Woolworth Building

For other uses, see List of Woolworth buildings.
Woolworth Building

Record height
Tallest in the world from 1913 to 1930[I]
Preceded by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower
Surpassed by 40 Wall Street
General information
Location 233 Broadway
Manhattan, New York City
Construction started 1910
Completed 1912
Opening April 24, 1913
Renovated 1977–1981
Cost US$13.5 million
Owner Witkoff Group
Roof 241.4 m (792 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 57
Lifts/elevators 34
Design and construction
Architect Cass Gilbert
Structural engineer Gunvald Aus and Kort Berle
Renovating team
Renovating firm Ehrenkrantz Group
Woolworth Building
Coordinates 40°42′44″N 74°00′29″W / 40.71222°N 74.00806°W / 40.71222; -74.00806Coordinates: 40°42′44″N 74°00′29″W / 40.71222°N 74.00806°W / 40.71222; -74.00806
Area 0.5 acres (0.2 ha)
NRHP Reference # 66000554
Significant dates
Added to NRHP 11/13/1966
Designated NYCL April 12, 1983

The Woolworth Building, at 233 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City, designed by architect Cass Gilbert and between 1910 and 1912, is an early US skyscraper. The original site for the building was purchased by F. W. Woolworth and his real estate agent Edward J. Hogan by April 15, 1910, from the Trenor Luther Park Estate and other owners for $1.65 million. By January 18, 1911, Woolworth and Hogan had acquired the final site for the project, totaling $4.5 million. More than a century after the start of its construction, it remains, at 241.4 meters (792 ft), one of the 100 tallest buildings in the United States as well as one of the 30 tallest buildings in New York City. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1966,[5][6][7] and a New York City landmark since 1983.[8]


The Woolworth Building was designed in the neo-Gothic style by the architect Cass Gilbert, whom Frank Woolworth commissioned in 1910 to design a 20-story office building [8] as the F. W. Woolworth Company's new corporate headquarters on Broadway, between Park Place and Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan, opposite City Hall. Originally designed to be 420 feet (130 m) high, the building was eventually elevated to 792 feet (241 m). At its opening, the Woolworth Building was 60 stories tall and had over 5,000 windows.[9] The construction cost was US$13.5 million. With Irving National Exchange Bank Woolworth set up the Broadway-Park Place Company to finance the building, but by May 1914, had purchased all of the shares from the bank, thus owning the building outright. On completion, the Woolworth building topped the record set by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower as the world's tallest building.

Construction was completed in 1912 and the building opened on April 24, 1913. President Woodrow Wilson turned the lights on by way of a button in Washington, D.C. that evening.[9]

Under construction

Given its resemblance to European Gothic cathedrals, the structure was called "The Cathedral of Commerce" by the Reverend S. Parkes Cadman in a booklet of the same title published in 1916.[9][10][11] 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 1941.

The building's tower, flush with the main frontage on Broadway, joins an office block base with a narrow interior court for light. The exterior decoration was cast in limestone-colored, glazed architectural terra-cotta panels.[9] 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 crown is over 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".[8] It is covered in Skyros veined marble,[10] has a vaulted ceiling, mosaics, a stained-glass ceiling light and bronze fittings. Over the balconies of the mezzanine are the murals Labor and Commerce. Corbel sculptures include Gilbert with a model of the building, Aus taking a girder's measurements, and Woolworth counting nickels.[8][10] Woolworth's private office, revetted in marble in the French Empire style, has been preserved.

The building's facade was restored between 1977 and 1981 by the Ehrenkrantz Group,[10] during which much of the terra-cotta was replaced with concrete and Gothic ornament was removed.[8]


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.[12] Until recently, that company kept a presence in the building through a Foot Locker store (Foot Locker is the successor to the Woolworth Company).

