A Walking Tour Of Wall Street

Real estate executive Richard Warshauer and lawyer James Kaplan describe points of interest on the street that lends its name to the idea of finance. They meet visitors from around the world who tell why they've come to Wall Street.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. Our co-host Robert Siegel is in New York City this week talking with people about what's happening on Wall Street. But as he found out, the people on Wall Street aren't necessarily the people of Wall Street.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In fact, some of the lions of Wall Street I've spoken with this week occupy lairs a couple of miles uptown. As for Wall Street itself...

Mr. JAMES KAPLAN (Lawyer; Wall Street Tour Guide): Wall Street is a short street with a church at one end and a river at the other.

SIEGEL: The East River. That's James Kaplan who, with his old friend Richard Warshauer, gives tours of this very short, narrow street that is rich in symbolism as much as it is rich with riches.

Mr. KAPLAN: It's known throughout the world, and it's the most important street in the world.

Richard Warshauer showed me No. 23 Wall Street, a four-story building. The neighboring buildings tower over it, and the wall is marred.

Mr. RICHARD WARSHAUER (Real Estate Executive; Wall Street Tour Guide): We're standing on the side of the building on Wall itself. This was the former headquarters of JPMorgan. And just before noon on September 16, 1920, a horse and wagon stopped here and a terrific explosion ensued. The pockmarks are still visible in the building today. Thirty-three people were killed and 200 wounded. They still will not repair these pockmarks because it's a symbol of international capitalism and that it remains and that it survives.

SIEGEL: It survived that attack, which was blamed on anarchists, although no one was ever caught. That's sort of a theme on Wall Street - surviving assaults and crises. A gigantic American flag is draped over the facade of the New York Stock Exchange. It was put there after 9/11. And at the entrance to what was once the house of Morgan, stand two New York City police officers protecting Wall Street from possible attack. Detective James Halloran(ph) is heavily armed. Think loaded for bear, not a bear market. He and his partner hold rifles, wear helmets and body armor. And here's what happens. People stand next to the cops, pose, and have their pictures taken.

You guys are the beefeaters of...

Detective JAMES HALLORAN (New York Police Department): The beefeaters of America, right here.

SIEGEL: Of America. And your job is to stand in front of this building.

Detective HALLORAN: On Wednesday, we're responsible for the Stock Exchange.

SIEGEL: The Stock Exchange.

Detective HALLORAN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: And the tourists come from all over the world and one of the things...

Detective HALLORAN: All over the world.

SIEGEL: They come and they take a picture with you guys.

Detective HALLORAN: I don't know if they came here specifically for that, but once they see us standing here, I don't think they can help themselves. We have to oblige. They're curious and polite, you know.

SIEGEL: Curious, polite people like Olga Kolonitzkaya(ph) of Moscow and her husband, Vladimir(ph), who were on their third trip to the States.

Ms. OLGA KOLONITZKAYA: And all times, we visited New York, other places also. This time, for example, we saw Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and now in New York, and then go home.

SIEGEL: Sir, are you a financier?

Mr. ULRICH WATZNIERK(ph): Oh, no. I'm from Germany. I'm a tourist.

SIEGEL: Can you tell me your name?

Mr. WATZNIERK: Ulrich Watznierk.

SIEGEL: And you're taking pictures?

Mr. WATZNIERK: Yes.

SIEGEL: Why? Why did you come here?

Mr. WATZNIERK: Yeah. The Wall Street is very interesting for us in Germany.

SIEGEL: You hear a lot about Wall Street back home in Germany?

Mr. WATZNIERK: Yes, because the financial crisis is a global problem.

SIEGEL: A couple from Valencia in Spain got away before I could get their names. But I did get their analysis of the world financial situation.

Unidentified Man: Kaput. Kaput. Bankero kaput.

SIEGEL: Bankero kaput.

Unidentified Man: Si. (Spanish spoken) bankero kaput.

Unidentified Woman: (Spanish spoken)

Unidentified Man: Porque kaput Wall Street.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Can you tell me your name?

Ms. CLARISSA COREA(ph): Clarissa Corea.

SIEGEL: Are you a banker?

Ms. COREA: No.

SIEGEL: Why come here? Why are you here?

Ms. COREA: Tourism.

SIEGEL: Tourism. To Wall Street?

Ms. COREA: Yeah. Yeah.

SIEGEL: From where?

Ms. COREA: From Brazil.

SIEGEL: From Brazil?

Ms. COREA: Yeah.

SIEGEL: And is it interesting, Wall Street?

Ms. COREA: Yeah, yeah. They've stolen my money because I have stock market in Brazil, and it's down, very down.

SIEGEL: There were some American tourists, like Tom and Tracy Weber(ph) and their children. Mr. Weber was wearing a sweatshirt with the name of his home state emblazoned on it.

SIEGEL: You're from Indiana. Visiting on a trip from Indiana?

Mr. TOM WEBER: Correct.

SIEGEL: And you've come to Wall Street.

Mr. WEBER: Correct.

SIEGEL: You're not here to transact a lot of business. You're not buying and selling.

Mr. WEBER: Not today.

Ms. TRACY WEBER: Not this time.

SIEGEL: Not today.

Mr. WEBER: We're still trying to find where our money went.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WEBER: We came down to find our money.

SIEGEL: Our guide, Richard Warshauer, told me something when we were inside No. 48 Wall Street. It used to be the Bank of New York, Alexander Hamilton's cornerstone of the American banking system. It's an American palace, beautifully renovated to house the Museum of American Finance. A glimpse, according to Warshauer, not just of Wall Street's past...

Mr. WARSHAUER: The Museum of American Finance in many ways is the future of Wall Street because Wall Street is more and more a tourist destination, and not-for-profits are an increasing force here on Wall Street, even in many respects greater than the banks and brokerage firms.

SIEGEL: Wall Street, he says, in the way that would have puzzled J.P. Morgan, for sure, is a very important brand. This is Robert Siegel in New York.

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