A Wealth of Riches on Display

April 11, 2016

A Wealth of Riches on DisplayPhoto: Crystal Wolfe

By Crystal Wolfe, New York Press

The Museum of American Finance recalls the opulence from days gone by, and riches from time immemorial. The museum, fittingly, is housed in the former home of the Bank of New York, at 48 Wall Street.

Built in 1929, the Colonial Revival structure’s original architectural details remain, including three enormous brass chandeliers, a checkered marble floor and a marble staircase that leads to a grand banking hall.

The museum, 30,000 square feet on three stories, with 30-foot ceilings and exotic Palladian windows, is an imposing structure. It was designed and constructed to dissuade robberies at a time when a bank’s security was not as formidable as today.

But magnificence was also on order. Murals on eight arched walls on the third floor’s panels, composed by the artist and architect J. Monroe Hewlett and completed in 1929, by turns depict a ship, blue-collar workers, uniformed soldiers, and well-heeled ladies and gentlemen about town. All symbolize facets of the Bank of New York’s enterprises — whether trade, agriculture, credit, transportation and other ventures.

The center mural features Alexander Hamilton, who founded the Bank of New York and guided it through its formative years. He is represented with a permanent exhibit on the third floor. The museum’s deputy director, Kristin Aguilera, called Hamilton the museum’s patron saint...


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