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Woolworth Building

Woolworth Building (24)

You are right now in front of the Woolworth Building, a skyscraper that was bestowed the title of tallest building in the world for 17 years. Built in 1913 with a height of 241 metres, it lost the title in 1930 to the Chrysler Building, which rose to 319 metres.

Designed by architect Cass Gilbert, the building was commissioned by the American financier, Frank Winfield Woolworth, who owned a department store chain. Woolworth wanted to build a remarkable building to house his company offices. Therefore, in 1909, he bought land in Broadway he paid in cash, that is, no less than 13.5 million dollars.

To live up to such an imposing building, its inauguration was also carried out in style: the then US president, Woodrow Wilson, turned on the building's lighting from the White House. Hence the Woolworth Building was born.

A skyscraper that, if you look closely, has a strong resemblance to a Gothic cathedral: a tower of 57 floors decorated with pinnacles and gargoyles, a copper bell tower capping a building of white tile and, inside, an impressive three-storey-high lobby. Not surprisingly, it was dubbed "the cathedral of commerce." 

The most spectacular point with more Gothic details is the lobby. Upon entering, you get into a large shopping mall on a Latin cross-shaped floor, surrounded by walls covered with marble and a grand staircase, also made of marble. The ceiling is equally impressive, with its beautiful windows and its dome, which is covered with golden mosaics of Byzantine inspiration. However, you will find the most interesting detail of the ceiling in two of the sculptures carved on it: one shows an elderly Frank Woolworth while counting coins and the other architect Cass Gilbert hugged to a building model.

To enjoy a good view of the building, we recommend observing it from the City Hall Park, a historical place in the city, where executions were carried out and where, in 1776, George Washington read the Declaration of Independence. 

As you can see, the cathedral of commerce is now a residential building which, unfortunately, is closed to the public. It remained open for 84 years until, in 1997, Frank Woolworth sold the building and just kept some floors, which are now for rent.

Over a long time, it was possible to visit the most luxurious lobby in New York, but following the attacks of 11 September, entry was restricted for security reasons. Lately, they allow you to visit it again following a formal request. See current terms and conditions.

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