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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image The Low Legacy
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Because of the business and the wealth that was generated from commerce, New Yorkers built the great institutional buildings that the city became known for. The libraries, the museums, and the other institutional buildings were all paid for with the wealth that was generated in the commercial sector.

One of the people that really exemplifies this is the great China trader Abiel Abbot Low. Abiel Abbot Low was the wealthiest China trader in New York. He had his commercial establishment on John Street, and with the money generated from the China trade, Low constructed c. 1857 one of the largest mansions of the era on Pierrepont Place in Brooklyn Heights, which overlooked the harbor so that he could actually watch for his schooners to come in.

His son, Seth Low, decided that he did not want to go into the family business, but instead, he wanted to get involved in good works in New York. Seth Low eventually served as the mayor of Brooklyn and then became the president of Columbia University. And it was the money that he inherited from his father's China-trade fortune that built the great Low Library at Columbia University. So there is a direct connection between the money that was generated by trade in New York and the great institutional flowering in the city during the latter part of the nineteenth century when campuses like Columbia's were built.


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