Sunday, November 28, 2010

23 Wall Street

This weekend, I've been reading The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow (I'll have a review coming out later on).

Obviously, much of the book revolves around the famous "corner" - 23 Wall Street - which was, for the longest time, the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co.

I was surprised to find out that JP Morgan no longer owns 23 Wall Street - it was sold to Africa Israel Investments (an Israeli company owned by diamond magnate Lev Leviev) in 2003.

The building's limestone still bears the scars of the bomb that exploded outside in 1920, killing 38 people including at least one JP Morgan employee [pdf].

1 comment:

Taylor Conant said...


I read that book last year. I am curious what you think of it (I guess I'll wait for your review) as well as what prompted you to pick it up.

Chernow is a bit of a statist and apologist for Morgan's anti-market political interventions and scheming. Overall he seems like an individual who is in love with "great men" and feels that almost anything can be excused if it's done in the interests of greatness.

He also doesn't seem to clearly understand the economic and financial issues which he writes about in the book.

Other than that, I found it to be a compelling read and I especially liked the first few hundred pages which talked about Junius and the rise of young Morgan through the ranks of the banking and trading world. I found them to be similar in description and dynamic to probably the first couple hundred pages of The Prize, which I enjoyed the most for similar reasons. Those were the parts of each story where these people are actually creating something new and being innovative and dedicated to expansion.

After that, they all got bogged down in protecting what they had from newcomers and competitors by way of manipulating the political process to their benefit.

By the way, I lived 2 doors down from that spot at 45 Wall for a time. Used to walk by the scars of the "anarchist bomb" every single day. I don't think you could have an office closer to the NYSE, which is right across the street!