Woolworth Building in November 2005
Location within Lower Manhattan
|Tallest in the world from 1913 to 1930[I]|
|Preceded by||Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower|
|Surpassed by||40 Wall Street|
Manhattan, New York City
|Opening||April 24, 1913|
|Design and construction|
|Structural engineer||Gunvald Aus and Kort Berle|
|Renovating firm||Ehrenkrantz Group|
|Area||0.5 acres (0.2 ha)|
|NRHP reference #||66000554|
|Added to NRHP||November 13, 1966|
|Designated NYCL||April 12, 1983|
The Woolworth Building, at 233 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City, designed by architect Cass Gilbert and constructed 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 its construction, it remains, at 792 feet (241 m), 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, and a New York City landmark since 1983.
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  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. 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.
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. 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. 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". It is covered in Skyros veined marble, 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. Woolworth's private office, revetted in marble in the French Empire style, has been preserved.
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 September 11, 2001, attacks, 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 attacks, which occurred only 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, although the lobby was reopened to public tours in 2014.
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. 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 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. The $110 million price tag for the building's penthouse unit is the highest asking price ever for an apartment in downtown Manhattan.
At the building's completion, the F. W. 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 National Exchange Bank and Columbia Records. Columbia Records moved into the building in 1913 and housed a recording studio in it. In 1917, Columbia made what are considered the first jazz recordings, by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, in this studio.
In film, the building has been referenced several times.
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.