The Woolworth Building was completed in 1913 and stood as the world's tallest building for 17 years. Its grand lobby remains unrivaled in its beauty, craftsmanship, and sense of humor. Long closed and not accessible to the public for many years, Woolworth Tours is now able to provide an exclusive opportunity to see the amazing architecture and splendor of the Woolworth Building’s Lobby. Learn about the development of Lower Manhattan in the early 1900s and the importance of the Woolworth Building to national and international commerce. Our experienced tour guides will provide an overview of the building’s history and point out special aspects of the Lobby including the stone caricatures, imported marble, mosaic tile, stained glass, and murals.
The Woolworth Building was designed in the neo-Gothic style by the architect Cass Gilbert, whom Frank Woolworth commissioned in 1910 to design an office building as the F.W. Woolworth's Company's new corporate headquarters on Broadway in Lower Manhattan opposite City Hall and Newspaper Row. At its opening, the Woolworth Building was 60 stories tall and had over 5,000 windows. The construction cost was US$13.5 million. On completion, the Woolworth building was the world's tallest building, a record it held until 1930 when it was eclipsed by 40 Wall Street.
When the building opened on April 24, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson turned the lights on by way of a button from the White House in Washington DC. 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. 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. An observation deck on the 57th floor attracted visitors until 1941 when it was closed by the US Government during World War II because of security concerns that someone on the roof deck could see the movement of ships in New York Harbor.