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NYC - Woolworth Building - ornamental detail | by wallyg
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NYC - Woolworth Building - ornamental detail

The Woolworth Building was built in 1911-1913 for the Woolworth retail chain company. Frank W. Woolworth bought the long-coveted tract of land on Broadway opposite City Hall Park in 1909 and hired Cass Gilbert as architect; Gilbert urged his client to make the new headquarters the tallest building in the world. Woolworth, in turn, influenced by his travels to Europe, wanted his architect to design it in neo-Gothic style. After several redesigns, one higher than the other, finally to exceed the rivalling Metropolitan Life Tower, the foundations were laid in August 1911 and, at the rate of one and a half storeys a week, the 60-storey building was completed two years later.


Rising from a 27-storey base, with limestone and granite lower floors, the tower is clad in white terra-cotta and capped with an elaborate set-back Gothic top, with the spire rising to the height of 241.5 m. It was to be the tallest building in the world for 17 years, until the 40 Wall Street exceeded its height.


The building boasts a highly decorated, three-storey marble lobby in the plan form of a latin cross, with semicircular arches, bronze ornaments and sculpted corbels on the walls (one of which represents Mr. Woolworth himself counting his dimes) and the vaulted ceiling decorated with glass mosaic in Byzantine style. No wonder the building was dubbed the "Cathedral of Commerce."


The building was opened in April 1913 with a gala for 800 persons, and the building's lights were switched on by President Wilson from the White House in Washington, D.C.


In 1980 the building exterior was restored to its original splendour, an assignment that cost more than the original construction work.


The Woolworth chain eventually went out of business and its successor, the Venator Group, sold the building to the Witkoff Group for $155 million in June 1998.


The NY University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies will expand to the first three office floors of the building (8,700 m²), with a separate entrance lobby on Barclay Street, equipped with new escalators. Also the top half of the building is facing new use, the space being converted into 145 luxury condominiums, designed by Costas Kondylis.


In 2007, the Woolworth Building was ranked #44 on the AIA 150 America's Favorite Architecture list.


National Register #66000554

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Taken on July 27, 2007