A Grand Vision
In 1910, Frank W. Woolworth commissioned architect Cass Gilbert to design the new corporate headquarters for Woolworth’s. His vision for his company’s new home was a big one right from the start as he had a great admiration for majestic, European-style Gothic buildings such as the parliament buildings in London, England.
Gilbert designed an ornate Gothic-inspired structure that was initially estimated to reach 45 stories or 625 feet. But Woolworth’s vision for his building grew bigger as he acquired more land around the site, and by the time it was completed in 1913 the Woolworth Building soared 58 stories (792 feet) and stretched the length of the block. Supported by a massive stone base, this enormous structure was a feat of advanced engineering, constructed to stand up to wind pressure of 200 miles per hour. It also boasted its own steam turbines and 30 extremely fast elevators. The 58th story houses an observation deck with stunning city views that was closed in 1945.
Often referred to as the “Cathedral of Commerce”, the building feature Gothic architectural details including copper spires, a terra cotta exterior, sweeping arched entrances and a massive ceiling mural with the world’s largest piece of Tiffany glass showing the countries and the years where Woolworth stores were opened. The lobby is adorned with gargoyle sculptures characterizing people involved in the creation of the building including depictions of Gilbert with his slide rule and Woolworth counting his coins. The retail magnate’s private office, preserved with marble, is still intact.