View Full Version : Woolworth Building - 233 Broadway - by Cass Gilbert

October 16th, 2002, 07:29 PM
Once the World's Tallest Building @ 792 feet, the Woolworth Building is still one of Lower Manhattan's Greatest skyscrapers. *Cass Gilbert is, to put it bluntly, AWESOME!

Image from abacustotality.com

Image from vintageviews.org

Add more pics, we're just getting started!

October 17th, 2002, 04:14 AM
It's proud of its verticality.
Something contemporary architects have to think about.

October 17th, 2002, 04:11 PM
Yeah small floorplates might be thrilling but no longer make financial sense.

October 23rd, 2002, 10:57 AM
Speaking of small floorplates, the GE building at 51st and Lex was apparently so unprofitable that it was donated to Columbia University. *Still, if I headed a small company, I'd love to stick my office up there.

October 23rd, 2002, 04:11 PM
...or a hotel room, or apartment....

October 23rd, 2002, 06:42 PM
anyone notice how one of those pointy things on the corners of is different from the rest? One of them appear to be transparent, i mean there is only the frame of the cone shape. Im pretty sure its the northeast cone, when looking downtown from broadway around NYU you notice it, i mean you can see the sky through it, its like they opened it up.

October 25th, 2002, 02:15 AM
I took this shot today for you Yanni. Good eye :)

http://photos.galatali.com/skyscrapers/tugrul/2002-10-24/Woolworth,%20Empty%20Cone%20(from%20West%20Broadwa y).jpg;OP=IMAGE;ROTATE=0;WIDTH=800

Full Size (http://photos.galatali.com/skyscrapers/tugrul/2002-10-24/Woolworth,%20Empty%20Cone%20(from%20West%20Broadwa y).jpg;OP=VIEWIMAGE;WIDTH=-1)

October 25th, 2002, 05:42 PM
thanks tugrul! maybe they open it up and have outdoor barbecues? BBQ with a View!! :)

NYC kid
October 25th, 2002, 09:56 PM
lol. BBQ...mmm...

Woops! *wipes off drool* ahem!

The Woolworth building is one of my favorite buildings in downtown. It makes a big impact on the skyline especially now that the WTC is gone...

October 26th, 2002, 04:22 AM
I'm not sure.

It used to have some significance thanks to the contrast with the monolithic towers.
Now, it's overwhelmed by the huge, squat boxes that are the new eye-catchers.
I think the Woolworth building lost more than it gained with the destruction of the WTC.

October 26th, 2002, 02:38 PM
I can only go twice a year too but the Woolworth, the Chrysler, and the WFC are and always will be my favs!

NYC kid
October 26th, 2002, 10:38 PM
Those are three of my favorites too. Though I like the Empire State Building slightly better.

Maybe your right Fabb...The World Trade Center went well with Woolworth...

October 28th, 2002, 09:37 AM
They did go well together especially when viewing Woolworth between the two twin towers.

However, Woolworth looks better the closer you get, not a common trait in NY skyscrapers. The detail becomes clear, and it isn't crowded by other buildings.

November 4th, 2002, 02:01 PM
Speaking of those pointy things (from yanni111's post above) check out this photo posted at skyscraperpage.com by forum member TowersNYC

http://www.skyscraperpage.com/forum/showthread.php?s=3ba402f60ce1a7c53d233a8b1a589269& threadid=9312

Transparent indeed! With City Hall below.

November 4th, 2002, 02:03 PM
Hey Yanni:



November 4th, 2002, 02:19 PM
Whoa! Holy scary coincidences tugrul....

(Edited by NYatKNIGHT at 2:22 pm on Nov. 4, 2002)

November 4th, 2002, 04:40 PM
wow that pic is awesome!! i wonder why that one is open, id like to live in that thing! it looks like it has doors!!
the design is interesting, it looks very futuristic and metallic with those zig zags, different from the old stone look of the rest of the building

July 24th, 2004, 09:15 AM
Yep, the Woolworth is a gem alright. But the security guards won't let you into the lobby to take a peek.

Anybody know if tours, public or private, are available?

July 24th, 2004, 12:57 PM
You guys are damn happy that you can see that architectural masterpiece with your own eyes! Grrr... I guess I'll never get that ability :(

July 24th, 2004, 01:30 PM
Never say never.

July 24th, 2004, 02:21 PM
Yes you're right! In my dreams I'm walking down from the Central to Battery thru the Wall St and so on... Damn... Municipal... I'm gonna cry now... :cry:

addition: and well how can I forget the Trinity Church!

July 26th, 2004, 10:16 AM

July 26th, 2004, 10:29 AM








more at

July 26th, 2004, 11:45 AM
NYatKnight, nice composition with the Transportation Building, but I'm deducting 2 points for not cropping out that sliver. :P

July 26th, 2004, 12:58 PM
:shock: They need to be cropped too? Jeez!

What's next, focussing? :lol:

July 26th, 2004, 01:15 PM
Nice pictures, thomasjfletcher.

May 10th, 2005, 01:30 PM
Here's a good website with information on the Woolworth:
It used to have a 58th floor observation deck, which was shut down in 1945.


May 10th, 2005, 02:44 PM
you cant get in becasue the top 22 floors are being converted to residential

May 11th, 2005, 11:07 AM
The pics with the world trade dust and through the wfc look really eerie and the gothic woothworth really captures the sombre mood of that event for me

May 16th, 2005, 10:27 PM
Photo taken 5/16/05..

June 6th, 2005, 10:20 AM
http://img276.echo.cx/img276/5765/copyofdowntownpics0047gd.jpg (http://www.imageshack.us)

June 6th, 2005, 02:29 PM
Two pics from my trip to NYC in summer 2004 ..

http://img245.echo.cx/img245/207/2988jc.th.jpg (http://img245.echo.cx/my.php?image=2988jc.jpg)

http://img245.echo.cx/img245/7759/2916bd.th.jpg (http://img245.echo.cx/my.php?image=2916bd.jpg)

June 6th, 2005, 06:16 PM
Awesome pictures, Thomas! I wouldn't seat beside that guy! No way!

June 26th, 2005, 10:31 PM
i dunno if neone has noticed and/or knows y, but the top of the woolworth building is being painted from green to a white-greyish color. anyone know y?



if u look at the second picture, u can see how part of it is still green.

June 26th, 2005, 10:43 PM

June 27th, 2005, 12:04 AM
Wow, maybe it's a "primer" coat?

A search or records at both Landmarks & City Planning turned up only one document: A single "Certificate of Appropriateness" (issued 12/2002):


Pursuant to Section 25-307 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, at the Public Meeting of December 12, 2000 following the Public Meeting of October 31, 2000 and the Public Hearing and Public Meeting of July 25, 2000, voted to approve a portion of a proposal to create a master plan governing the future installation of storefronts and signage, to install louvers and skylights, and alterations to window openings at the tower and at the terraces at the subject premises, as put forward in your application completed in on July 25, 2000. This Certificate of Appropriateness is issued for the storefront master plan only ...

... staff reviewed the drawings and found that the installation of the louvers, skylights, and alterations to window openings at the tower and terraces are not being pursued at this time ...

At such time as these items are pursued, you must submit two signed and sealed copies of the Department of Buildings filing drawings for these items for the Landmarks Preservation Commission's review and approval prior to the commencement of work.

Upon receipt, review, and approval of the final Department of Buildings filing drawings for the penthouse additions and the glass canopy, a separate Certificate of Appropriateness will be issued for these items. Please note that the approval for these items will expire on December 12, 2006.

Anybody know what's going on with the Woolworth now????

you cant get in becasue the top 22 floors are being converted to residential

A check of DOB records shows that the proposed conversion to residential on the upper floors has changed; the application states:




June 27th, 2005, 12:07 AM
well i know nyu has some classrooms there... but it still doesn't explain the paint job on the spires.

June 27th, 2005, 08:20 AM
well i know nyu has some classrooms there... but it still doesn't explain the paint job on the spires.

An NYU art class project perhaps? ;)

July 10th, 2005, 10:55 AM
I know why the woolworth's roof is changing color. I found out on lowermanhattan.info that the stuff on it
is only a primer applied as part of the roof's routine maintenance. It will turn green as soon as all necessary repairs are completed.

July 10th, 2005, 02:33 PM
I know why the woolworth's roof is changing color. I found out on lowermanhattan.info that the new is only a primer applied as part of the roof's routine maintenance. It will turn green as soon as all necessary repairs are completed.

That's a relief -- thanks for the up-date.

July 10th, 2005, 09:21 PM
thank god.

July 10th, 2005, 11:32 PM
That's a nice shot.

There is some sort loudness about the white. It was like, "you've noticed me for the last 90something years because, well, I'm the tallest thing in my area, but now I'm just an attention whore. Admire me!" I'll be glad when it goes back.

July 20th, 2005, 11:40 AM
Seaboard Weatherproofing Lands Woolworth Restoration
Westchester.com (http://westchester.com/Westchester_News/Westchester_Business_News/Seaboard_Weatherproofing_Lands_Woolworth_Restorati on_200507185457.html)
Monday, 18 July 2005
Port Chester, NY - Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration has been retained to rehabilitate the decorative terra-cotta façade of the Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan. Construction recently commenced on the project.

The 60-story landmark building, completed in 1913, is a neo-Gothic masterpiece designed by Cass Gilbert. The scope of the project includes restoring damaged limestone on the first four floors, replacement and repair of over 400 decorative terra cotta stones, and resealing the joints of all copper mansard roofs.

“It is an honor to work on such a classic structure,” said Michael Y. Ahearn, President of Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration. “Historical restoration is one of our specialties and it doesn’t get much better than this.”

Called the “Cathedral of Commerce,” the Woolworth Building stood as the world’s tallest until the Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1930. The building served as the Woolworth Company’s headquarters until the retailer declared bankruptcy in 1997. Architect Cass

Gilbert also constructed 90 West Street which was heavily damaged in the 9-11 attack. Seaboard is in the final stages of restoring 90 West which was recently ranked number 14 by New York Construction Magazine’s Top 20 projects 2004-05.

The Woolworth Building is a New York City Landmark and all work must be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which ensures that exterior alterations are historically accurate. Seaboard takes great care in creating a watertight and sound façade for the future while respecting the history of every stone being repaired.

Seaboard is currently assisting the architect in façade inspections of the entire building envelope. Several new conditions are being uncovered, which Seaboard is working to resolve in consultation with the architect and the terra cotta manufacturer. Work on the building is expected to be completed by the end of 2005.

Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration is located at 530 Willett Avenue in Port Chester, NY. The Company recently celebrated their 60th anniversary in business.

Based in Port Chester, NY, Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration is one of the leading restoration and alteration construction firms in the New York City metropolitan area. For more information, please call (800) 347-7464.

July 24th, 2005, 05:13 AM
I took these yesterday, and was going to ask if the spire is copper. All the info I found stated it was copper, but copper does not get painted.

http://img304.imageshack.us/img304/8558/woolwortrh259nu.th.jpg (http://img304.imageshack.us/my.php?image=woolwortrh259nu.jpg) http://img304.imageshack.us/img304/9286/woolwortrh265jb.th.jpg (http://img304.imageshack.us/my.php?image=woolwortrh265jb.jpg)

I always thought the roof of Pier A was copper, but it is painted steel.

July 24th, 2005, 08:47 AM
Speaking of small floorplates, the GE building at 51st and Lex was apparently so unprofitable that it was donated to Columbia University. *Still, if I headed a small company, I'd love to stick my office up there.

I think that is the most beautiful deco building I have seen.

July 24th, 2005, 12:52 PM
So the orginal roof is gone?

July 24th, 2005, 01:49 PM
So the orginal roof is gone?
That isn't completely clear ...

Either the copper cladding is gone or the copper that remained was covered up:

From the article above:

"Mr. Baird, like many New Yorkers, said he had always understood that the cladding of the Woolworth's rooftops was copper...

"What everyone thought was copper hasn't been copper since before 1950."

"Acid rain pretty much ate through the roof pretty quickly, and since then it's been covered in a green protective coating that matches the patina of oxidized copper."

December 12th, 2005, 10:14 AM
From the Wall Street Journal (subscriber only, so no link):



'The Cathedral of Commerce'

Woolworth's 1913 skyscraper has been dwarfed in size but not in achievement

December 10, 2005; Page P15

'A Tower of Nickels and Dimes"; "The Cathedral of Commerce": When the Woolworth Building was completed on April 24, 1913, it was a national event. From the White House, President Woodrow Wilson pressed the button that set the building's 80,000 bulbs alight; dozens of congressmen, three senators and hundreds of financiers, tycoons and men of letters rode up to the new structure's 27th floor for a banquet that evening in honor of architect Cass Gilbert. "The Woolworth Building will be New York's true fame," said the Rev. S. Parker Cadman at the building's dedication. "It does not scrape the sky. It greets it."

Fast-forward 92 years and ask a New Yorker where the Woolworth Building is or what it looks like: I'd wager 9 in 10 have no idea. The building became an icon mainly on account of its height -- 792 feet -- which made it, for 16 years, the tallest habitable structure in the world. Today, there are more than 100 buildings taller than it, a dozen of them in New York alone. Yet whatever the building has lost in comparative stature has done nothing to diminish the achievement it represents. The craftsmanship that went into the lobby's whimsical marble likenesses of Gilbert (clutching his building) and Frank Woolworth (counting his change) no longer exists. The skill it took to piece together the Byzantine mosaic on the lobby's ceiling is probably gone forever, too. If one measure of a masterpiece lies in the difficulty of replicating it, there is simply no skyscraper to equal it.

Much is explained by the date, 1913, the eve of the First World War, probably the last year when the fruits of capitalist enterprise could be put so unabashedly in the service of a feudal conceit. Woolworth, the Sam Walton of his day, gave Gilbert a picture of London's Gothic-revival Victoria Tower (part of the Houses of Parliament) to serve as a model. Gilbert, according to historian Spencer Klaw, thought also of the high Gothic spire of the Brussels town hall. The effect both men desired was that the building should soar. Seen from the front, the Woolworth Building reaches nearly its full height with barely a setback. Only at the very top, as the glazed white terracotta exterior gives way to green-tinted copper, does the building recede toward its cupola, further giving the impression of being almost impossibly out of reach. Compare that with the Zoser-like step pyramids of so many Manhattan skyscrapers, which seem to go out of their way to obey the laws of gravity.

The interior of the Woolworth Building is different. The barrel-vaulted lobby is more Romanesque than Gothic; as in an early Christian church, the tiled phoenixes in the ceiling mosaic symbolize resurrection -- in this case, Woolworth's from early business failures. As in a church, too, the side entrances to the lobby create a kind of transept, above which are two devotional-style murals to "Commerce" and "Labor." The materials are lavish: white marble from Carrara; yellow marble from Skyros; bronze for the elevator doors; Tiffany glass in the ceiling beyond the tiled vault. The overall effect -- warm, hushed and soft-hued -- perfectly offsets the monumentality of the building's exterior, just as the sculpted caricatures of Gilbert and Woolworth offset the heavy seriousness of the murals and mosaics.

Behind the façade there is technology, the most impressive of its day. In order for its foundations to reach bedrock, Gilbert sank caissons more than 100 feet below street level. Every floor is fireproofed by layers of brick, steel and terracotta. The building is designed to withstand winds of 200 mph or more. The elevators, which still run on the original Otis machines, are a particular marvel. They can move at 900 feet per minute, about the speed of modern elevators. Among other safety features, the elevator shafts are designed to create an air cushion to prevent a falling cab from crashing to the ground. On Oct. 15, 1913, an elevator loaded with 7,500 pounds of freight was experimentally dropped down a shaft from the 45th floor. "There was no indication when examined later that any damage had been done to the car or its contents," reported a satisfied building engineer.

And then there are the idiosyncrasies. Woolworth famously insisted that his building was 60 stories high, which in its day it was (counting the uninhabitable cupola as two floors). Today, however, there is no designated 42nd floor, and soon the 48th floor will be demolished to create a 47th floor with 19-foot ceilings, part of a plan by the building's current management to convert the upper floors into luxury residential units. At the same time, there are two 26th floors, one of them a sort of half-floor reminiscent of the 7½th floor in the film "Being John Malkovich." It's a dark place reached through a very small door.

We live in a time in which great men no longer build great buildings. There is no "Walton Building" to rival the Woolworth; no "Gates Building" to rival the Chrysler. Instead, corporations increasingly prefer campuses to skyscrapers, while the skyscrapers that do get built are designed according to the consensus tastes of corporations and city planners. Sometimes the results are striking and felicitous, as in Manhattan's Citibank building, but usually they're not, as in the design for the new Freedom Tower.

The Woolworth Building is something else entirely. A product of the vanity, ambition and quirks of a single man, it transcends and transforms all that with its majestic old-world grace. And at night, when its upper floors are spotlighted, it seems like an otherworldly lantern suspended from the sky. What a pity they just don't build them like they used to.


(I know the image is small, but it is that small on the WSJ site, too. It is a larger image in the actual newspaper.)

December 12th, 2005, 10:42 AM
A GREAT building ... and so much better off now, ever since that hulk of a Post Office seen in the photo was torn down so many years ago.

December 12th, 2005, 10:46 AM
A similar pic:


February 3rd, 2006, 02:27 PM
Downtown Express
February 3 - 9, 2006

Restaurant in the Woolworth Building

As the full throttle of life picks up again around the City Hall and Financial District areas, it’s only natural that restaurants follow suit — and the newly opened Woolworth Tower Kitchen is ready to accommodate, says Sharif Adlouni, the restaurant’s co-owner.

Adlouni, formerly of 17 Murray Restaurant, and Louis Adolfsen, of the law firm Melito & Adolfsen and who is also a co-owner, opened in December after first becoming interested in the space, which is located on the first floor of the landmark Woolworth Building, a couple of years ago.

“It’s really important to have more businesses in this area,” Adlouni told Downtown Express on Wednesday, as he greeted the waiting patrons with a smile.

The restaurant’s space on Broadway and Barclay had been vacant for six years, after the Coffee Cup, a diner, closed.

The décor of the Kitchen is contemporary, though the framed portraits of the Woolworth Building that hang on the Kitchen’s walls pay homage to the restaurant’s historically rich host.

The Kitchen’s chef is Robert Gushue, trained at the Culinary Institute of America trained chef. Dishes that range from bacon-wrapped sea scallops with pulled pork and cheddar grits to a simple hamburger or stake fries.

“I love Downtown,” he said. “There’s no other place I’d rather be.”

-Chad Smith

Downtown Express is published by Community Media LLC.

February 4th, 2006, 11:10 AM
Viewing the Woolworth from the north at night it is apparent that the upper floors have been pretty much gutted as part of the renovation work: Temporary construction lights are visible in most of the windows in the tower.

TLOZ Link5
February 4th, 2006, 11:01 PM
I hope the floodlights will remain.

February 21st, 2006, 02:49 PM
The Woolworth last Thursday, against a crystal blue sky took my breath away.(well, it always does that I guess)


February 21st, 2006, 04:55 PM
Hasn't lost an ounce of its luster through the ages....I'll take one of these over 30 Hearst Towers any day. Thanks.

March 1st, 2006, 02:06 PM
http://img402.imageshack.us/img402/1681/woolworth522mx.th.jpg (http://img402.imageshack.us/my.php?image=woolworth522mx.jpg)

Last year
http://img230.imageshack.us/img230/8803/woolworth513ab.th.jpg (http://img230.imageshack.us/my.php?image=woolworth513ab.jpg)

March 1st, 2006, 05:22 PM
The great juxtaposition shown in the first shot is about to be ruined forever by the rising hulk at 12 Barclay -- :(

March 7th, 2006, 02:30 AM
I briefly worked in the Woolworth Building this past winter break and the lobby is amazing and beautiful, I've never been in such a lobby before.

March 7th, 2006, 04:40 PM
pictures please....





March 7th, 2006, 05:03 PM
WOW!!!!! Can you imagine living here???!!!

March 12th, 2006, 03:41 AM
The woolworth, after a long whirlwind romance,
inspired me to fall in love
with the Municipal building
and some other enchanting bricks.
What a corner. It is my absolute favorite.
I have imagined over and over again just peeping inside.
I have bought books and bios, just absurdly obsessed.

Frank Woolworth said he "made the lobby for all the people".
And now, only selected individuals can go inside.
I hope it really will preserve it longer, because it breaks my heart.
..would die to go inside.. see frank's office... the pool downstairs.

