The photo above is looking east from the corner of Vesey and Church Streets. All the trees are in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel, the spire of which is visible left of center. The block bounded by Broadway, Church, Vesey and Fulton, now contains only the chapel and its yard. That was not always the case…here’s a 1905 map:
The building on the left (west) side of the block is labelled “Corporation of Trinity Church.” St. Paul’s is an out-chapel of Trinity, which is five blocks to the south. I’m not sure why this building was located here rather than at Trinity. The notation on the map is that the building was three stories plus a basement at its north half and four stories plus a basement at its south half, and so would obviously be visible in my photo above. The building was still there in 1916, with an addition:
The curving lines are the route of the BMT subway (now the R/W lines) as it moves from Broadway to Church Street. There are a number of lots, particularly in lower Manhattan, where a curve in a subway tunnel required building the tunnel structure below an existing building. Everything was pretty much the same in 1923:
But in 1930:
…not only is the building gone, but we have an extension of the pedestrian paths through the yard. This is basically the configuration as it is today. Among other things, the west boundary of the block has been moved slightly east and angled, so that the Church Street could be widened to the north and more naturally connected to the narrower portion to the south.
So what happened in the 1920s? The parish built a modern high-rise office building at 74 Trinity Place, directly behind Trinity Church and didn’t need the building at St. Paul’s any more. So it was demolished, and the lot line moved, and new trees planted.
In the picture at the top of the page, the three trees furthest to the right are on land that used to be part of the building. They’re the same size as the other trees because 100 years is a 100 years.