Building in the Spotlight

Building in the Spotlight: The Woolworth

The Woolworth Building may have fallen far from being the tallest building in the world, but it remains one of New York’s most recognizable icons.

Designed by Cass Gilbert, the handsome fellow below, the landmark was commissioned in 1910 as a headquarters for F. W. Woolworth’s five-and-dime store empire. Though it was originally destined to be    only 420 feet tall, its plans were modified, and from 1913 – 1930 it was the world’s tallest at 792 feet. (OK, maybe 787.5 feet.)

Hipster-architect of the Woolworth

Cass Gilbert, hipster-architect of the Woolworth

To put that into perspective, Kingdom Tower, currently under construction in Saudi Arabia, will have an architectural height of 3307 feet. Nonetheless, the Woolworth is a force to be reckoned with.

Constructed in the Neo-Gothic style, it was given the nickname “The Cathedral of Commerce” for its resemblance to Gothic cathedrals. Details like its glazed terra cotta panels and exaggerated details continue to inspire new buildings, like SHoP Architects’ 111 West 57th Street, which will be clad in terra cotta and bronze.

Rendering from 111 West 57th Street, another coming luxury tower

Rendering from 111 West 57th Street, another coming luxury tower

It’s not just a pretty face, though, the Woolworth has also won acclaim for its revolutionary steel frame, which is what enabled it to tower over its neighbors.

Highlights of the Woolworth:

  1. On the night of the building’s opening, President Wilson turned on the lights, with a switch, from DC.
  2. The elevators in the Woolworth, serving many more floors than ever before, were designed so that in the event of a mechanical failure, air bags would inflate from the sides of the shaft to keep the car from plummeting.
  3. It houses a private club, called the Wooly, which is open only for exclusive events.

    The Wooly Bar

    The Wooly Bar

  4. There used to be a passageway in the basement that connected directly to the subway.
  5. The Manhattan project operated in the Woolworth, doing bookkeeping and even enriching uranium there.
  6. Jack LaLanne operated a health club in the basement, where there’s even a pool and hot tub that are no longer used.
  7. The ceiling in the lobby was covered in gold leaf, but it was removed in a renovation.
The Woolworth's beautiful lobby

The Woolworth’s beautiful lobby

With incredible historical importance, and a beautiful interior and exterior, it’s unsurprising that Alchemy Properties bought the top 30 floors to turn into ultra-luxury condos ranging in price up to the 9,400 sq.ft., $110,000,000 penthouse.

The top floors of the Woolworth will house one of the city's most expensive penthouses

The top floors of the Woolworth will house one of the city’s most expensive penthouses

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 10.02.29 PM

Kitchen rendering

An impressive floor plan of 31A, available for $26.4M

The impressive floor plan of 31A, available for $26.4M

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  1. Pingback: Building in the Spotlight: Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House – The ARCH

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