February 26th, 2007, 10:21 AM
I have always wanted to get inside to shoot the astonishing gothic-inspired lobby of the Woolworth building. I read somewhere that the inspiration for the building came from Woolworth's vision of himself as akin to some kind of Medieval merchant-baron. Whatever his trip was...we're glad he was on it! Here's another gallery of photos of the Woolworth Building from different perspectives:

Woolworth Building, NYC photos (http://andrewprokos.com/photos/new-york/landmarks/woolworth-building/)

February 26th, 2007, 10:25 AM
WOW!!!!! Can you imagine living here???!!!

FYI nobody will be living here, Witkoff has called off conversion plans

February 26th, 2007, 04:37 PM
FYI nobody will be living here, Witkoff has called off conversion plans

So I assume we'll see a boutique office building then?

February 26th, 2007, 05:37 PM
the building is there, what do you mean a boutique office building? They are renovating space yes but they are not taking the thing down!!!

February 26th, 2007, 07:45 PM
the building is there, what do you mean a boutique office building? They are renovating space yes but they are not taking the thing down!!!

:D I would hope not, I just meant that the building would be renovated and marketed as a new office building.

February 26th, 2007, 09:34 PM
i definitely dig this building's top in the downtown skyline. i can see it from my apt. people are currently working in here, so must just be a reno.

btw, near the top before it triangulates, from the south it looks like there is a large candle in a window/passageway on the SE corner of the building. it must not be a candle, but it certainly adds to the buildings gothic mystique and is fun to look at!

April 11th, 2007, 12:49 AM
Drove by the Woolworth last night and I was astonish to see it drenched in a golden light. It was absolutely breathtaking. I always thought they only lit it up green and white. Is this new?

April 11th, 2007, 01:19 AM
wow mumbles- I'm certainly envious of your view. That sounds spectacular.:)

April 23rd, 2007, 05:38 AM
http://img243.imageshack.us/img243/1713/woolworth55tm7.th.jpg (http://img243.imageshack.us/my.php?image=woolworth55tm7.jpg)

April 23rd, 2007, 07:16 AM
didnt read the whole thread...arent students living there now?

April 23rd, 2007, 09:06 AM
students?? Of what school, and where do I register?

April 23rd, 2007, 12:55 PM
My understanding is that:

1) NYU school of continuing studies holds classes in the building (but they have a seperate entrance, which is decidely not that majestic) and
2) as kliq6 pointed out, the condo conversion of the building fell through, so therefore no one is currently living in the buidling

has anyone heard anything different?

May 20th, 2007, 08:15 PM
Saw this pic of the Woolworth over at ssp (http://www.pbase.com/lsyd/image/79030717/original.jpg) (warning: lots of pics, click only if you have a fast connection) and all I can say is WTF!!?


May 20th, 2007, 08:52 PM
What happened!?!? Is that real? It looks like they haphazardly did pointwork or something. Isn't Woolworth landmarked?

May 20th, 2007, 09:40 PM
Replaced masonry unpainted?

May 20th, 2007, 11:26 PM
They are replacing / renovating pieces of the terracotta facade ...

May 21st, 2007, 07:50 AM
^ How will they make it match? Terra-cotta on Woolworth gets its whitish shade not from paint but from a glazed finish, like pottery. Doesn't that need to be factory-applied before the piece is even shipped?

May 21st, 2007, 08:44 AM
Not sure, but I think those dark areas are where the outer skin has been removed.

Only the crown , which is not copper, is painted.

May 21st, 2007, 09:46 AM
Facade Maintenance Design, PC


The Witkoff Group (Owner)
New York City


Since 1987, FMD professionals have been responsible for exterior condition surveys as well as the identification and analysis of all conditions affecting deterioration of this famous New York landmark. Such surveys have been undertaken from the ground, from the roofs, and from various scaffolding, and have led to the preparation of necessary construction documents for all on-going restoration work.

Throughout this period, the FMD Team has coordinated all bidding and filing processes, site meetings with owners and contractors, and has performed periodic visits to the site throughout the construction phases. FMD Team professionals have handled necessary replacement of original deteriorated terra cotta cladding and ornament with new cast concrete and GFRC panels to match as closely as possible the original building appearance.


Restoration has included stabilization pinning of original terra cotta cladding, in place whereverpossible, re-setting of original terra cotta stones, re-pointing of mortar joints, patching of original terra cotta glaze material and repair and replacement of corroded structural steel as required, in addition to the repair and replacement of copper and bituminous roofing wherever necessary. FMD also designed unique flashing and anchorage details and restored missing ornamentation and color schemes.

Unique Historic Structure:

A Local and National landmark structure, The Woolworth Building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert and was the tallest building in the world at the time of its completion in 1913. FMD has been the professional of record for all exterior work since 1987, including continuous, on-going restoration and preservation assignments.

© 2005 FMD All Rights Reserved

May 21st, 2007, 09:52 AM
If I heard right, the WWB i one of teh early ones that used Terra Cottia with steel. I forget whether it was teh steel meshing for formwork, or the steel of the building (I just remember "steel" being mentioned).

The basic nature of the terra cotta does not interact well with steel, causing corrosion. I believe the biggest problem was with things like anchor points. When these needed to be replaced, they used concrete, which they matched in color.

But the only problem with concrete is its porosity. When it rains, it soaks up a bit of water and changes color. All those dark spots? That's concrete patchwork.

I do not hav ethe solid information on this, so you may want to look it up to verify/tighten up my explanation. I am only offering what I have heard from word-of-mouth in the biz....

September 9th, 2007, 08:31 PM
Dark Spots Mar an Aging, Yet Exquisite, Face

Tina Fineberg for The New York Times
It Didn't Age Well The splotchy look of the Woolworth Building, at Broadway and Park Place, comes
from the dirt absorbed by precast concrete blocks that replaced the original terra cotta in the 1970s.

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/realestate/09scap.html?ref=realestate)
September 9, 2007

Streetscapes | Woolworth Building

It's like a fungus that runs up and down the tower of the Woolworth Building, at Broadway and Park Place. From every angle the cream-colored surface has dirty, discolored patches, the unanticipated consequences of a major restoration project three decades ago.

Frank Woolworth began accumulating his 5-and-10-cent store fortune in 1879, and by 1886 he opened a headquarters in New York City. He was a multimillionaire by 1900, when he built a lacy Gothic-style limestone house at Fifth Avenue and 80th Street, a building demolished in the 1920s.

It was designed by Charles P. H. Gilbert, a mansion specialist who worked up and down the avenue. He also designed the main building of the Jewish Museum, at 92nd Street.

In 1911, Woolworth announced plans for the tallest building in the world, to be constructed on Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street. Like his house, Woolworth’s new building was to be neo-Gothic and designed by a Gilbert — in this case, Cass Gilbert, who was not related to Charles but was instead an aggressive out-of-towner who had elbowed his way into New York City architecture.

In 1905, Gilbert had designed the boxy Gothic-style West Street Building, at West and Cedar Streets, one of many structures to use the new technology of glazed terra cotta to clad a tall building, and the architect used it as a model for the Woolworth Building.

For Woolworth, Gilbert doubled the size of the 23-story West Street building and then some, to 55 floors, with a pyramidal roof 792 feet high. That topped the 700-foot Metropolitan Life tower, built at Madison Avenue and 24th Street in 1909.

Paul Starrett was one of the contractors bidding on the Woolworth project, and in his 1938 book, “Changing the Skyline,” he recalled trying to persuade Woolworth to use more traditional materials.

“In stone it would be magnificent,” he said, but in terra cotta, “it would look like a 5-and-10-cent store proposition.”

He did not get the job.

The utility of terra cotta was irrefutable: each block of fired clay, usually hollowed out, was a fraction of the weight of brick or stone. The blocks were easily modeled in intricate forms and were protected by a glaze that shed dirt.

A 1912 ad by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company in The Real Estate Record and Guide boasted, “Cream color in another material would be dark and dirty after a few years’ exposure.”

Unlike many prior skyscrapers, the Woolworth Building was well received by the architectural intelligentsia. It had no raw blank side walls, and the Gothic-style detailing seemed an honest reflection of the new steel-frame technology.

The Architectural Record, 1913
Office for Metropolitan History

Writing in The Architectural Record in 1913, Montgomery Schuyler particularly admired the way Gilbert adjusted the scale of the ornament. The finials, shields, crockets and other details were not simply giant-sized to look good from a distance but also held up to close view from neighboring buildings.

Compared with European models, “this brand-new American Gothic loses nothing,” Mr. Schuyler said.

But Mr. Starrett’s misgivings were well founded. In his 1938 book he recalled, apparently from years earlier, “the spectacle of the upper part of the Woolworth Building, wired up with metal mesh to catch the falling terra cotta.”

By 1962, The New York Times reported that riggers were repairing broken pieces all year round.

These problems only grew worse, and in the 1970s the Woolworth company retained Ezra D. Ehrenkrantz & Associates (now Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn) to examine every one of the 400,000 terra-cotta blocks. The architecture firm found that 25,000 of them needed complete replacement and selected precast concrete instead.

The concrete had a surface coating, meant to be renewed every five years, to shed soil and moisture, like the glaze on the terra-cotta blocks.

Timothy Allanbrook, now a senior consultant at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, an architecture and engineering firm in Northbrook, Ill., worked for Ehrenkrantz at the time and was on and off the scaffolds at the Woolworth Building for three years.

He says the prescription for periodic resealing has not been followed, so the porous concrete has been absorbing water and dirt for years. He suspects that the concrete has absorbed so much dirt that it cannot be cleaned sufficiently so that it matches the original terra cotta, which may leave another replacement as the only option.

Mr. Allanbrook said that 30 years ago, the terra-cotta industry was in decline, making concrete “the optimal choice in a narrow field of imperfect choices.”

Now, terra cotta has seen a resurgence, so the original material could be a reasonable replacement, Mr. Allanbrook said; so could newer materials like concrete reinforced with glass fiber.

Roy Suskin, a vice president of the Witkoff Group, the building’s owner, declined to discuss the problem and any plans for remedying it.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

October 20th, 2007, 11:29 PM
kmf164 on Flickr
October 6, 2007

From 7 World Trade:


November 5th, 2007, 09:36 PM
The whole building is lit up tonight.

November 5th, 2007, 11:26 PM
Fantastic! I don't think I've ever seen the entire building floodlit before. Usually only the crown is lit. Let's hope this keeps up.

