A Clean-Cut History of 40 Wall Street
The building at 40 Wall St. in New York City, also known as the Trump Building, was one of the skyscrapers that got caught up in the race to be the tallest building in the world. For a time, 40 Wall St. held that distinction, but it only held the title for a few months before the Chrysler Building was completed. The history of 40 Wall St. includes a list of prominent names that helped to shape the financial history of the United States. It has seen its glory years, and it was also allowed to fall into a state of decay. But after more than 80 years of cutting a shape into the New York City skyline, it is safe to say that 40 Wall St. will likely be around for a very long time to come.
In 1913, the Woolworth Building was opened and stood as the tallest building in the world. For decades, the top architects in the country worked to develop a system to build a stable structure that was taller than the Woolworth Building. In April 1930, architect H. Craig Severance debuted his masterpiece. It was originally called the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, and it stood 71 floors to reach 836 feet into the air. In May 1930, Severance's architectural rival William Van Alen opened the Chrysler Building and knocked Severance's creation off the top of the skyscraper list.
The rivalry between Van Alen and Severance was very personal and very heated. The two started off as partners who were determined to design a building taller than the Woolworth Building, but their differing personalities caused the two to clash and part ways. The opening of the Chrysler Building just one month after Severance debuted the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building was not seen as a coincidence by anyone familiar with the rivalry.
The original plan for the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building was to have it be 840 feet tall. But Severance had to make alterations to his plans to try and get his building done before the Chrysler Building was completed. Both the Chrysler Building and the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building broke ground around the same time. But when it was all over, the Chrysler Building measured a record-breaking 899 feet in height and crushed Severance's chances of having a sustained record.
In 1946, 40 Wall St. was made famous when a C-45 Beechcraft airplane from the U.S. Army crashed into the 58th floor of the building. All five aboard the plane were killed in the crash, and it left a huge hole in the side of the building that many feared would weaken the building's structural integrity. The building stood tall and was completely repaired. The Army determined that the crash was the result of poor visibility due to fog.
In 1982, brothers Joseph and Ralph Bernstein purchased 40 Wall St., but it was unknown how they had received their financing. In 1986, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was deposed from power, and his assets in the United States were frozen. At that point, it was revealed that Marcos actually owned the building, and it was left abandoned.
In 1995, well-known businessman Donald Trump purchased 40 Wall St. and named it the Trump Building. To this day, Trump maintains that he paid only $1 million for the property, but conflicting reports indicate that he actually paid $10 million for it. Trump's initial plan was to renovate the upper floors of the building and turn them into exclusive apartments, but the costs for the renovation were prohibitive.
In 1998, the property was officially declared a New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee. In 2003, Donald Trump attempted to sell the building for $300 million but received no offers. At that point, the property started to be referred to by its address of 40 Wall St.
As of 2014, Donald Trump still owns 40 Wall St., and he maintains that it has a value of approximately $400 million. While the building is still officially on the market, there have been no offers that have met Trump's estimated value.
Here are some interesting links about 40 Wall St. and the people involved with its history:
- Then and Now: The Chrysler Building
- The History of Measuring Tall Buildings
- Landmarks Preservation Committee Document on 40 Wall Street (PDF)
- Icon of the Modern Age
- The First Modern Skyscraper: New York and Chicago (PDF)
- The Rise of Wall Street: The Construction of 40 Wall Street
- Facts About 40 Wall Street
- Biography of Donald Trump
- Van Alen Institute: Projects in Public Architecture
- New York's Tallest: From Trinity Church to the Freedom Tower
- Study Examines Changes in Skyscrapers' Vanity Heights
- A Towering Career: A Collision With War
- The Career of Ferdinand Marcos
- The Birth of the Skyscraper: The First U.S. Zoning Law
- How Skyscrapers Have Predicted Recession Through History