A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 20, 2006
Insurance District

The Insurance District is part of lower Manhattan’s Financial District, centered east of Broadway around William Street. The Insurance District began to be named that in the 1880s and was highly concentrated by 1920, but insurance companies have relocated since those times.


Districts and Zones of New York City
Insurance District
This section of Financial District, located between Maiden Lane and the Brooklyn Bridge Approach, was once the heart of the insurance industry in New York City. As with a number of older buildings in the Financial District, many of the office towers like 99 John Street have been converted into apartments and student dormitories.

28 April 1889, New York Times, “How to See New-York City,” pg. 17:
The street below Fulton, on Broadway, is Dey, and the large building on the corner of Dey is occupied by the Western Union Telegraph Company for general officers. The visitor now enters what is known as the jewelers’ district, and not only on Broadway but on the outlying streets in that vicinity most of the offices of manufacturing jewelers are situated. Next to the jewelers’ district is the real estate and insurance district, the Real Estate Exchange being situated on Liberty-street, only two blocks below Dey, and only a few doors from the corner of Broadway. Still passing down Broadway, a visitor will notice on the west side, about two blocks still further down, a large brick and stone building, which is known as the Boree Building, and in which are situated the New York Board of Fire Underwriters and several prominent insurance companies. Directly across the way is the building of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which is said to be the most handsome of its kind in the world. It has a granite frontage of an entire block square and the corridor, which may be entered either from Broadway or from Nassau-street in the rear, is an especially ornate and beautiful work of ornamentation. Passing through this corridor on to Nassau-street one comes almost in front of another noteworthy building owned and occupied by the Mutual Life Insurance Company.

5 January 1896, New York Times, pg. 15:
The place is one of the best for office renting in the city, being in the heart of the insurance district. William Street, from Wall Street north, has shown a remarkable development in the past dozen years or so, and an increase in property values second to none in the city.

24 October 1899, “New Building in the Insurance District,” pg. 12:
The Caledonian Insurance Company of Edinburgh has bought, through John N. Golding, from P. Harmony’s Nephews & Co. the old five-story buildings 50 and 52 Pine Street, adjoining the northeast corner of William Street.

8 December 1907, New York Times, pg. 12:
Work is progressing rapidly on the new German American Building covering the greater part of the block bounded by William Street, Liberty Street, and Maiden Lane.

This site, acquired by the German American Insurance Company about three years ago, possesses unusual advantages, being in close touch with the financial and business districts downtown and, furthermore, at the very centre of the insurance district.

13 March 1910, New York Times, pg. XX7:
AN INSURANCE CENTRE.
Concentration of Large Interests Along
William Street.

The announcement that the Travelers’ Insurance Company of Hartford has decided to enlarge its offices and remove from its present location on Nassau Street to the Bishop Building at Liberty and William Streets draws attention to an interesting phase of our city development and the concentration of large insurance business in a small area along WIlliam Street, just south and north of Maiden Lane, and on Cedar Street, Liberty Street, and Maiden Lane, just east and west of William Street.

It will be recalled that it is not many years ago that the insurance interests were scattered about over a wide territory—some being on Broadway, others on Cortlandt Street, and still others in the lower part of Wall Street. With a few exceptions of the large companies have all permanently located in the now well-established insurance district, and many of them, such as the Royal and Queen Insurance Companies, German-American Insurance Company, and the North River Insurance Company, own large office buildings in this centre, whereas other of the big companies, such as the North British and Mercantile and the Travelers’ Insurance Company, have established themselves by long leases.

The extreme limits of the district, as they appear to-day, are at Pine Street on the south and John Street on the north; at the latter point there having recently located a number of insurance companies and interests such as the Globe and Rutgers Insurance Companies and the New York Board of Fire Underwriters. The completion of the Underwriters’ buildings probably marks the northern terminus of the district, and the tendency now seems to be to go further east and west from the entire of the district.

The Employers’ Liability Assurance Corporation, which located on Liberty Street through to Maiden Lane a few years ago, has recently purchased additional property, and opposite that the New York Plate Glass Insurance Company and the City of New York Fire Insurance Company have bought a site surrounding the corner of Maiden Lane and William Street, on which will probably be built a modern building for their occupancy.

The Wendell properties on Maiden Lane east of William Street are being offered for insurance purposes, and several parcels opposite the German-American Building can probably be purchased for the same use.

The concentration of these various insurance interests marks an interesting point in the varied changes which have taken place in our city within the last decade,and it is likely that before very long the few remaining large insurance companies which have not secured new locations will have established themselves within this district on Maiden Lane, William Street, or Liberty Street.

7 November 1920, New York Times, “Insurance Centre Has Rapid Growth,” pg. 115:
Predictions made a few years ago that the fire insurance district, then centered on William Street from Wall to Cedar, and on the side streets from Cedar to Nassau, would move north on William and that the centre of the district would be in the William Street section from Maiden Lane to Fulton Street, have come true even more rapidly than was anticipated.
(...)
The reason why this William Street district in the vicinity of Maiden Lane, John and Fulton Streets is so desirable for fire, casualty and accident insurance companies is because the district is exceptionally convenient and practically all of the large insurance companies own their own buildings. The subway station is at John and William Streets.

6 April 1997, New York Times, pg. R5:
John Street, in particular, part of what was once a major insurance district east of Broadway and south of Fulton Street, has become a center of residential conversions.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • (0) Comments • Monday, November 20, 2006 • Permalink