tip of the iceberg when it comes to New York City and its humble beginnings. This is where it all began; when Wall Street was actually a “wall” to keep out invading troops (British, Spanish, French, depending on who the early settlers had the biggest argument with at the time), and many of its thoroughfares (now paved over) were narrow waterways connecting river to river. When the Dutch first came to what was then New Amsterdam (ultimately New York) in 1625, their plan was to set up a major trading/shipping post, which many countries flocked to in a short period of time - originally called the Dutch West India Company. Back then, when anyone referred to "the city," it was where the Financial District currently sits. Every other area of the island of Manhattan was considered "the country," and by all accounts at the time, it was. Wall Street became synonymous with the entire region. Historical records show that traders and speculators would gather under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street to conduct their deals. It wasn't until the late 1700s after the Revolutionary War and the area became far more settled, and in 1792 with the signing of The Buttonwood Agreement, that the New York Stock Exchange was established. Several fires also occurred over the years that nearly leveled the entire neighborhood, driving out many residents; but it endured, and over time more financial institutions built their headquarters here. New York also always had an active waterfront, with this the hub of activity. The well-known Fulton Market was first born in 1822. Much like the neighborhood, it too survived major fires, particularly in 1835, 1845, 1918 and 1995. Though the major fish market that once stood has since changed locations, FiDi is still a vibrant tourist and commerce destination.
The oldest remaining resident in the area, and one of America's oldest churches today, is Trinity Church, built in 1697. Many plaques exist where former state and federal buildings and churches once stood. Another well-known historical haunt is Faunces Tavern at the foot of where the original building at Pearl and Broad Streets was. This was originally the 1671 home of then-mayor Stephanus Van Cortland, and later changed hands in 1762 via a family sale to Samuel Faunces. He converted the home into a tavern, originally the Queen's Head. Though the tavern is currently not operating, there is a museum at the site that's still open to the public.
While high-rise office buildings and narrow, often winding paved and cobblestone streets typify the area, numerous luxury conversions and some new construction have prompted a residential boom in FiDi over the past decade. Whether just across from Battery Park City, down the narrow streets of Wall, William and John or over in the burgeoning and historic Fulton Market area, a full selection of new and revitalized residential housing has emerged. Wedged in between, there are restaurants, storefronts, even fitness facilities and nightlife. FiDi's physical dimensions are river to river, with the exception of Battery Park City to the west. To the north is Vesey Street, and its southern tip is defined by State and Water Streets. Broadway, the only street in all of Manhattan that runs completely north to south, also has its beginning here. Every major subway line converges in the Financial District, many at Fulton Street. Further south you can still catch the 2, 3, 4, 5 and R trains before departing to Brooklyn. The 1 subway line also begins at the terminus of the Staten Island Ferry, right at the base of Manhattan.