The Woolworth Building
is an early American skyscraper designed
by architect Cass Gilbert
and located at 233 Broadway
in Manhattan, New York City
. It was the tallest building in the world
, with a height
of. More than a century
after its construction
, it remains one of the 100 tallest buildings in the United States
The Woolworth Building is located in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood
by Broadway and City Hall Park
to its east
, Park Place
to its north
, and Barclay Street
to its south
. It consists of a 30-story tower
atop a 30-story base
. Its facade
is mostly decorated
, though the lower portions
, and it features thousands
. The ornate lobby contains
, and architectural touches
. The structure
was also designed with several amenities
, including a now-closed observatory
on the 57th floor
and a private swimming pool
in the basement
was originally conceived
by F. W. Woolworth, the founder
of a brand
, as a headquarters
for his company
. Woolworth planned
the skyscraper jointly with the Irving National Exchange Bank
, which also agreed
to use the structure as its headquarters. The Woolworth Building had originally been planned as a 12- to 16-story commercial building
, but underwent several revisions
during its planning
process. Its final
height was not decided
upon until January 1911
started in 1910
and was completed
two years later. The building officially opened
on April 24
The Woolworth Building underwent several changes
throughout its history
. The facade was cleaned
, and the building received an extensive renovation
. The Irving National Exchange Bank
moved its headquarters to 1 Wall Street
, but the Woolworth Company
continued to own the Woolworth Building for most of the 20th century
. The structure was sold
to the Witkoff Group
. The top 30 floors
were sold to a developer
. The remainder
of the building remains in use by office
and commercial tenants
. The Woolworth Building has been a National Historic Landmark
, and a New York City designated landmark
The Woolworth Building was designed in the neo-Gothic style by Cass Gilbert. It was designed to be high but was eventually elevated to. The Woolworth Building was 60 stories tall when completed in 1913, though this consisted of 53 usable floors topped by several mechanical floors.
The building resembles European Gothic cathedrals, and Reverend S. Parkes Cadman dubbed it "The Cathedral of Commerce" in a booklet published in 1916. It remained the tallest building in the world until the construction of 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building in 1930, also in New York City.
ExteriorThe building's tower, flush with the main frontage on Broadway, joins an office block base with a narrow interior court for light. The base's eastern boundary is on Broadway, and the building occupies the entire block between Park Place to the north and Barclay Street to the south. The base contains two "wings" extending westward, one each on the Park Place and Barclay Street frontages, which form a rough U-shape when combined with the Broadway frontage. This ensured that all offices had views outside. The U-shaped base is approximately 30 stories tall.
The tower rises an additional 30 stories above the eastern side of the base, abutting Broadway. However, though the structure is physically 60 stories tall, the 53rd floor is the top floor that can be occupied. Above the 53rd floor, the tower tapers into a pyramidal roof.
BaseOn the part of the base facing Broadway, as well as the tower above it, there are three bays; the left and right bays have two windows per floor, while the center bay has three windows. The elevations facing Park Place and Barclay Street each have six bays with two windows per floor. The base, on its lowest four stories, is divided into three-story-high entrance and exit bays, each of which has a one-story attic above it. The main entrance on Broadway is a three-story Tudor arch surrounded on both sides by two bays: one narrower than the main arch, the other wider. The five bays form a triumphal arch overhung by a balcony and stone motifs of Gothic design. Inside the triumphal arch, there is a revolving door under a Tudor window, flanked by standard doors and framed with ornate decorations.
Decorated revolving doors also exist at the northern and southern entrances, at Park Place and Barclay Street respectively. The Park Place and Barclay Street entrances are nearly identical to each other, except for the arrangement of the storefronts. Both entrances are located on the eastern sides of their respective elevations, lining up with the tower above them, and contain a wide arch flanked by two narrower arches. All three entrances feed into the lobby, or "arcade". The building's Park Place entrance contained a stair to the New York City Subway's Park Place station, served by the, inside the westernmost bay of the building entrance.
The 27th floor contains terracotta ogee arches that project outward and act as a canopy. Above the 28th floor, the canopies are topped by a two-story-tall copper roof with complex tracery in the Gothic style. The 29th and 30th stories of the north and south wings are of similar depth to the six narrow bays on the Park Place and Barclay Street sides, but contain five bays. These wings are capped by a small tower with three bays.