The building's crown

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.[13] 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,[14] although the lobby was reopened to public tours in 2014.[15]

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., AIGA, 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.[16] The firm plans to renovate the space into luxury apartments and convert the penthouse into a five-level living space.[17] The lower 28 floors are still owned by the Witkoff Group and Cammeby International, who plan to lease them as office space.

The project will cost approximately $150 million, according to the article, including its $68 million purchase price. In August 2014, the New York Attorney General's office approved Alchemy's offering plan for condos at the newly branded Woolworth Tower Residences.[18] The $110 million price tag for the building's penthouse unit is the highest asking price ever for an apartment in downtown Manhattan.[19]

Part of the lobby


At the building's completion, the F. W. Woolworth Company occupied only one and a half floors of the building,[8] but, as the owner, profited from renting space out to others, including the Irving National Exchange Bank and Columbia Records. Columbia Records had moved into the building in 1913 and housed a recording studio in it.[20] In 1917, Columbia made a recording of a dixieland band, the Original Dixieland Jass Band in this studio.[21][22]



In film, the building has been referenced several times.




See also



  1. "Woolworth Building". CTBUH Skyscraper Database.
  2. Woolworth Building at Emporis
  3. "Woolworth Building". SkyscraperPage.
  4. Woolworth Building at Structurae
  5. "Woolworth Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. September 23, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  6. Patricia Heintzelman and Cecil McKithan (January 6, 1978). "The Woolworth Building" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination. National Park Service.
  7. "The Woolworth Building--Accompanying 3 photos, exterior, from 1975." (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination. National Park Service. January 6, 1978. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S. (text); Postal, Matthew A. (text) (2009), Postal, Matthew A., ed., Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p. 25.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "Study for Woolworth Building, New York". World Digital Library. 1910-12-10. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  10. 1 2 3 4 White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000), AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.), New York: Three Rivers Press, ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5, p. 67.
  11. Sutton, Philip. "The Woolworth Building: The Cathedral of Commerce". Blogs. New York Public Library. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  12. recordonline.com - The Times Herald-Record, serving New York’s Hudson Valley and the Catskills Archived June 1, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. "Woolworth Building Turns 100". Wall Street Journal. 23 April 2013. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-02-07. Picture 11 of 19: The World Trade Center, shown under construction in 1970, and other modern skyscrapers eventually dwarfed the Woolworth Building, visible here at the center between the Trade Center's two towers.
  14. Fendrich, Laurie (January 8, 2008). "American Architectural Wonder: Keep Out". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
  15. Dunlap, David W. (December 31, 2014). "Woolworth Building's Grand Arcade Is Once Again a Sight All Can See". The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  16. Higgins, Michelle (August 7, 2012). "Luxury Living in Old Temple of the 5 and Dime". The New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  17. Polsky, Sara (August 7, 2012). "Woolworth Building's Top Floors Will Become Luxury Condos". Curbed. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  18. Samtani, Hiten (August 21, 2012). "Revealed: Floor plans for $110M Woolworth penthouse: PHOTOS". The Real Deal (magazine). Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  19. Perlberg, Heather (June 2, 2014). "NYC Woolworth Tower Condo Priced at Record $110 Million". Bloomberg News. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  20. Hoffman, Frank, Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, New York & London : Routledge, 1993 & 2005, Volume 1. Cf. p. 212, article on "Columbia (Label)".
  21. Cogan, Jim; Clark, William, Temples of sound : inside the great recording studios, San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2003. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1. Cf. chapter on Columbia Studios.
  22. "The Woolworth Building", NYC Architecture
  23. Ashby, Andy (2008-05-16). "Lincoln American lands first tenants". Memphis Business Journal. Memphis, Tennessee. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  24. 1 2 Soll, Lindsay (October 17, 2008). "The Deep Dive: Made in NYC". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  25. "'Fantastic Beasts': 5 secrets in our photo you might have missed | EW.com". www.ew.com. Retrieved 2015-11-07.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Woolworth Building.
Preceded by
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower
Tallest building in the world
Succeeded by
40 Wall Street
Tallest building in the United States
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