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Born on this day
Estelle Fanta Swaray
3rd week in year
18 January 2021

Important eventsBack

The Woolworth Building24.4.1913

Wikipedia (21 Mar 2013, 15:42)
The Woolworth Building, designed by architect Cass Gilbert and completed in 1913, is one of the oldest skyscrapers in the United States. The land for the building was purchased by F. W. Woolworth, March 11, 1910 from the Trenor Luther Park Estate for two million dollars. More than a century after the start of its construction, it remains, at 57 stories, one of the fifty tallest buildings in the United States as well as one of the twenty tallest buildings in New York City. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1966, and a New York City landmark since 1983.


The Woolworth Building was constructed in neo-Gothic style by architect Cass Gilbert, who was commissioned by Frank Woolworth in 1910 to design the tallest building in the world as the Woolworth Company's new corporate headquarters on Broadway, between Park Place and Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan, opposite City Hall. Originally planned to be 625 feet (191 m) high, the building was eventually elevated to 792 feet (241 m). The construction cost was US$13.5 million and Woolworth paid all of it in cash. On completion, the Woolworth building overtook the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower as the world's-tallest building. It opened on April 24, 1913.

With a resemblance to European Gothic cathedrals, the structure was labeled the Cathedral of Commerce by the Reverend S. Parkes Cadman during the opening ceremony,[citation needed] although it was maligned by others due to its eclecticism. It remained the tallest building in the world until the construction of 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, also in New York City, in 1930; an observation deck on the 57th floor attracted visitors until 1945.

The building's tower, flush with the main frontage on Broadway, is raised on a block base with a narrow interior court for light. The exterior decoration was cast in limestone-colored, glazed architectural terra-cotta panels. Strongly articulated piers, carried—without interrupting cornices—right to the pyramidal cap, give the building its upward thrust. The Gothic detailing concentrated at the highly visible top is massively scaled, able to be read from the street level several hundred feet below.[]

Engineers Gunvald Aus and Kort Berle designed the steel frame, supported on massive caissons that penetrate to the bedrock. The high-speed elevators were innovative, and the building's high office-to-elevator ratio made the structure profitable.

The ornate, cruciform lobby, is "one of the most spectacular of the early 20th century in New York City". It is covered in Skyros veined marble, has a vaulted ceiling, mosaics, a stained-glass skylight and bronze furnishings. On the balconies of the mezzanine are the murals Labor and Commerce overlooking sculpted plaster caricatures that include Gilbert with a model of the building, Aus taking a girder's measurements, and Woolworth counting nickels. Woolworth's private office, revetted in marble in French Empire style, has been preserved.[]

The building's facade was restored between 1977 and 1981 by the Ehrenkrantz Group, in which much of the terra-cotta was replaced with cast stone and a lot of the gothic ornaments were removed.


At the building's completion, the Woolworth Company occupied only one and a half floors of the building, but, as the owner, profited from renting space out to others, including the Irving Trust bank and Columbia Records. Columbia Records had moved into the building in 1913 and housed a recording studio in it. In 1917, Columbia made a recording of a dixieland band, the Original Dixieland Jass Band in this studio.

Recent history

The building was owned by the Woolworth company for 85 years until 1998, when the Venator Group (formerly the F. W. Woolworth Company) sold it to the Witkoff Group for $155 million. Until recently, that company kept a presence in the building through a Foot Locker store (Foot Locker is the successor to the Woolworth Company).

Prior to its 2001 destruction, the World Trade Center was often photographed in such a way that the Woolworth Building could be seen between 1 and 2 World Trade Center. After the September 11, 2001, attacks a few blocks away, the building was without electricity, water and telephone service for a few weeks and had broken windows and the top turret was damaged by falling rubble. Increased post-attack security restricted access to most of the ornate lobby, previously a tourist attraction.

The structure has a long association with higher education, housing a number of Fordham University schools in the early 20th century. Today, the building houses, among other tenants, TTA Inc., Control Group Inc. and the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies' Center for Global Affairs.

In August 2012, the New York Times reported that an investment group led by Alchemy Properties, a New York developer, bought the top 30 floors of the landmark on July 31 for $68 million from the Witkoff Group and Cammeby's International. The firm plans to renovate the space into luxury apartments and convert the penthouse into a five-level living space. The lower 28 floors are still owned by the Witkoff Group and Cammeby International, who plans to lease them as office space.

It's very exciting for us, said Kenneth S. Horn, president of Alchemy Properties (in the NYT article). We've done a lot of historic buildings in the city, but this is 'the mama,' as they say.

The project will cost approximately $150 million,according to the article, including its $68 million purchase price. Although apartment prices have not been set, they may sell for as much as $3,000 a square foot, said Howard Lorber, chairman of the brokerage firm Prudential Douglas Elliman. That could mean $7.5 million for a 2,500-square-foot unit. The penthouse at the pinnacle could command more.

In popular cultureThe Lincoln American Tower in Memphis, Tennessee, built in 1924, is a small replica of the building, standing at one-third its height.On film, the building has been referenced several times: In the 1949 film On the Town, it is one of the places Chip wants to visit because his out-dated travel guide lists it as the tallest building in the world. In the 2007 Disney film Enchanted, the building is the site of the film's grand climax; and in the opening scenes of the 2008 film Cloverfield, the building is depicted collapsing after an enormous monster critically damages it.The building is shown as the headquarters of Mode magazine in the 2006 television series, Ugly Betty.In the 2007 novel Peak, the protagonist is arrested for climbing the building.The "Woodworld Building" in the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV mimics the Woolworth Building in its name, architectural style and street address number.
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