(Bloomberg) -- The block of Wall Street between Pearl and Water in Lower Manhattan has a glamorous history that belies its current state. Where now you’ll find little more than a Verizon store and a standard-issue Hyatt Centric, there used to stand buildings that marked the earliest days of the American finance industry.

On the northwest corner, the onetime Tontine Coffee House was a clubby hangout for New York’s first stockbrokers, who used it as a meeting place to carry out trades and register cargo. Given the time period, those weren’t limited to just financial transactions; historians also believe they engaged in the slave trade. 

The Buttonwood Agreement, on which the New York Stock Exchange was founded, was signed across the street under a buttonwood tree in 1792.

Like many of the city’s early constructions, the Tontine Coffee House would eventually burn down in one of New York’s great fires. But now, in 2022, the Wall Street Hotel is hoping its 180 generously appointed rooms, starting at about $500 per night, will help the lot regain its status as a place that New York financiers—and those coming to do business here—can get excited about. It opens on Wednesday, June 1.

Past a set of double doors to the left of the residential-style foyer entrance is a communal living room with 26-foot cathedral ceilings and custom wallpaper murals depicting Manhattan’s evolving architecture. A bar at the other end, formally called The Lounge on Pearl, has a fireplace and newspaper racks on one end that seem tailor-made for early-morning coffee meetings or after-work drinks.

On the 15th floor, another bar with a wraparound rooftop terrace offers views of the Financial District’s historic buildings and the East River. The hotel’s general manager David Sandler says the first-floor restaurant, which has a separate entrance off Water Street, will announce a partnership “with a boldface chef aspiring to bring in Michelin stars” soon.

The project has unlikely ownership in the Paspaley family: Their ties to the Financial District are loose. Neither New Yorkers nor hoteliers, they are an Australian pearl jewelry dynasty that acquired the building at 88 Wall Street in late 1989 as part of a $15 million multi-asset deal with a friendly competitor.

The connections to neighboring Pearl Street, where oyster farmers were known to throw out the shells of shucked and pearled bivalves, appealed to the family—as did the prospect of owning real estate in what they understood to be a block with great potential. But since they didn’t require office space in Manhattan, the 100,000-square-foot building was leased to corporate tenants until plans were drawn up to convert it into a hotel in 2019.

“Over the years, the area evolved to take on a more lively and interesting character,” said Nick Hanigan, Paspaley’s executive director of properties, over email. (Despite the last name he’s indeed part of the family; Hanigan is third-generation executive director James Paspaley’s cousin.)

One thing that didn’t evolve in step with the neighborhood were hotel options. Right now it’s mostly business-oriented brands such as Hampton Inn and AC by Marriott. The Wall Street Hotel’s only real competitors will be the Beekman—farther north, near Fulton Street—or the Four Seasons Downtown, closer to the World Trade Center complex. But it, too, will have to rely heavily on the rebound of business travel.

That said, the hotel has a lot of aesthetic appeal. Given the Paspaley family’s Australian roots, paintings and prints from leading Indigenous Australian artists line many corridors and can be found inside the rooms. The design throughout is a muted palette of grays, creams, and pale blues; all rooms have double vanities and heated floors in the bathroom.

Suites add free-standing soaking tubs and full-size Acqua di Parma toiletries. There are cashmere throws on the beds and faux, crackling fireplaces that double as humidifiers but sound like the real thing.

Throughout are clever references to pearls and oysters, like mother-of-pearl key fobs and half-shell-shaped bottle openers made from cast bronze on bar carts. They’re designed in collaboration with Hawaii-based studio Mau-Haus and are sold to raise money for the Billion Oyster Project, which aims to restore the city’s oyster reefs.

Hanigan suggests that more hotels could come down the line. “We are excited about our next step into hospitality which is already in the planning stages,” he wrote. “As they say, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”

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