November 18th, 2007, 11:47 AM
Je voudrais savoir si il est prevu de redonner vie à ce superbe immeuble. Il est dommage qu'il reste comme cela. J'ai trouver des photos de l'interieur de l'immeuble maintenant, c'est triste. Avoir sur le post
I want to know whether there are plans to restore life to this wonderful building. It is a pity that it remains like that. I find pictures of the inside of the building now is sad. Get on the post






Les autres photos sont sur le blog Curbed
Other photographs are on the blog Curbed


February 8th, 2008, 08:23 PM
from the library of congress' collection.


February 8th, 2008, 08:26 PM

February 8th, 2008, 10:00 PM
It must have just been astounding for NYers to watch this one rise up to nearly 800' from what was, back then, basically a city of low-rise buildings.

February 8th, 2008, 11:08 PM
The issue with terra cotta was the steel anchors the construction crews used with terra cotta cladding to tie the blocks into the brickwork better. I'm not convinced these straps of steel were necessary as I have seen them used on occasion in tenements, especially on keystones.

They used a flat piece of steel maybe an inch wide by 1/8 inch thick or a little more about 8" long and bent an inch of one end down 90 degrees and an inch of the other end up 90 degrees, the down end slipped into a hole made in the keystone's top, and the up end slipped behind the first course of brick behind the keystone.

I suspect it was mostly to anchor the top heavy keystones in DURING construction while the wall was going up and the mortar not hard, because there was no way for the keystone to just fall forward when the wall was above it.

That steel rusts and swells and then cracks brick and terra cotta, ditto for rebar used inside balustrades to anchor them into the rail above and the base below, the hollow balustrades were usually filled with mortar and that rebar making them solid, the rod rusts and expands and cracks the balustrade usually in half vertically.

None of this is the fault of terra cotta!
All of the terra cotta was high fired stoneware, fired to high temperature in a kiln and vitrified to an extent it's porosity is extremely low. After around 1905 glazes became popular, and these are the same kinds of glazes applied to your dinner plates- completely waterproof and glass-like.
Some poorly made units that the glaze formula didn't fit well tended to craze due to expansion differences, the tiny cracks in the glaze could let some water in but not likely, and the terracotta itself is vitrified as mentioned.

So most of the water comes in from bad mortar joints, cracks from settling, and especially thru the top of the facade wall if the parapet overhanging cornice is gone or leaking- a lot of them are gone, most were sheet metal and older ones from the 1870's were WOOD, newer ones were often terra cotta and one fault was the joint between cornice blocks, They either overlapped one raised edge over the adjacent block, or bocks had raised edges where the mortar was to shed the water off that joint.
As the raised joint if cracked or the mortar loose is horizontal, rainwater can soak right in, freeze and crack the walls. As the cracks begin from freezing, they get wider and wider each time water in there freezes.

The problem with GFRC panels is they are not terra cotta, so they will NOT look the same and will change in color like those patches did. The only real repair is replacing the damaged terra cotta with new units like they did on 90 West.
The problem with this is, clay shrinks considerably- up to 10%, so simply making a mold of existing cornices and ornaments doesn't work well because any casts made from those molds will wind up 6-10% smaller, leaving large gaps that have to be filled.

So the effective solution there is making new patterns from photos much as I do, and making them 6-10% larger to compensate for the shrinkage.
Any sculptor can make replacement units, but the sheer number of them, say 25,000 is daunting to say the least!
Also, these original units were made in factories on an assembly line type production, and these companies had several HUGE beehive shaped kilns usually around 35 or more feet in diameter made of brick, and big enough to hold tens of thousands of pounds of greenware.
The earlier ones in the 1880's etc were wood or coal fired, later ones were gas fired. Once the kiln was full, the doorway was bricked shut and the fires started, it took one week on a low fire followed by one week of stoneware temperature to soak all of the greenware completely through to the centers, and then a week of cool down.
The temperature had to be maintained 24/7 within a narrow range around cone 8, which would be around 2100 degrees.
Glazed units had to be removed when cool, glazes applied and the fired a second time to a lower temperature and shorter duration.

The unique specific clay and glaze formulas used for the Woolworth building's terra cotta could be difficult to replicate, most of the clay used in NYC for this stuff seemed to have come from New Jersey, it may not even be available any more. Staten Island's clay was found to be very inferior and was not used despite being right nearby in a terra cotta company's "back yard".

February 10th, 2008, 01:55 PM
Thanks for those photos, Darryl. That second one is a view I don't think I've ever seen, and it reminded me of another famous terra cotta-clad skyscraper...


The Smith Tower of Seattle - built in 1914 (one year after the Woolworth), it was the 6th tallest building in the world at the time (3rd tallest outside Manhattan). 462 feet, still lookin' good today:


February 13th, 2008, 06:53 AM
The Great Dame, in full glory, here (http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/7804/woolworthbuilding19125xr.jpg), and here (http://img273.imageshack.us/img273/8562/woolworthbuildingaboveparkrowa.jpg).

February 24th, 2008, 10:22 PM
there are for-rent signs up now in the former chase ground floor space. according to the signs there is an olympic size pool in the basement. interesting.

February 29th, 2008, 09:35 PM
"they produce GFRC Terra Cotta replacement elements "

There's no such thing as glass fiber reinforced concrete Terra Cotta! call it GFRC, plastic or whatever, it's still just poured or sprayed molded concrete, and it's no substitute for an honest historic restoration in my opinion, it's a fake, pseudo, paper thin look-alike that smacks of cheapness compared to the original hand-made Terra Cotta.

Much of the problems can be traced right back to POOR MAINTENANCE, and unless that changes, no matter what replaces what, it will not hold up either.

Sculpting models to re-create traditional elements is not difficult, I do it every week as a self-taught sculptor most of my models are done in an average of 20-25 hours.
Some samples of my architectural sculpted clay models all done from photos;

Keystone, after keystones on 208 Eldridge St (demolished 1977)

Public School 168, after dormer gargoyles

Public School 168, after dormer gargoyles

Spandrel panel after one at the Brooklyn museum's sculpture garden

Art Deco after a frieze on a Chicago theater

Keystone after keystones on 202 Eldridge st (demolished 1977)

Work in progress, keystone, after keystones on 621 East 5th st (standing)

March 21st, 2008, 10:56 PM
not lit up tonight. anyone know why?

March 29th, 2008, 06:48 PM

March 29th, 2008, 07:48 PM
12 Barfclay had its crown lit up pink last night.

March 29th, 2008, 09:53 PM
yup, it started up a few weeks back and seems to be lit every night now - much to my glee. other than that 1 (maybe 2) night a few days back woolyb seems to be lit per the norm. hopefully the gehry and stern buidlings will have lit crowns as well.

June 11th, 2008, 01:07 AM
I didn't know they put up plaques here. I gotta check it out the next time I pass by.

Kinda like NY's own little version of Grauman's Chinese theater. I like it.

Super Bowl-Winning Giants Get Canyon of Heroes Honor

Published: June 11, 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/11/nyregion/11bloomberg.html)

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined the defensive end Justin Tuck of the New York Giants in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday morning to unveil a sidewalk plaque commemorating the Giants’ historic win over the heavily favored New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

“Like Lower Manhattan, the New York Giants know what it is to be underestimated, even written off,” Mayor Bloomberg said during the ceremony, which unfolded under scorching heat outside the Woolworth Building on Broadway, where the plaque was set. The plaque is one of the more than 200 granite strips in a route known as the Canyon of Heroes, marking those who have been honored by the city with ticker-tape parades.

Mr. Tuck, who wore a beige four-button suit but no Super Bowl ring, thanked the fans and his family for their support and said, “It’s just a special moment not only to bring this trophy back to New York City and the tristate area, but in doing so beating a Boston team.”

Mr. Bloomberg, who was born and grew up in Massachusetts, said after the ceremony — and after Mr. Tuck had left — that he was not a Patriots fan because “the Patriots didn’t exist” when he lived in Massachusetts. (The franchise, then known as the Boston Patriots, began as an American Football League team in 1960, right around the time Mr. Bloomberg left for college in Maryland.)

He also said that he did not root for the Giants or the New York Jets when he was younger and was, in fact, a Colts fan.

“I hate to admit this, but when I was in college, I was a rabid Colts fan because I went to school in Baltimore,” said Mr. Bloomberg, who graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1964, when the Colts, now in Indiana, still played in Baltimore.

When it comes to basketball, the mayor said he roots for the Boston Celtics. But when it comes to baseball, his allegiances remain a mystery.

Mr. Bloomberg would disclose only that he was not a fan of the Boston Red Sox — and, this being New York, the statement was perhaps his saving grace.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

June 11th, 2008, 08:47 AM
The plaques are inset into the sidewalk along Broadway commemorating those who have had a ticker tape parade in their honor -- the plaques are chronological, with the earliest starting near Bowling Green and then moving north (on the west side of the street) ...

Heady Days, Immortalized Where the Ticker Tape Fell

Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Jorge Condez, left, and Paul Corrales
setting a plaque commemorating 1986
ticker-tape honors for the Mets,
on Broadway near Vesey Street.

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/30/nyregion/30blocks.html)
September 30, 2008


In the midst of the longest ticker-tape drought in a quarter century, lower Broadway - the Canyon of Heroes - has been paved instead with 164 granite plaques from Bowling Green to the Woolworth Building.

They commemorate ticker-tape parades from October 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, to October 2000, when the Yankees last won the World Series. They were commissioned before 9/11 under a plan by the Alliance for Downtown New York to improve the streetscape with new sidewalks, lampposts, signs and wastebaskets.

Only in recent weeks has the parade chronology been finished from beginning to end. Thirty-six intermediate plaques will be installed as permitted by construction projects along the route.

Against the shadow of Sept. 11, 2001, these plaques recall a carefree, exuberant, giddy spirit that may be difficult to conjure again downtown, even if the Yankees do their part.

Carefree? How about the parade in May 1962 when President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast was cheered as "Scott Carpenter" by spectators who mistakenly assumed he was a newly returned astronaut.

Exuberant? How about the 1,900 tons of paper showered on Douglas (Wrong Way) Corrigan in August 1938 after his flight from New York to Ireland "instead of his 'intended' destination of California," as the plaque says, with quotation marks that constitute one of the few instances of editorializing.

Giddy? How about May 1950, when there was a parade every day for three days, beginning with one for Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan of Pakistan. He was assassinated a year later, one of many foreign leaders who were hailed in the Canyon of Heroes and then jailed, deposed or murdered back home.

"It was almost like a death sentence to get a ticker-tape parade," said Kenneth R. Cobb, the director of the municipal archives, who has compiled a parade history.

