Woolworth Building



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The Woolworth Building, at 57 stories, is one of the oldest—and one of the most famous—skyscrapers in New York City. More than 95 years after its construction, The Woolworth Building is still one of the fifty tallest buildings in the United States as well as one of the twenty tallest buildings in New York City. The Woolworth Building is a National Historic Landmark, having been listed in 1966.

The Woolworth Building was constructed in neo-Gothic style by architect Cass Gilbert, who was commissioned by Frank Woolworth in 1910 to design the new corporate headquarters on Broadway, between Park Place and Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan, opposite City Hall. Originally planned to be 625 feet (190.5 m) high, in accordance with the area's zoning laws, the building was eventually elevated to 792 feet (241 m). The Woolworth Building construction cost was $13,500,000 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 splendor and a resemblance to European Gothic cathedrals, the structure was labeled the Cathedral of Commerce by the Reverend S. Parkes Cadman during the opening ceremony. Woolworth Building remained the tallest building in the world until the construction of 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building in 1930; an observation deck on the 57th floor attracted visitors until 1945.
The Woolworth Building's tower, flush with the main frontage on Broadway, is raised on a block base with a narrow interior court for light. The Woolworth Building 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 Woolworth Building Gothic detailing concentrated at the highly visible top is massively scaled, able to be read from the street level several hundred feet below. The ornate, cruciform lobby has a vaulted ceiling, mosaics, and sculpted caricatures that include Gilbert and Woolworth. Woolworth's private office, revetted in marble in French Empire style, is preserved.
Engineers Gunvald Aus and Kort Berle designed the steel frame, supported on massive caissons that penetrate to the Woolworth Building bedrock. The high-speed elevators were innovative, and the building's high office-to-elevator ratio made the structure profitable.
Tenants of the Woolworth Building have included 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.

The Woolworth 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 but suffered no major damage. Increased post-attack security restricted access to most of the ornate lobby, previously a tourist attraction.
The Woolworth Building structure has a long association with higher education, housing a number of Fordham University schools in the early 20th century. Today, the Woolworth Building houses, among other tenants, Control Group Inc. and the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies' Center for Global Affairs.

The Lincoln American Tower in Memphis, Tennessee, built in 1924, was Inspired architecture as small replica of the Woolworth Building, standing one-third the height of the Woolworth's size.