Cathedral of Commerce, the Woolworth Building in Manhattan

Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 01:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City

Woolworth Building seen from the Hudson River © flickr.com - Joe Mabel/cc-by-sa-2.0

Woolworth Building seen from the Hudson River © flickr.com – Joe Mabel/cc-by-sa-2.0

The Woolworth Building, at 233 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City, built in 1910, is one of the oldest skyscrapers in the United States. The building opened on April 24, 1913. President Woodrow Wilson turned the lights on by way of a button in Washington, D.C. that evening. More than a century after the start of its construction, it remains, at 241.4 meters (792 ft), one of the twenty tallest buildings in New York City. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1966, and a New York City landmark since 1983.

The Woolworth Building was designed in the neo-Gothic style by the architect Cass Gilbert, who Frank Woolworth commissioned in 1910 to design a 20-story office building as the F. W. Woolworth Company‘s new corporate headquarters on Broadway, between Park Place and Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan, opposite City Hall. Originally designed to be 420 feet (130 m) high, the building was eventually elevated to 792 feet (241 m). At its opening, the Woolworth Building was 60 stories tall and had over 5,000 windows. The construction cost was US$13.5 million. With Irving National Exchange Bank Woolworth set up the Broadway-Park Place Company to finance the building, but by May 1914, had purchased all of the shares from the bank, thus owning the building outright. On completion, the Woolworth building topped the record set by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower as the world’s tallest building.

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. It remained the tallest building in the world until the construction of 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, also in New York City, in 1930; an observation deck on the 57th floor attracted visitors until 1941.

Woolworth Building © NYU FC/cc-by-sa-3.0 Woolworth Building - Lobby © PAT M IN NYC/cc-by-sa-3.0 Woolworth Building © Jonathan71/cc-by-sa-3.0 Woolworth Building © Gryffindor/cc-by-sa-3.0 Woolworth Tower in clouds, New York City, 1928 © Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc. N.Y.C. Woolworth Building seen from the Hudson River © flickr.com - Joe Mabel/cc-by-sa-2.0
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Woolworth Tower in clouds, New York City, 1928 © Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc. N.Y.C.
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. Woolworth’s private office, revetted in marble in the French Empire style, has been preserved.

In August 2012, The New York Times reported that an investment group led by Alchemy Properties, a New York developer, bought the top 30 floors of the landmark on July 31 for $68 million from the Witkoff Group and Cammeby’s International. The firm plans to renovate the space into luxury apartments and convert the penthouse into a five-level living space. The lower 28 floors are still owned by the Witkoff Group and Cammeby International, who plans to lease them as office space.

“It’s very exciting for us,” said Kenneth S. Horn, president of Alchemy Properties (in the NYT article). “We’ve done a lot of historic buildings in the city, but this is ‘the mama,’ as they say.”

The project will cost approximately $150 million, according to the article, including its $68 million purchase price. Although apartment prices have not been set, they may sell for as much as $3,000 a square foot, said Howard Lorber, chairman of the brokerage firm Prudential Douglas Elliman. That could mean $7.5 million for a 2,500-square-foot unit. The penthouse at the pinnacle could command more.

Read more on New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission – Woolworth Building (PDF file) and Wikipedia Woolworth Building (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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