Wall Street is a famous street that runs through lower Manhattan. It is the historic site of many financial institutions, and as such, it has become a symbol of commerce and the American economy. Several firms continue to maintain offices at on this street, capitalizing on the name recognition factor involved. Many visitors to New York like to take a stroll along Wall Street to examine the famous buildings and locations scattered along its length.
There are two explanations for the name of the street. Some historians believe that it references a literal wall built by the Dutch in the 1600s to protect themselves from invasions. Others have suggested that the name is a reference to the Walloons, citizens from Belgium who played a large role in the construction of New Amsterdam, better known as New York City. In any case, by the 18th century, this East-West running street had become associated with commerce, thanks to informal meetings of traders under a famous buttonwood tree.
Manhattan's overall financial district is sometimes referred to as “Wall Street.” Among many other things, this area houses the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), a major institution in the American market. It is also the namesake of the Wall Street Journal, a famous publication that covers both financial and global news, often with an eye to how changing political conditions may impact commerce.
Many famous buildings can be found along the street, and some of them house museums that showcase artifacts of interest, along with the financial companies that have made their home there for centuries. Certain landmarks along Wall Street are extremely well known; television shows, for example, like to use sections of the street for backdrops in financial segments. The street also features a famous bronzed bull, which was originally installed as a piece of social commentary by a radical artist; it was briefly impounded by police before being restored to the financial district in response to public outcry.
Many people use the term as a shorthand for trading and commerce. America's National Public Radio, for example, announces daily trading numbers with the preface “on Wall Street, today...” This is because the location leads the American market, remaining the headquarters of many influential corporations and setting trends which the rest of the country tends to follow.