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The Woolworth Building

The Woolworth Building, at 233 Broadway, is a personal favorite of mine – my business was located down the block on Park Place for 10 years, so I saw this building daily. The Gothic structure, with spires, arches, flying buttresses, and gargoyles, was designed by Cass Gilbert and built in 1913 for $13 million in cash by Frank Woolworth as his corporate headquarters (until their bankruptcy in 1997) for his chain of five and dime stores. At 792 feet, it was the tallest building in the world and remained so until 1930.

One of the stellar attractions is the spectacular lobby. I have visited numerous times. However, as I have written several times before, here we have another case of heavily restricted access to a landmark building subsequent to 9/11. Prior to that event, guards were accustomed to visitors and welcomed them. At night, when it was quiet and the guards were not busy, showing interest in the lobby resulted in what amounted to a free personal tour, with a history of the construction of the building and explanation of the architectural and sculptural elements. They were always eager to point out the all the features of the magnificent vaulted lobby with blue and gold glass mosaics, murals, marble, and the sculptured caricatures, including Woolworth counting his nickels and dimes, Cass Gilbert holding a model of the building, and the structural engineer Gunvald Aus. Its exterior is also outstanding with limestone, granite, terra-cotta, and its signature pyramidal copper spire, now with a green patina.

When first built, it was referred to as a Cathedral of Commerce, an appropriate description for this National Historic Landmark. Today, it is impossible to access the interior unless you have specific business in the building. So for now, I only have photos of the exterior to share with you…

8 Responses to The Woolworth Building

  1. One of the great beauties of NYC. Georgia O’Keefe did a few paintings of it that are spectacular. Too bad they don’t let you in to take photos of the interior…

  2. Great photo. I really like this building. When I was in New York I had lunch in the little park/gardens in the Woolworths shadow. Shame you can’t go inside anymore.

  3. That’s a gorgeous picture – what a striking building.

    Glasgow Daily Photo

  4. It’s interesting that some architects don’t like it and find it over the top. As time passes the critics soften somewhat, particularly as we see fewer projects with this level of detailing.

  5. Yeah.. one heck of a view.
    Happy holidays!

    Digital Photography

  6. It was open for tours during Open House NY in october — and they plan to do the same again next year

  7. Amazing building. Great photo (what a sunny sky!) Maybe one day it will be possible to take photos of the interior again. I hope so.

  8. An Honest Man says:

    Now that’s what I call a building.

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