The Queen of England and Lower Manhattan

by | 01 March 2016

In 1705, Anne, the Queen of England (who gave birth to 12 children but survived all of them), decided to grant 215 acres of farmland to Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. That farmland eventually became some of the world’s most valuable real estate.

Plus: Eleventh Avenue: Manhattan’s last frontier | Below the grid: why some New York companies are moving downtown

In 1846, the current Trinity Church, which even today peers down over Wall Street, became New York’s tallest building. It held that designation for nearly 50 years until the distinction was usurped by the New World Building, which has long since been demolished and forgotten.


Trinity Church Overlooking Wall Street. Photo credit: Gryffindor.

Another part of the Queen’s grant comprised an area now known as Hudson Square and previously called the “Printing District,” because most of the buildings were built for and occupied by printing companies. The Printing District became the beneficiary of the revolution in the late nineties, mainly due to large floor plates and the relatively cheap rents that Trinity Church was offering. The latter is no longer true in this area, which is now home to companies like Pearson, Viacom, Havas, Two Sigma, Horizon Media, Getty Images and Salesforce. Most of the Hudson Square portfolio now commands rents beginning at $75 per square foot. This enclave on the west side of Manhattan starts just south of Canal Street and reaches West Houston Street in the north, abuts Sixth Avenue on the east and the Hudson River on the west.

Trinity Church has just completed a sale of 44% of its Hudson Square portfolio excluding 330 Hudson Street, which is net-leased to a developer for 99 years, and some other residential development lots retained by Trinity. The buyer (which competed with most of the large NYC owners) was Norges Bank Investment Management, the Norwegian Sovereign Fund, which paid $1.65 billion for their minority stake. The entire 11-building portfolio is valued at nearly $3.55 billion or about $660 per square foot. Not bad for the grantee!


Aerial Photo of Hudson Square. Photo credit: Trinity Real Estate.

In the aerial photo above, which shows the entire portfolio of Hudson Square and many other buildings not owned by Trinity Church, one tall glass building stands out: the Trump Soho Hotel.

One last word about Trinity before moving on to the other consequence of the premature death of Anne’s 12 children: the Trinity Parish House used to be accessible from the church by a bridge behind it, which crosses Trinity Place. The building that contained the Parish House (68-74 Trinity Place) has been demolished and is making way for a very tall mixed use building.


Early Rendition of the Mixed Use Building Planned for 68-74 Trinity Place. Image credit: Pelli Clarke Pelli.

The government of England (as it was known before Great Britain was created in 1707 and later became the United Kingdom) was intent on ensuring that England be ruled by Protestants. As Queen Anne’s progeny all died, the government looked to the Queen’s closest Protestant cousin, who turned out to be Sophia, the Electress of Hanover. Together with her non-Roman Catholic heirs, Sophia was pronounced the next monarch of England (upon Anne’s death) by the 1702 Act of Succession. Unluckily for Sophia, she died two months before Anne died in 1714, and Sophia’s son became the next King of Great Britain: George I.

Nothing to do with Trinity Church, but an indirect result of the Act of Succession was the naming of a triangle in Lower Manhattan, Hanover SquareIt is still there 301 years after Queen Anne died, and that was just 69 years before Sophia’s great-grandson, George III, managed to lose the 13 colonies in America.

A lawyer by training and background, Richard is Executive Director of Colliers International in New York. For the last 20 years he has advised corporate tenants globally on how to avoid the pitfalls that landlords lay in store for them. When not working with clients or thinking of innovative ways to assist them, Richard spends his time immersed in history, theater, travel and reading.