After several spontaneous outbursts, one of the first organized uses of paper tape from stock-market tickers occurred Nov. 18, 1919, in a parade for the Prince of Wales, later the Duke of Windsor.

Grover A. Whalen, the city's official greeter, recalled in his 1955 autobiography, "Mr. New York," that he arranged a word-of-mouth campaign among downtown businesses to give the prince a spectacular reception with streams of ticker tape. It wound up including torn-up phone books. (Hmmm. A city official, proud of his Irish descent, contriving to welcome the Prince of Wales by inundating him with waste paper thrown out of windows in tall buildings.)

Watching the paper fall on the Yankees in 1996, Carl Weisbrod, the president of the Downtown Alliance, and Suzanne O'Keefe, the vice president for design, agreed that something should be done to commemorate the parades.

As part of the $20 million streetscape project, under the direction of Cooper, Robertson & Partners, the design studio Pentagram came up with the idea of simple granite sidewalk strips - not unlike the ticker-tape ribbons that remain after a parade, said Michael Bierut, a Pentagram partner - with the date and a few words of description.

(An illustrated brochure and map with information about all 200 parades can be picked up at kiosks outside City Hall and the World Trade Center PATH station or through the alliance, at downtownny.com or 212-835-2789.)

The plaques were made by Dale Travis Associates, the firm responsible for the silver-leaf lettering in the Freedom Tower cornerstone. The granite blocks, 8 inches wide and 3 inches deep, were cut with a water jet, Dale L. Travis said. Then the two-inch stainless-steel letters were inserted, held by pins and thermoplastic grout.

Last week, Jorge Condez and Paul Corrales of A.F.C. Enterprises set some of the last plaques, including "October 28, 1986 * New York Mets, World Series Champions," into place near Vesey Street.

THREE years and 11 months have passed since the last parade, the longest interval since the 1978 Yankees broke a nine-year dry spell in the Canyon of Heroes.

The next parade will not be easy. The image of a paper blizzard suspended in midair among the downtown skyscrapers, once a visual metaphor for civic celebration, was transformed on Sept. 11, 2001, into a metaphor for cataclysm.

Is it still? Mr. Bierut hopes not. "Part of the resiliency of the city is retaining its own meaning for those metaphors and not surrendering them," he said. "The post-terror condition has acclimated people to view any disruption of routine as a cause for alarm. There will come a time when the disruption of the routine of city life is seen as something wonderful."

"Ticker-tape parades were the very essence of that," Mr. Bierut said.

Just in case, Ms. O'Keefe said, there are 33 blank spots available on Broadway and Park Row to mark future parades. At the current pace, she figured, that ought to last a century and a half.

Copyright 2004 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times (http://www.nytco.com/)

July 26th, 2008, 05:07 AM
The Woolworth Building, known for its height when it opened in 1913, is being extensively renovated. (Photo: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times)

A new book about the Woolworth building HERE (http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=242496&postcount=23)

September 9th, 2008, 05:31 PM
September 9, 2008, 4:31 pm

Scraping a Very Low Sky

By David W. Dunlap (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/ddunlap/)

The Gothic pinnacle of the Woolworth Building, right, appeared to be scraping the sky on Monday. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)

Neither critics nor clerics could restrain themselves when the Woolworth Building was completed in 1913 as the tallest in the world. Montgomery Schuyler, the leading architectural writer of his day, said the building “cleaves the empyrean.” (He might more easily have said it splits the sky.) The Rev. S. Parkes Cadman called it the Cathedral of Commerce and described it as “piercing space like a battlement in the paradise of God.”

Ninety-five years later, it is tougher to look at the 161st tallest building (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_the_world) in the world and see it in quite so romantic a light.

But the approach of Tuesday’s storm gave that 792-foot Gothic pinnacle an empyrean worth cleaving. And it more than rose to the challenge.


Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

September 9th, 2008, 10:15 PM
If it was possible to hump a building, Ms. WoolyB would be my humpee. I love thee WoolyB.

October 5th, 2008, 10:03 PM


October 6th, 2008, 12:21 AM
nice pics. It was lit up all pink for Saturday's Breast Cancer Walk.

October 11th, 2008, 09:58 AM
The Woolworth Building rising beyond the Liberty Street Ferry Landing (http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/collections/cushman/full/P02515.jpg) (September 27, 1941)


Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection (http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/cushman/results/detail.do?query=city%3A%22New+York%22&page=2&pagesize=20&display=thumbcap&action=search&pnum=P02515)

October 11th, 2008, 11:20 AM
If it was possible to hump a building, Ms. WoolyB would be my humpee. I love thee WoolyB.

BILF thread?

November 7th, 2008, 06:12 PM
It's lit read and white tonight...anyone know why?

November 8th, 2008, 09:55 AM
cool building !




November 10th, 2008, 08:16 PM
The 2nd picture is my new desktop. Awesome shot.

November 11th, 2008, 11:46 AM
BILF thread?

Ms. WoolyB looks like she'd be wild. Not poising and stiff like Ms. ChryslyB, and not too up tight and proper like Ms. MetyL. And she's not a rail like all those dime a dozen 80's B's.

Those turn of the century B's got back!

January 11th, 2009, 12:02 AM
I was down at Park Place at around 9:30 last night (1/10), and I saw that for the first time in a long time the spire was lit up... is this a permanent back to normal, or once over because of the conditions?

January 11th, 2009, 02:12 AM
Its funny. Nearly 100 years later and this building's class still defines Lower Manhattan.

January 11th, 2009, 06:57 AM
Still close to being my favourite building. I love being around it. Its a great place.

January 11th, 2009, 09:01 AM
WoolyB is magnificent.

January 11th, 2009, 01:39 PM
From my collection:











January 11th, 2009, 01:59 PM








January 11th, 2009, 03:15 PM
wow. those are nuts. untouchable.

thx for digging them out and putting them up.

February 1st, 2009, 10:57 PM



February 2nd, 2009, 01:28 PM
That's a beautiful building. WollyB and Flatiron are my favorite Manhattan buildings with number 3 being Singer (based solely on photos).

February 4th, 2009, 07:44 AM
^ Well, maybe the name of their style says it all, and says it true: beaux arts, "beautiful arts."

February 11th, 2009, 05:05 PM




February 12th, 2009, 08:55 PM
Why can't we put another one of these on the DB site.

February 13th, 2009, 12:13 AM
Just enjoy this one while you can. Between the high cost of construction and materials and the miserable cheap greedy developers in this city we will never get anything that gets remotely close to its grandiosity. The only thing in the last 50 some odd years that came close to this in terms of impact is the MoMA tower --which is unlikely to happen.

February 13th, 2009, 07:28 AM
Beekman Tower is going to be extremely impactful in a positive way.

February 13th, 2009, 03:41 PM
Can of worms. Open.

March 1st, 2009, 09:41 PM

March 1st, 2009, 10:39 PM
For the love of god, how did people think that tearing down Singer was a good idea.

March 1st, 2009, 11:41 PM
T'was a beautiful building, but One Liberty Plaza easily has floorplates with five times the rentable area (and that figure is probably waaay higher than that). Plus, who doesn't love a big black box??

March 2nd, 2009, 09:59 AM
On the Singer: Did it have copper cladding / spandrels on the inset part of the tower (similar to what is seen on THIS (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=273383&postcount=457) old beauty on West 54th)?

March 2nd, 2009, 10:11 AM
... One Liberty Plaza easily has floorplates with five times the rentable area ...

Make that ~ NINE X as large

From http://www.nyc-architecture.com/GON/GON003.htm

... the tower portion of the Singer Building was about 65 feet square - thus the total area per floor was a little more than 4,200 square feet. The 2.1 million square feet of One Liberty Plaza is laid out on floors that measure about 37,000 square feet ...

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 2nd, 2009, 10:35 AM
The window frames, trim and ornamentation turns out to have been rolled steel and wrought & cast iron, something that architect Ernest Flagg also used on his famous and still-standing "Little Singer" building at 561 Broadway.

Everything you could want to know (and more) about the early days of the Singer Building as it was built (from Google Books -- go to Page 42 & 43 for details on the windows -- and some great pictures of the same):

A History of the Singer Building Construction (http://books.google.com/books?id=NKRPAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA103&lpg=PA103&dq=Singer+building+new+york+copper&source=bl&ots=kT8OzW5P0z&sig=Irbs0Nupj50ZrsPp7c3qkW3kDP8&hl=en&ei=k_SrSevVD8TMnQfQhdXrDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result#PPA33,M1)

March 2nd, 2009, 11:24 AM
I think my goal in life is to acquire the capital to eventually rebuild A) The Singer Building, and B) Penn Station

March 2nd, 2009, 11:40 AM
That would, at least, put a lot of people to work.

But first you'd have to school the workers, as the re-construction of either masterwork would require those who have knowledge and experience in now-lost trades & crafts.

March 2nd, 2009, 11:51 AM
The de-evolution of the human species: we used to be able to build stuff like this with ease and regularity:


Now, we regularly put this type of stuff up, congratulate ourselves, cash the check and call it a day:


All this in the span of less than one hundred years. What's going on?

March 2nd, 2009, 12:37 PM
Make that ~ NINE X as large

Thanks for doing the research! (you're always good for it) I was going to say eight times as large, but not wanting to veer into hyperbo-land I went with a lowball figure.

March 2nd, 2009, 12:46 PM
To continue along this tangent, I thought those fold out postcards pictured above (on display at the skyscraper museum) were pretty neat. They also had a bigger collection, but it was hard to get a good picture. picture (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3627/3320643999_68672cea97_b.jpg)

Anyone know a place that would have vintage postcards like this (besides ebay)? I know you can buy reproductions of vintage postcards at gift shops, but I would be more interested in ones that feature buildings that aren't around anymore.

March 15th, 2009, 12:02 PM
The Woolworth Building

The Woolworth Building under construction in 1912.

Thursday, March 12th 2009 (http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/03/12/2009-03-12_the_woolworth_building-1.html), 2:47 PM

Skyscrapers, they were called, towers that climbed so high that they seemed to, not to put too fine a point on it, scrape the sky, and if F.W. Woolworth's colossal "cathedral of commerce" at Broadway and Park Row was by no means New York's first skyscraper, it for sure was the biggest, for years, and an extraordinary fixture on the city skyline.

Standing 60 stories at its completion in 1913, merchant prince Woolworth's monument to his dimestores and himself was indeed the tallest building in the whole world for nearly 20 years, till the Chrysler and Empire State came along to dwarf it.