TowerThe 30th floor contains setbacks on the Park Place and Barclay Street sides, though not on the Broadway side. Additional setbacks are located on the 45th and 50th floors. The 30th through 45th floors measure ; the 46th through 50th floors, ; and the 51st through 53rd floors,.
The 30th through 45th floors contain three bays on each side; the side bays contain two windows while the center bay contains three windows. The 46th through 53rd floors also have three bays on each side, but the side bays only contain one window. At the 45th- and 50th-story setbacks, there are turrets at each corner of the tower.
There is a pyramidal roof above the 53rd floor. The roof was originally gilt with gold, but is now green. It is interspersed with small dormers, which contain windows into the maintenance levels inside. The pyramidal roof is topped by another pyramid with an octagonal base and tall pointed-arch windows. The octagonal pyramid, in turn, is capped by a spire. The three layers of pyramids are about, or five stories tall. An observation deck was located at the 55th floor, about above ground level. It was patronized by an estimated 300,000 visitors per year, but was closed as a security measure in 1941 after the Pearl Harbor attack.
FacadeExcept for the lowest four floors, the exterior of the Woolworth Building was cast in limestone-colored, glazed architectural terracotta panels. The lowest floors are clad in limestone. F. W. Woolworth initially wanted to clad the skyscraper in granite, while Gilbert wanted to use limestone. The decision to use terracotta for the facade was based on both aesthetic and functional concerns. Not only was terracotta fireproof, Gilbert believed that terracotta would be a purely ornamental addition, clarifying the Woolworth Building's steel construction.
The Atlantic Terra Cotta Company provided the original terracotta cladding. During construction, Gilbert requested that Atlantic Terra Cotta use an office adjacent to his own while it was drawing several hundred designs. He also asked that an outside firm, Donnelly and Ricci, create full-size designs based on Atlantic Terra Cotta's models. In 1932, Atlantic Terra Cotta carried out a comprehensive cleaning campaign of the Woolworth's facade to remove blackening caused by the soot and pollution of the city. The building's facade was again restored between 1977 and 1981 by the Ehrenkrantz Group. During the 1977–1981 renovation, much of the terracotta was replaced with concrete and Gothic ornament was removed.
Some of the Woolworth Building's windows are set within arch-shaped openings. Most of the building's spandrels, or triangles between the top corners of the window and the top of the arch, have golden Gothic tracery against a bright blue backdrop. On the 25th, 39th, and 40th stories, the spandrels consist of iconography found in the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. Gold-on-blue tracery is also found on the 26th, 27th, and 42nd floors.
SuperstructureEngineers Gunvald Aus and Kort Berle designed the steel frame, supported on massive caissons that penetrate to the bedrock. In order to give the structure a sturdy foundation, the builders used metal tubes in diameter filled with concrete. These tubes were driven into the ground with a pneumatic caisson process to anchor the foundations to the bedrock. The 69 caissons range in depth from. Because the slope of the bedrock was so sharp, steps had to be carved into the rock before the caissons could be sunk into the ground. Each column carries a load of, supporting the building's overall weight of.
Strongly articulated piers, which carry right to the pyramidal cap without intermediate cornices, give the building its upward thrust. Portal braces on the building's exterior direct crosswinds downward toward the ground, rather than into the building. The copper roof is connected to the Woolworth Building's steel superstructure, which serves to electrically ground the roof. The Gothic detailing concentrated at the highly visible crown is over-scaled, and the building's silhouette could be made out from several miles away. Gilbert's choice of the Gothic style was described as "an expression of the verticality of the tower form", and as Gilbert himself later wrote, the style was "light, graceful, delicate and flame-like".
When the Woolworth Building was being erected, Gilbert considered several proposals for exterior lighting to emphasize the structure's form and size. These included placing four powerful searchlights atop nearby buildings and a constantly rotating lamp at the apex of the Woolworth Building's roof. Ultimately, the builders decided to erect nitrogen lamps and reflectors above the 31st floor, and having the intensity of the lighting increase with height.