Down in the heart of the New York financial district there is a bar hidden inside an old bank vault from 1904.
The basement vault at the Trinity Place bar and restaurant was originally commissioned by the New York Realty bank. Built by the Mosler Safe Company in upstate Hudson, New York, the vault was so large and heavy it had to be sailed down the Hudson river and then transported on purpose built railway tracks from Battery Park to its home at 115 Broadway. The vault was unusual in that it had two entrances at either end, with each door weighing in at 35 tons.
Restored from its dusty condition in 2006, the vault is now home to a swish bar befitting its distinguished surroundings. At each end of the bar, the original five inch steel walls have been left exposed so cocktail sipping visitors can have a sense of how secure the old vault was. At the far end of the bar is a restaurant converted from the old meeting room of the bank’s executive board complete with its original chandelier.
Whilst the hidden bar is undoubtedly dignified, the building, which was built around it is even more so. 115 Broadway was designed by Francis Kimball as the US Realty building along with its sister building next door at 111, the Trinity building. New York’s original twin towers, the two matching buildings were unusual for skyscrapers of the time, in that they were designed in a strong gothic style. The two narrow and long buildings are lavishly decorated with gargoyles, buttresses, pinnacles, turrets, dragons, and eagles. Closely built next to each other, with a steel footbridge connecting the two, permission was given by the city to actually move the adjoining Thames Street 28 feet to the north, to allow the two buildings to nestle side by side. Walking into the near identical lobbies, the coats of arms, ribbed ceilings, stained glass, and monk’s heads would leave you thinking that you had wandered into a medieval English cathedral. The New York Times in 1907 called the two buildings towering over lower Broadway, “twin examples of Gothic splendor.”
The 20th floor was even once home to the old Lawyers Club, a society so extravagant that it kept a private herd of 50 cows in New Jersey to provide its members with their own supply of fresh butter. But whilst the basement of 115 revels in its luxurious bank vault bar, the story next door couldn’t be more different. The basement steps of 111 lead to a Subway franchise and the former home of a bar called Suspenders. Once a local neighborhood staple run by the Fire Department, the bar served as a refuge for firemen during the 9/11 attacks. Part of the fabric of the local community for 27 years, the bar sadly closed its doors in the early summer of 2014.
But next door, the bar in the basement vault is still keeping good business and is surely one of New York’s sturdiest and most secure places in which to enjoy the cocktail of your choice.