Long ago become a relatively stubby little pile as all the city around it shot heroically upward and ever upward, the Woolworth Building nonetheless remains a stirring emblem of a notion of fabulous limitlessness that once there was.

Polishing the world-famous spire, 1932

© 2009 Daily News, L.P.

April 23rd, 2009, 09:23 PM
Lit up tonight. Awesome.

December 8th, 2009, 10:08 AM
Awesome building. It gets me wondering, was Old Man Woolworth's famous office near the top, under the spire?

Also I think those pointy corner bits are ventilation intakes. Looks like they are covered in plaster grilles maybe.

In this picture the spire appears to be terra cotta rather than copper. Just an optical illusion?

Also I keep reading it has 57 stories or even 60. However counting them all up and even including the spire as another 7 that figure still seems like nonsense :confused:

January 8th, 2010, 09:15 AM
What Woolworth building?

Hope I got these angles right.

Derek2k3, I hope you didn't mind me cropping and enlarging one of your photographs for this as it has reduced the quality.

If you do, I will remove it.



June 2007 and January 2010.

January 10th, 2010, 05:27 PM
I actually didn't realize Woolworth was gone when I was up there. But it is sad.

If only they built the tower where Pace stands.

January 10th, 2010, 06:15 PM
They didn't actually destroy Woolworth....Beekman just blocks the view of it.

January 10th, 2010, 07:20 PM
phew! what a relief

January 11th, 2010, 06:38 PM
I actually didn't realize Woolworth was gone when I was up there. But it is sad.

If only they built the tower where Pace stands.

Problem is Derek, unfortunately, when a new building goes up, someone loses a view, wherever you build it.


January 26th, 2010, 08:41 PM
Kilgub (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kilgub/2507939190/)

Posted this earlier in the 7 WTC thread, but probably belongs here.
Alan Miles NYC (http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanrmiles/3405474639/sizes/l/in/pool-18964236@N00/)

January 26th, 2010, 09:06 PM
The similar views of woolyb from beek and from the eventual 99 church need to be here as well.

June 3rd, 2010, 12:27 AM
http://img16.imageshack.us/img16/7867/woolworth56.th.jpg (http://img16.imageshack.us/i/woolworth56.jpg/)

June 3rd, 2010, 07:34 AM
The Woolworth Building seems to define downtown as a symbol the same way the Chrysler Building defines Midtown. Both buildings are striking examples of the architecture and engineering in their day. I have not forgotten the Empire State Building. She is New York.

Zippy's shot reminds me how the Woolworth building is an excellent example of how style, classic style, against plain skyscrapers steals the show.

I used to really not like the aged and dated look of Woolworth. I remember its many restorations which must have been tedious dealing with steel beams held together with rivets and thousands of pieces of terra cotta. There was a comment on the History channel on "America-The Story of Us" last night that made reference to the fact that close to half of all men working on early skyscrapers were either killed or disabled in the process. Makes you look differently at the holistic beauty of the Woolworth Building NYC.

Looking at some of the other photos, I am falling in love with the grand old dame of Broadway and Downtown.

June 3rd, 2010, 08:27 AM
They need to get that graffiti off the Bowling Green station.

June 3rd, 2010, 08:47 AM
Hopefully that'll become obvious when the park perimeter is renovated.

June 3rd, 2010, 08:57 AM
I used to really not like the aged and dated look of Woolworth. I remember its many restorations which must have been tedious dealing with steel beams held together with rivets and thousands of pieces of terra cotta.It was discussed in this thread or elsewhere: In one of the previous restorations, many terra-cotta blocks were replaced with concrete. It became noticeable after the building was cleaned in a later restoration.

At some point, it should be corrected. I'm afraid it will take a labor-of-love by an owner willing to reach into his pockets.

June 3rd, 2010, 11:08 AM
There was a comment on the History channel on "America-The Story of Us" last night that made reference to the fact that close to half of all men working on early skyscrapers were either killed or disabled in the process.
Is this really true or just something the "History Channel" felt their prestige gave them the right to claim? Personally, I think it's utter nonsense. In the spirit of Zippy the Chimp, I say: cite the source! (Not the History Channel, please!)

June 3rd, 2010, 12:44 PM
It's gratifying that I've whipped some of you into expert fact-finders.

[Wipes a tear]

To get you all going:

5 deaths during the ESB construction. What about further back, you say? Zero deaths for the Singer Building.

The caveat is what does the History Channel consider as disabled. A premature death from a lifetime of hard work and exposure, not specifically related to any one building?

Source for now is ZTC. Gotta run.

August 5th, 2010, 05:57 PM
I was in the building today and the floor lobbies are ENORMOUS, like 20ft.x20ft. Plus the hallways that radiate off the floor lobbies are about ten feet wide. I have never seen a scale like that on an upper floor of an office building before.

August 5th, 2010, 08:50 PM
What was your sense of the general condition of the interiors of the building?

August 6th, 2010, 04:56 AM
The floors I saw in the elevator all had the original treatments for the elevator banks. Nothing looked bad but I think it depends on who is leasing floors as far as upgrades go. Apart from the lobby, interiors looked class B.

August 6th, 2010, 06:04 PM
It was discussed in this thread or elsewhere: In one of the previous restorations, many terra-cotta blocks were replaced with concrete. It became noticeable after the building was cleaned in a later restoration.

At some point, it should be corrected. I'm afraid it will take a labor-of-love by an owner willing to reach into his pockets.

That's a big problem, because you can't simply make a mold off the existing pieces of terra cotta and make new ones, the original models were sized an average of 10% LARGER to compensate for the shrinkage that all clay experiences as it dries and is then fired in the kiln.
Some clays shrink less, 6-8% and some shrink a little more, perhaps 12% but 10% is about average.
That shrinkage is the biggest problem, because a panel or block that is 30" wide if molded directly and made in terra cotta from that mold, the new cast will wind up being around 27" wide and that's considerable.

So what has to be done is a whole new model has to be sculpted or made that to get 30" would have to be around 33," not so big a problem with plain blocks, but when you have to replace sculpted cornices, frieze panels with interlocking designs, keystones etc., the model is more difficult and time consuming to make.
Another problem is, the original clay used in the Woolworth building is probably not even available any more at all, the mine where it was mined from could be long shut down or exhausted, or even it's location long since forgotten.
The terra cotta company who made the pieces for the building also would have custom mixed their clay in-house to get the properties they wanted.
I think the company was the one by the Queensboro bridge whose original 1880's office still stands on the site, boarded up and protected by alarms and a chain link fence, the whole plant is long gone, only the office building remains, but discarded broken pieces of terra cotta have been found on the land there.
One more issue with replacements is the glaze, I think the terra cotta has a white glaze on it if I remember right, if so, they would likely have used a sort of pale yellow clay, I've never been able to find that color clay commercially available, the glaze color and formula was probably also custom mixed in-house too.

The issue winds up being, if the damaged terra cotta is replaced with new terra cotta, how difficult will it be and how much will it cost to get a good or exact match in texture and color, I would say the new pieces would probably wind up being visibly different from the rest, the same idea as the concrete looks different from the rest, though maybe not as bad.

Then, if there has been this much damage to the terra cotta since only 1910, and I think some of the blocks were replace with concrete in the 60s? after just 50 years, how much damage will there be in the next 50 years to what is original from 1910 and to what is replaced, now.

August 8th, 2010, 08:22 AM
The floors I saw in the elevator all had the original treatments for the elevator banks. Nothing looked bad but I think it depends on who is leasing floors as far as upgrades go. Apart from the lobby, interiors looked class B.

Thanks for the info. I've never been inside but hope to some day.

August 8th, 2010, 09:05 AM
I was hoping to sneak around more but the elevator bank I had to use only went from 19/27. The elevator cars are TINY and there are six cars for each section. The elevators are slow and I think this must be what holds the building back from trying to be A class.

August 17th, 2010, 08:18 PM
This evening

September 3rd, 2010, 10:37 PM
Large: antongorbov (http://www.flickr.com/photos/antongorbov/4953690197/sizes/o/in/photostream/)

September 4th, 2010, 07:03 AM
That's the cleared site for the 99 Church Street Tower, right? Man, if this tower goes up, we will have a new skyscraper canyon there. And don't forget that the Beekman Tower is nearby!

September 4th, 2010, 07:23 AM
Regarding the U shaped portion of Wooly's base - this design approach was quite common to high-rises of the time, but has since been replaced by a more straightforward complete square/rectangle footprint.

I have some guesses as to the reasons for the change, but would love to hear from others who have more informed ideas than I.

September 4th, 2010, 08:25 AM
I think it's because all the offices had to be near a window.

September 4th, 2010, 08:29 AM
Fluorescent lights and air conditioning.

September 4th, 2010, 10:38 PM
A/C is one of the reasons I had in mind. What's your thinking behind fluorescent lighting as a reason?

September 5th, 2010, 10:09 AM
No need for natural light if you have artificial lighting. You would hope in today's 'green' age that this sort of layout would return.

September 5th, 2010, 11:04 AM
The effect of fluorescent lighting on skyscraper design ...

500 notable buildings from the 10th century to the present (http://books.google.com/books?id=AVjNqgDzMkcC&pg=PA480&lpg=PA480&dq=%22fluorescent+lighting%22+skyscraper+design&source=bl&ots=iGwjpU-aRY&sig=GCGg6QySXxMZaPrhmyjTo4oNVRc&hl=en&ei=qa2DTL69KML7lwfA_8T9Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&sqi=2&ved=0CFgQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=%22fluorescent%20lighting%22%20skyscraper%20desi gn&f=false)



LIGHT, PLAN, FORM (http://www.archlighting.com/industry-news.asp?articleID=905273&sectionID=1332)

The advent of air conditioning and fluorescent lighting in the 1940s and '50s largely removed daylight from the equation, and led to the construction of skyscrapers with tremendously deep floor plates and unpleasant, artificially lit workspaces. The three projects discussed in this issue—the New York Times' headquarters, the Hearst Tower, and One Bryant Park, all in Manhattan—effectively restore daylight to its rightful place. Together they exemplify a new generation of tall buildings, the product of emerging design trends, architectural and lighting technologies, attitudes toward sustainability, and complexities of building, lighting, and energy codes.

