Wall Street, today a synonym for power and money, has withstood its share of chaos–market crashes, bombings, recessions, Occupy movements – in its years as the financial center of New York. Resilience is even in the street’s name, as it pays tribute to the Dutch wall that once stood in the seventeenth century as protection from hostile British and Native Americans. That Dutch fortification almost wasn’t built, however, because of a few unruly residents: a herd of persistent pigs (and not metaphorical ones, either).

The History of Wall Street

Redraft of The Castello Plan (the bigger construction on the right), New Amsterdam, 1660

By Lucas Compan, a guest storyteller

The wall began as a picket fence in 1653 before the Dutch slowly expanded it to a 12-foot-high barrier over the years. At the time of the fence’s construction, the settlers let their livestock run loose around the settlement, and the hogs often uprooted orchards and gardens. Many of the animals foraged in areas along the wall, interfering with its construction. In a letter addressed to the city government in March 1653 (during the wall’s construction), Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant urged the government to take precautions against the pigs at nearby Fort Amsterdam. He detailed with “great grief the damages, done to the walls of the fort by hogs, especially now again the spring when the grass comes out.”

Prepared in the summer of 1660 by New Amesterdam;s surveyor general, Jacques Cortelyou, the celebrated Castello Plan - named for the Florentine villa where it was rediscovered in 1900 - offers a breathtaking aerial view of the colony in the first years of Dutch rule.

Sculpture of the 1660 Castello Plan. Photo courtesy of The Battery Conservancy.

Then, as now, Breede Wegh (the larger street on the map) -- later Broadway -- ran south to the Bowling Green, where the famous Charging Bull (or Wall Street Bull or Bowling Green Bull) statue now stands.

The gently curving canal that once cut into the heart of the closely built-up town, runs along of the present-day Broad Street, nearly all the way up to the 2,340 feet wall -- built where Wall Street now stands.

Broad Street - New York Stock Exchange

With its limits sharply defined on all sides by the man-made wall and two great rivers (East and Hudson), the city was a kind of miniature of Amsterdam, whose density and compacteness made it convenient for business and easy to defend. 

In the detailed map above, 342 houses and buildings can be seen, along with the stout ramps of Fort Amsterdam, the company pier and windmill, and the tidily laid out gardens, orchards, and backyards. 

A Dutch sea captain named Jacob Jansen Hays, wrote on September 30, 1660, one month after the Castello Plan was made:

This place, the Manhattans, is quite rich of people, and there are at present full over 350 houses, so that it begins to be a brave place.
— Dutch sea captain Jacob Jansen Hays

The wall had been abandoned by 1699.

Below you can see the first edition of The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal - first edition, New York, Monday, July 8, 1889. Click here to see the first edition in details.

Wall Street today