The story of the Lehman Brothers begins and ends in New York City. Though the original trio — Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer Lehman — first built their business in the South, New York was where they first stepped foot when they immigrated from Bavaria, Germany, and New York was also where their business ultimately crumbled. But over the course of more than a century, the Lehmans and their descendants built their lives and businesses in the Big Apple, and that story is told in Stefano Massini and Ben Powers's epic three-part play, The Lehman Trilogy, which is at the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway through January 2, 2022.
The play mentions multiple places in New York where the Lehmans lived and worked. Most of their offices were located in downtown Manhattan, and many have been repurposed and modernized such that the Lehmans would hardly recognize them today. Landmarks from the family's home lives in the 20th century, which largely remain unchanged, are a little farther uptown. So if you find yourself walking through the Financial District, Midtown East, or even one of the outer boroughs, keep an eye out for these historic places — and keep an ear out for some of them mentioned in the show!
The Lehman brothers established their New York foothold downtown, and their firm would remain there for most of its history. Even before the company made its greatest riches as an investment bank, the Lehmans and their associates set up offices in the Financial District to manage their trades in cotton, coffee, technology, and more.
Like many other immigrants, the Lehman Brothers' first glimpse of America was Ellis Island. The play begins with Hayum Lehmann, the eldest brother, arriving there in 1844 and, also like many immigrants, changing his name when a border patrol guard could not pronounce his German, Jewish one. From then on, he was Henry Lehman. His younger brother, who joined Henry in America in 1847, also changed his name from Mendel to Emanuel. Only the youngest of the three original Lehman Brothers, Mayer, kept his name intact at the border. Mayer Lehman came through Ellis Island in 1850.
Now, Ellis Island no longer processes immigrants. The building and island have been converted into a museum dedicated to American immigration history.
119 Liberty St.: The Lehman Brothers' first New York office
The Lehmans first sold cotton in Montgomery, Alabama, and they moved their headquarters to New York in 1856 when the North became the new center of the cotton trade. Their office was located on the second floor of 119 Liberty Street. Working out of that office, the Lehmans grew their business beyond cotton and got involved in the growing markets for coffee, steam pump technology, and more. The site of their former office is now a shopping center and transportation hub adjacent to the World Trade Center.
New York Stock Exchange
The Lehman Brothers firm ultimately became an investment banking company, so the company is now most closely associated with the New York Stock Exchange. The company joined the NYSE in 1887 and experienced great economic growth as an investment bank and, for a brief period, venture capital firm, a pivot that allowed the company to stay afloat while the Great Depression ravaged its neighbors on the NYSE stock trading floor.
In other related trivia, The Wall Street Journal co-founder Charles Dow is briefly featured in The Lehman Trilogy; a brief scene shows Dow interviewing Philip Lehman (Emanuel's son) about his vision for the company. The then-burgeoning newspaper got its start in the basement of a candy shop, located where the NYSE is today.
1 William Street: The Lehman Brothers' second New York office
By the time the Lehmans moved their company headquarters from Liberty Street to William Street, Robert "Bobbie" Lehman, Philip's son and Emanuel's grandson, was in charge of the firm. He moved the office there in 1928. The building still stands at the corner of William and Beaver Streets and is designated a historic landmark, though it now abuts more modern establishments. You can check out the building while grabbing a Starbucks drink or a soup from Hale and Hearty across the way.
1 Water Street: Lewis Glucksman's office
The area that once encompassed 1 Water Street is now home to One New York Plaza, Manhattan's southernmost skyscraper that serves as an office building and retail shopping center. Before that, however, the office of Lewis Glucksman sat on the waterfront land. As described in The Lehman Trilogy, Glucksman joined the company in 1963 and grew the firm's trading branch, which he operated out of the 1 Water Street office separate from the William Street headquarters where Bobbie, in charge at the time, and his existing employees worked. Glucksman eventually rose from from head of sales and trading to co-CEO of the Lehman Brothers firm.