Five Energy Generations of Tall Buildings: A Historical Analysis of Energy Consumption in High Rise Buildings (http://www.ctbuh.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=%2BYwNMXHF0MU%3D&tabid=71&language=en-US)

The First Energy Generation: From the Birth of Tall Buildings in 1885, to the 1916 Zoning Law

Born out of developments in structural steel framing and the invention of the elevator in the mid-19th century, tall buildings quickly spread across North America, becoming the symbol of economic growth and prosperity. The Home Insurance Building, completed in Chicago in 1885, is generally regarded as the first of these high-rises, although debate continues regarding its credentials for this title. We can state that this first generation of tall buildings originally required relatively little operating energy as technologies such as air-conditioning and fluorescent lighting were not yet developed. Energy was predominantly consumed in the heating of occupied spaces and providing vertical transportation between floors. Ventilation was achieved naturally via opening windows and artificial lighting levels were1 very low – typically between 2 and 4 foot-candles in office buildings in 1913 due to the inefficiencies of lighting technologies of the time (Osterhaus, 1993).


"In the 1950s, advances in technology and changes in architectural ideology liberated the tall office building from its dependence on nature and site. Fluorescent lighting and air conditioning were as important to the transformation of post-World War II skyscrapers as were elevator and steel-cage construction to the first tall office buildings of the late nineteenth century" [Willis, 1997]


The paradigm shift from a traditional, solid façade construction with punctured windows, to the new, lightweight glazed curtain wall, had a significant impact on the energy consumption of tall buildings of this period. High rises became hermetically sealed glass boxes, completely reliant on air-conditioning and fluorescent lighting to compensate for overheating, excessive heat loss and poor natural light penetration. These characteristics were only exaggerated by the high number of black skyscrapers constructed at the time. In fact, tall building energy consumption grew dramatically in this period as demonstrated by a study on 86 office buildings constructed in Manhattan between 1950 and 1970 (Stein, 1977).

September 12th, 2010, 01:09 PM

October 17th, 2010, 08:46 PM

February 17th, 2011, 03:33 PM
i prefer nice buildings like woolworth.

August 3rd, 2011, 08:25 PM
I've been working in the building for the summer and the interiors are amazing....though my office's floors don't seem to have a great layout

August 3rd, 2011, 09:01 PM
The time I had reason to enter this building is one of the more remarkable experiences of my life. I don't think the interior will ever be matched by the sterile modernistic stuff of today.
It's like the Queen Mary I compared to the floating resorts they build now.
This building has a grand soul.

August 3rd, 2011, 09:22 PM
This building has a grand soul.

amen. beautiful choice of words.

August 4th, 2011, 04:40 PM
Yeah man, a Masterpiece!

September 12th, 2011, 01:34 AM
9/11 -from pier 6 in Brooklyn

September 12th, 2011, 01:33 PM
OK, I gotta get a better camera.

Fantastic shot, and from way way off.

September 12th, 2011, 05:30 PM
Gott in Himmel, scumonkey. That is freakin beautiful.

September 12th, 2011, 09:28 PM
Can we build a 1200 foot version please

January 27th, 2012, 07:16 PM
Etchings by Carl Albert (http://lockkeeper.com/checklists/Abel/abel.htm), 1938:

New and Old New York from the foot of Dey Street

http://lockkeeper.com/checklists/Abel/7 Able.jpg

Produce Exchange on Barclay Street at Midnight

http://lockkeeper.com/checklists/Abel/2 Able.jpg



August 7th, 2012, 03:37 PM
August 7, 2012

Top Floors of Woolworth Building to Be Remade as Luxury ApartmentsBy MICHELLE HIGGINS (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/h/michelle_higgins/index.html)The Woolworth Building is about to have another defining moment. The uppermost floors of the neo-Gothic tower that once stood as the world’s tallest skyscraper will be turned into about 40 luxury apartments as part of a $68 million deal made final last week. Only if the Chrysler Building or Empire State Building were to be remade into condominiums could buyers hope to live in a more iconic New York tower.

An investment group led by Alchemy Properties, a New York developer, bought the top 30 floors of the landmark on July 31 from the Witkoff Group and Cammeby’s International, which will continue to own the lower 28 floors and lease them as office space.

The agreement promises to reinvent the tower — telescoping up at 233 Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street — as one of Manhattan (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/classifieds/realestate/locations/newyork/newyorkcity/manhattan/?inline=nyt-geo)’s most sought-after addresses, adding yet another chapter to the history of this Cass Gilbert-designed monument to Frank W. Woolworth and his five-and-dime empire. The building, which cost Woolworth $13.5 million in cash, was completed in 1913 and remains a signature element of the city skyline.

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

Apartments will begin at 350 feet above ground level, offering panoramic views with ceiling heights of 11 to 14 feet. The condos are expected to be completed by 2015.

Penthouses in the building once called the “Cathedral of Commerce” will be among the highest-altitude residences in the city, soaring above 700 feet. A five-level penthouse of around 8,000 square feet will be housed in the copper-clad cupola that tops out at 792 feet. Originally designed as a public observation area, the cupola has a wraparound outdoor deck reached by a private elevator.

An abandoned 55-foot-long basement swimming pool, once part of a health club said to be used by Woolworth himself, will be restored as an amenity for residents. A new entrance on Park Place will serve residents with an elevator bank separate from that used by office tenants in the lower floors.

“Not many people in the world would get to say they live in the Woolworth Building — one of the city’s most recognizable buildings,” said Andrew Gerringer, the managing director of new business development for the Marketing Directors, a New York development, leasing and marketing company. “I think they’re coming on the market at the right time to do this.”

The trick to a successful conversion, he said, will be designing appropriately sized apartments for the downtown market despite the constraints imposed by the building’s infrastructure.

The project will cost approximately $150 million, including its $68 million purchase price, according to a spokesman for Alchemy Properties. Although apartment prices have not been set, they may sell for as much as $3,000 a square foot. The penthouse at the pinnacle could command more.

By comparison, the average price per square foot of apartments sold in the second quarter of 2012 in the Woolworth Building’s ZIP code — 10007 — was $1,250, according to data from Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal and consulting firm. Mr. Gerringer described $2,000 a square foot as “the new normal for iconic buildings,” noting that the Woolworth tower apartments will begin on higher floors than most traditional prewar buildings. “You’re already raising the bar to begin with, ” he said.

In 1998, the Witkoff Group and Cammeby’s International formed a partnership to buy the Woolworth Building for $126.5 million. They at one point considered remaking the tower as office space with country-club exclusivity. As part of that plan, the top 25 floors — each within the range of 3,500 to 8,000 square feet — were gutted. They have been vacant for several years.

There has been much speculation over the years about potential buyers, ranging from Italian businessmen to an Israeli investor group. In the end, four serious buyers looked at the property, according to people familiar with the deal who asked not to be named.

The deal has been kept quiet since April, when negotiations began. But after it was finished, Mr. Horn, of Alchemy Properties, said, “I walked out of the signing and said, ‘Did this really happen?’ ”

Nothing Alchemy has done quite compares with the challenge of transforming a signature piece of Manhattan real estate into residences, but the physical size of the project, at roughly 100,000 square feet, is similar to other developments the group has handled. “It’s our sweet spot,” Mr. Horn said.
Alchemy has developed 30 properties in the New York metropolitan area, and most of its residential projects have been boutique buildings with just a few dozen apartments.

Even owners of newer neighbors that tower over the Woolworth Building seem in awe of it. Bruce Ratner, the chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the 870-foot residential rental at 8 Spruce Street designed by Frank Gehry — currently the city’s tallest residential building — marveled at the view of its shorter neighbor from a penthouse window at the Gehry building recently.

“The Woolworth Building is what is really extraordinary,” Mr. Ratner said in an interview. “What I always say to Frank is that this building dances with that building.”

Alexei Barrionuevo contributed reporting.


August 7th, 2012, 03:51 PM
Any bets on what astronomical price this Wooly PH will command?

Penthouses in the building once called the “Cathedral of Commerce” will be among the highest-altitude residences in the city, soaring above 700 feet. A five-level penthouse of around 8,000 square feet will be housed in the copper-clad cupola that tops out at 792 feet. Originally designed as a public observation area, the cupola has a wraparound outdoor deck reached by a private elevator.


The project will cost approximately $150 million, including its $68 million purchase price, according to a spokesman for Alchemy Properties. Although apartment prices have not been set, they may sell for as much as $3,000 a square foot. The penthouse at the pinnacle could command more.

August 7th, 2012, 08:12 PM
I'm feeling some deja vu about this for some reason. Is this the first time in history that plans were revealed to put residential on top of the Woolworth building?

August 7th, 2012, 09:52 PM
Just prior to 9-11 there were plans to convert the building to Condos. Shelved soon after.

August 7th, 2012, 10:07 PM
Nope, this has been planned for some time now. Next year is the tower's 100 year anniversary by the way.
I hope they they don't turn off the exterior lighting -the Downtown skyline will be really dead without it.

Photos of the old observation deck. Wish they'd open it one last time before privatizing it. One last hurrah before the deck at 1 WTC opens.

curbed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curbed/sets/72157603960640884/with/2283503721/)

curbed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curbed/sets/72157603960640884/with/2283503721/)

curbed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curbed/sets/72157603960640884/with/2283503721/)

curbed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curbed/sets/72157603960640884/with/2283503721/)

curbed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curbed/2284290460/sizes/l/in/set-72157603960640884/)

August 8th, 2012, 12:07 AM
Let's put a tower of condos on top of the deadening One Police Plaza. And get rid of the 70's prison between it and the Federal Court House. Two big ugly piles that wouldn't be missed and their demise would open up some amazing possibilities.

August 8th, 2012, 05:23 AM
They should reopen the deck to public. Observation decks are sadly lacking in today's Manhattan, yet judging by the astronomical popularity of the ESB and 30 Rock, they're sure to have long queues for the small "boutique deck" on top of Wooly. They can even charge ridiculously high prices and get away with it due to high demand.

August 8th, 2012, 05:52 AM
Let's put a tower of condos on top of the deadening One Police Plaza. And get rid of the 70's prison between it and the Federal Court House. Two big ugly piles that wouldn't be missed and their demise would open up some amazing possibilities.

To think that they turned half of lower Manhattan into a Walmart parking lot just to fill it with these dreadful structures. It's like a New Haven urban renewal district plunked down in the heart of one of the greatest cities on earth.

August 8th, 2012, 02:04 PM
Is the dead zone between Police and Confucius plazas proof that the terrorists won?

