Woolworth Building: A Historical Masterpiece

Woolworth Building is one of the most mesmerizing structures in the NYC skyline. For several years, it was the tallest building in the world, but today, it’s better known for its unique decorations. If you want to visit it, you’ll need to schedule a tour.

Essentials: Woolworth Building

Woolworth BuildingView in gallery

The Woolworth Building was the world’s tallest building when it was built in 1913. Its reign ended in 1930 when 40 Wall Street surpassed it.

It’s 792 feet tall with 58 floors and 34 elevators. It was designed by architect Cass Gilbert. The structure was named after American entrepreneur F. W. Woolworth because he planned the skyscraper and used it as his headquarters. Today, there are at least 25 buildings related to the Woolworths.

The tower resembles European Gothic cathedrals, and it was even nicknamed, “The Cathedral of Commerce.” Yet, Gilbert wasn’t pleased with the religious comparisons.

The building became an official National Historic Landmark in 1966 and a New York City Landmark in 1983.


Exterior

When it was built, Woolworth Building had some of the most impressive architectural designs. The lower sections of the building were built with limestone, and the facade was made with architectural terracotta, which is a fired mixture of clay and water.

Terracotta was used because it’s fireproof and stylish. The terracotta decorations were attached to brick walls behind them. Woolworth Building also has a steel frame.

There are thousands of windows on the Woolworth Building so every office could have outside views. There’s some dispute about the exact number of windows, but there are between 2,843 and 5,000. 

Above the 53rd floor, the Woolworth tower shifts into a decorative pyramid shape. The exterior used to be coated with a thin layer of gold called gilt, but it has since turned green.


Interior

The Woolworth Building has a beautiful lobby known as “the Arcade,” which is filled with decorations like sculptures and mosaics. It has curved ceilings with gold patterns. 

In the basement, there are entrances to two subway stations. There’s also a private pool that F. W. Woolworth included for himself. 

Most of the structure’s space is used for offices. There are over 2,000 office spaces with ceilings between 11 and 20 feet tall. Unfortunately, this beautiful building isn’t open to the public, but some companies offer tours of the facility.


Updates

The Woolworth Building has gone through many changes in history. Minor updates were made to the facade in 1932, and major renovations occurred from 1977 to 1981. 

Some updates included replacing most of the terracotta with concrete and removing some of the Gothic ornaments to keep the building modern and sturdy. The changes were only supposed to cost $8 million, but they added up to $22 million. 

In 1998, the Witkoff Group bought the building and turned the top 30 floors into residences.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How Can You Schedule a Woolworth Building Tour?

A few companies offer city tours that include access to the Woolworth Building NYC. Here is one example of how to schedule a tour.

How Much Do Woolworth Residences Cost?

Residences at the Woolworth Building can reach $59,000,000, but you can check the website for current availability and rates.

What’s Near Woolworth Building?

The Woolworth Building is near the World Trade Center buildings and City Hall Park, along with many restaurants, shops, and transportation options.

How Far is the Woolworth Building from the Empire State Building?

It takes about 20 minutes of driving to get from the Empire State Building to the Woolworth Building. It would take about an hour on foot. Other major landmarks, like the Chrysler Building and Times Square, are about the same distance.

Conclusion

The Woolworth Building might not be one of the tallest buildings anymore, but it’s still a key part of NYC. Even after many renovations, it still has one-of-a-kind architecture and furnishings. You can’t walk in without a reservation, but even walking past this mesmerizing structure is worth it for NYC residents and visitors.