Midtown is the contemporary epicenter of Lehman history in the city, as the area was home to Lehman Brothers' final New York headquarters before its collapse. The area also holds relics of the Lehman descendants' personal lives — they worked downtown, but they lived, worshipped, and married farther uptown.
745 7th Avenue: The Lehman Brothers' final New York office
By the company's global headquarters had since moved from William Street to Three World Financial Center, near the World Trade Center. However, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the company moved out of that building and spread its operations out, eventually settling its New York headquarters in Midtown, in the heart of Times Square. The business was located on 7th Avenue until the firm collapsed in 2008. Now, the building is owned by Barclay's.
7 West 54th St.: Philip Lehman's home
This townhouse at 7 West 54th St. is better known as the Philip Lehman Residence. Architect John H. Duncan designed the building in the French Beaux-Arts style as a commission for Philip Lehman, then the head of the Lehman Brothers firm, in 1899. The building boasts an all-limestone exterior and a four-story, twelve-room interior. Philip Lehman lived in the house until his death in 1947.
Bobbie Lehman then moved in and renovated the house, which he also used to store his 3,000-piece art collection in the 1960s. The renovated interior featured green, yellow, and red velvet walls on the various floors, among other elements. Part of the renovated interior is replicated in the Robert Lehman Wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He lived there until he died in 1969. The house was designated an official landmark in 1981, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The building underwent a final renovation in 2005, and since 2012, it has held the office of the talent management agency IMG Artists.
The Lehman Trilogy dramatizes the meeting and marriage of Bobbie Lehman and his first wife Ruth Rumsey, the divorcée of a literary agency president and nightclub owner. The couple actually married at the Presbyterian Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal, Canada, but in The Lehman Trilogy, Massini places the ceremony in a Manhattan temple, described in the play only as "the temple on East 55th Street." (Lehman married his third wife, Lee Lynn, in New York, so Massini may have combined details from Lehman's marriages for the play.) The temple in question is most likely Central Synagogue.
Central Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in the United States and the oldest New York synagogue in continuous use, having opened in 1872. The descendants of the original Lehman brothers were Reform Jews, and as Central Synagogue is a Reform Jewish institution, perhaps the Lehmans were in fact patrons there. Central Synagogue was designated a New York City landmark in 1966 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places four years later.
They may not have had as sophisticated public transportation as we do now, but the Lehmans were known to leave Manhattan for recreational pursuits, like attending the racetrack. Now, the outer boroughs are also where many of the historic men featured in The Lehman Trilogy are buried.
Aqueduct Racetrack (Queens)
Audiences at The Lehman Trilogy are first introduced to Bobbie Lehman as a child at the horse racing track, where he is accompanying his father Philip. In the play, young Bobbie knows all the breeds and "just loves to watch the horses run," but he doesn't care who wins. His father attempts to teach him the value of horses as moneymakers, and he uses the analogy of a winning horse to teach Bobbie about how to successfully run the firm someday.
Bobbie Lehman grew up with both views intact: He remains known for his love of horses, and he was a thoroughbred horse owner and breeder whose horses won awards at multiple major races, including the Correction Handicap and the Long Island Handicap. The play does not mention the name of the racetrack Philip took Bobbie to as a boy, but as an adult, his horses won both the aforementioned races at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, Queens.
Salem Fields Cemetery (Brooklyn)
The Jewish cemetery Salem Fields is the final resting place of two of the original three Lehman Brothers. Mayer Lehman was interred there after his death in 1897, and Emanuel Lehman, who outlived his younger brother by 10 years, in 1907. The eldest brother, Henry Lehman, died of yellow fever when the family was still based in the South. He is buried in New Orleans, where he died.
Woodlawn Cemetery (The Bronx)
The Lehman family has a dedicated mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, and that building houses the next generations of the Lehman family. Among the family members interred there are Philip Lehman, who died in 1947, and Bobbie Lehman, who died in 1969.