“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
New York City in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Woolworth Building

233 Broadway, Cass Gilbert, Architect, 1910-1913


—Exploring Downtown —

Woolworth Building Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, November 1, 2008
1. Woolworth Building Marker
Inscription. One of America's earliest and greatest romantic skyscrapers, rising 60 stories above City Hall Park, the Woolworth Building held the coveted title of world's tallest building until losing it to the Chrysler Building in 1929. The Gothic inspired, terra-cotta clad skyscraper was built--and paid for in cash--by the inventor of that great American institution, the five-and-ten-cent store. When asked why he did it, Frank Woolworth said he wanted the building to advertise his stores--though there's also a story about competition with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which refused Woolworth a mortgage and then watched its own famous tower become the world's second tallest building.

Wander in to what was once called the "Cathedral of Commerce" and you will find yourself in a vaulted arcade resplendent in marble walls, bronze Gothic filigree, and golden mosaics. Mimicking the nave and transept plan of church architecture, Woolworth's lobby rises to a gleaming mosaic ceiling. Voluptuous Gothic detail ranges from elaborately finished mailboxes to austere altar pieces of Labor and Commerce on the mezzanines. Sculpted caricatures by Tom Johnson show architect Cass Gilbert holding a model of the building, Woolworth paying for the building with his nickels and dimes, the builder, the steam engineer, and even Edward J.
Marker on Broadway Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, November 4, 2009
2. Marker on Broadway
This view of the marker looks south on Broadway.
Hogan, the rental agent--but only because he protested in a letter to Gilbert that he was being left out.

[Photo captions:] "What shall I say of a city that builds the most beautiful cathedral in the world and calls it an office building?" - British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour.

Gargoyles of F. W. Woolworth (top) and Cass Gilbert (bottom).

(Above) Set further back in the lobby is the Marble Hall, whose grand staircase rises to the former entrance of the Irving Trust Company. Secular rather than ecclesiastical in flavor, reminiscent of a flat-roofed medieval guild hall, it rises to a sumptuous glass ceiling inscribed with the names of history's great commercial cities.

[1] Broadway-Chambers Building. A few blocks north at 277 Broadway. Cass Gilbert's first New York skyscraper--completed in 1900--sports terra-cotta ornament inspired by ancient Roman designs.
[2] Wall Street Building. A dockside Gothic skyscraper for the shipping trade--at 90 West Street, opposite Downtown's former shoreline--Cass Gilbert's second tower (1905-1907) offered its original tenants grand views of their own fleets sailing up the Hudson.
[3] United States Courthouse. In his last work (1934-34), at 40 Centre Street in the Court District, Gilbert wrapped the classical colonnade of a typical federal courthouse
Entrance to Woolworth Building Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, November 4, 2009
3. Entrance to Woolworth Building
around a 38-story, 590-foot-tall New York skyscraper.
Erected by Alliance for Downtown New York, Inc.
Marker series. This marker is included in the National Historic Landmarks marker series.
Location. 40° 42.743′ N, 74° 0.475′ W. Marker is in New York City, New York, in New York County. Marker is on Broadway, on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is on the sidewalk between Park Place and Barclay Street, near the building's main entrance. Marker is in this post office area: New York NY 10007, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Bridewell 1775-1838 (a few steps from this marker); British Soldier’s Barracks (within shouting distance of this marker); The Federal Post Office (within shouting distance of this marker); Liberty Poles (within shouting distance of this marker); Windmill (within shouting distance of this marker); First Almshouse (within shouting distance of this marker); September 11, 2001 Living Memorial Grove (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Nathan Hale (about 400 feet away).
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. According to this marker, architect Cass Gilbert was born in Zanesville,
Woolworth Building (daytime) Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, November 1, 2008
4. Woolworth Building (daytime)
Also see . . .
1. Tallest buildings in NYC. (Submitted on November 8, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Cass Gilbert. (Submitted on November 8, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
3. F. W. Woolworth. (Submitted on November 8, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
4. Woolworth Building NYC Architecture. (Submitted on November 10, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.)
Categories. 20th CenturyIndustry & CommerceLandmarksMan-Made FeaturesNotable BuildingsNotable Persons
Woolworth Building (twilight) Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, November 1, 2008
5. Woolworth Building (twilight)
Woolworth Building (night time) Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, November 1, 2008
6. Woolworth Building (night time)
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,179 times since then. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   2, 3. submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.   4, 5, 6. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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