August 9th, 2012, 06:44 AM
Domesticating the Cathedral of Commerce with Luxe Condos

by Branden Klayko

(see article for more photos)

New York City’s nouveau-tall skyscrapers, like the Christian de Portzamparc-designed One57 which recently topped out at 1,004 feet, have been wooing the world’s richest residential buyers with unimaginable amenities and floor-to-ceiling glass. But if you interested in an address that redefined tall—one hundred years ago—your options are more limited. Now, developers Alchemy Properties have acquired the top 30 floors of the iconic Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan, the world’s tallest structure when it opened in 1913, with plans to build 40 super-luxury residential units in the sky.

The Cass Gilbert-designed Woolworth, dubbed the “Cathedral of Commerce,” held the world’s tallest designation at 792 feet for a whopping 17 years from 1913 to 1930 when the Chrysler Building took the reigns, and it still holds its own on skyline of Lower Manhattan. The New York Times reports (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/realestate/top-floors-of-woolworth-building-to-be-remade-as-luxury-apartments.html?_r=1&smid=pl-share) that the first new condos will begin at 350 feet above Broadway and a five-story penthouse in the building’s copper-clad crown—once a public observation area—will bring new meaning to majestic living. But then again, the only downside of living in the Woolworth Building might be not having a view of the Woolworth Building.

With 40 units distributed over 30 floors, the project may not be increasing the city’s density by any appreciable level considering a single luxury residence could hold quite a few micro-apartments currently in discussion for Manhattan’s east side (http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/44022). (In fact, AN has estimated that in the same 30 floors, one could likely fit over 600 efficient 250-square foot micro-apartments.) Telescoping floors range in size from 8,000 to 3,500 square feet as the tower rises, but the height won’t be the only soaring aspect of the building. According to the Times, unit prices will top $2,000 per square foot, up from a neighborhood average of $1,250 per foot last quarter.

If this news is an indicator that the economy of Lower Manhattan has finally, once-and-for-all rebounded, it might not be long until another luxury building rises next door to the Woolworth in a pit slated for an even-taller Robert A.M. Stern-designed hotel and condo tower (http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=1198).

http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/woolworth_condos_19-500x382.jpg (http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/woolworth_condos_19.jpg)
The Woolworth Building’s spires today (left) and in 1932 (right).
(Tony Hisgett/Flickr and LeslieJones/Boston Public Library/Flickr)

Between 1977 and 1981, the Woolworth Building’s glazed terra cotta facade underwent a restoration by the Ehrenkrantz Group, when 26,000 damaged pieces of terra cotta were replaced with architectural precast concrete and nearly 40 percent of the entire facade was touched up. While putting together a slideshow of the building past and present, AN uncovered this photo of two steeplejacks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steeplejack) precariously clinging to one of the building’s four turrets, which reminded us that those turrets have been covered over today. Take a look at more photos of the Woolworth Building in the slideshow below.

http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/woolworth_condos_11.jpg (http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/woolworth_condos_11.jpg)
Woolworth Building compared to an ocean liner. (WorldIslandInfo.com/Flickr)


August 9th, 2012, 09:30 AM
curbed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curbed/sets/72157603960640884/with/2283503721/)

curbed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curbed/sets/72157603960640884/with/2283503721/)

That is not just an observatory, its an art exhibit in the air.

August 9th, 2012, 10:37 AM
I guess it will have to wait for some future adaptive reuse, but I wish someone would correct the improper renovation that replaced terra cotta tiles on the tower.

The concrete-fiberglas fiber tiles are a failure. They have aged to a different color, especially noticeable after it rains. The concrete tiles absorb water.


August 10th, 2012, 04:22 AM
That observatory is worthy (pun intended) of most balconies and observatories on the tops of grand old Gothic cathedrals. With some basic maintenance it could become a fantastic public space. As a private penthouse, the combination of height, location, and historical detailing will be unmatched in the entire city, if not the world.

August 22nd, 2012, 11:02 AM
Like so many other now hidden jewels in the city, it used to be a treat to walk into a place like Woolworth and just look around, without being screened, or questioned, or asked to leave.


More at Scouting NY (http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=5792).

August 22nd, 2012, 11:33 AM
I had my NYU classes just up those steps. Of course, the NYU portion is super modern and doesn't allow entry from the lobby, but at least one could get a good view from the classrooms inside.

August 26th, 2012, 12:44 PM
Cass Gilbert, a man of elegantly extravagant taste...
http://www.museumplanet.com/image/biopix/Cass%20Gilbert.jpg (http://www.museumplanet.com/image/biopix/Cass%20Gilbert.jpg)
Scouting NY (http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=5792).

September 29th, 2012, 08:09 AM
Such a shame if they kill the lighting. That reason alone makes me against any residential proposal.

Is there a way to have both? Extra thick drapes as standard maybe?

This would easily be THE place to live, over any new projects anywhere in town. One57 and 432 included.

October 22nd, 2012, 03:23 AM


October 23rd, 2012, 02:51 AM
Hmm....is that last picture recent? If so, there's a big problem.

October 23rd, 2012, 04:09 AM
Taken this past Friday. Tragic how the rain accentuates the differences between the original terra cotta and replacement concrete parts.

October 23rd, 2012, 12:01 PM
OH, that's what the spotty discoloration is whenever wet weather hits: guess it has something to do with the relative porosity of the old and new terra cotta. Then again,maybe the new replacement material isn't even 'real' terra cotta.

Looks like the Woolworth building has come down with a case of chicken pox.

November 21st, 2012, 08:30 PM

With company

March 6th, 2013, 11:41 AM
Everyone should check out this new exhibit at the Woolworth Building celebrating its centennial:

The Woolworth Building @ 100
FEBRUARY 27, 2013 through JULY 14, 2013 (http://www.skyscraper.org/EXHIBITIONS/WOOLWORTH/woolworth.htm)



March 11th, 2013, 11:08 AM
Wow thanks.

March 29th, 2013, 01:36 AM
Celebrating the Woolworth Building’s Centennial


The New-York Historical Society bought this Tiffany silver
bowl commemorating the opening of the Woolworth Building.

https://www.nytimes.com/images/misc/spacer.gif https://www.nytimes.com/images/2013/03/29/arts/29ANTIQUES2/ANTIQUES2-popup.jpg
Metropolitan Museum of Art
A clock ornament once coveted by J. P. Morgan.

Just in time for this spring’s centennial of the Woolworth Building in Manhattan, descendants of its architect, Cass Gilbert, put a commemorative Tiffany silver bowl on the market (http://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2640B/lots/227). The heirloom, which weighs about 15 pounds, was the retail tycoon Frank W. Woolworth’s gift to Gilbert at an opening gala for the 57-story terra-cotta skyscraper.

On March 3 the Skinner auction house in Boston sold the bowl for about $42,000 to the New-York Historical Society, and it is already on view in the society’s lobby. The lot, which was expected to bring up to $50,000, included a 1913 book about the gala, with a menu recording servings of celery knob and Cotuit oysters.

Tiffany silversmiths molded Gothic-inspired tracery around the bowl’s crenelated rim and engraved a silhouette of the ziggurat building on the base.

“It is stunningly beautiful and really just a marvelous representation of a client’s high regard for his architect,” Gail Fenske, the author of “The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York” (University of Chicago Press), said in a phone interview.

Ms. Fenske is a curator of an exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum in Manhattan called “The Woolworth Building @ 100 (http://www.skyscraper.org/EXHIBITIONS/WOOLWORTH/WWat100PR.pdf)” (through July 14); the two other curators are Susan Tunick, the president of the Friends of Terra Cotta, and Carol Willis, the director of the Skyscraper Museum. (All three will be participating in public programs for Woolworth Week, starting April 22.) The Skyscraper Museum had hoped to borrow the bowl from the Gilbert family, just as the consignment to Skinner was under way. Ms. Fenske last glimpsed the piece at 1988 celebrations of the building’s 75th birthday.

“I’m looking forward to seeing it again,” she said.

The Skyscraper Museum is showing chunks of the architectural ornament that Tiffany artisans sculptured in miniature on the bowl as well as images of the Staten Island terra-cotta factory workers in action.

The exhibition also examines the tight bond between architect and patron. They took vacations together; one photo shows a uniformed porter pushing Woolworth and Gilbert around Palm Beach, Fla., in a wicker carriage.

Gilbert outfitted the Manhattan building with a swimming pool, a fireproof vault for valuables and display space for Woolworth’s collection of Napoleon memorabilia. In the lobby one terra-cotta bracket portrays Gilbert clutching a model of the tower. Another depicts Woolworth, counting coins.


Gilded Age collectors liked to buy in bulk, especially in France. Dealers there funneled entire palace rooms to Manhattan tycoons like Henry Clay Frick and J. P. Morgan.

One of the most versatile suppliers was Georges Hoentschel (pronounced HENT-shull). His Paris showrooms exported items from faucets to priests’ vestments and murals of monkeys. He also designed Art Nouveau furniture and ceramics and fostered a circle of like-minded artisans, working in matte finishes and tentacled forms.

His range of tastes and interests and his charisma persuaded Morgan to acquire Hoentschel material for the Met, despite some questionable provenances and patches of serious damage. An exhibition (http://www.bgc.bard.edu/gallery/gallery-at-bgc/upcoming-exhibitions/salvaging-the.html) about the dealer’s inventory and connoisseurship, “Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” opens April 4 at the Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan.

The wall texts and the catalog (from Yale University Press) trace Hoentschel’s career from teenage apprenticeship with an upholsterer in the 1860s through a 1910s heyday amid celebrated friends and clients including Rothschilds, Russian and Greek royalty, Diaghilev, Proust and Sarah Bernhardt. Hoentschel supervised hundreds of staff members, reproducing and adapting antiques for interiors and dreaming up avant-garde ideas.

“The farther these projects progress, the more confident I am that these bold enterprises will succeed,” he wrote to a friend in the 1890s.

The exhibition’s curatorial team, including Deborah L. Krohn, Ulrich Leben and Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, describes Hoentschel as blond, dashing and generous. “He gave me the run of his ateliers, let me have my pick of his fabrics, tapestries and carpets,” the aesthete Robert de Montesquiou wrote in his 1920s memoir. Hoentschel also attracted more conservative patrons, joining elite clubs in the yachting and horse-racing realms.

The Met has kept much of its Hoentschel collection in storage. French objects in better condition, and with stronger documentation, occupy the museum’s labyrinthine Wrightsman Galleries. The Bard Center is evoking Hoentschel’s Paris showrooms and booths at international expos, stocked floor to ceiling with armchairs, paintings, tapestries, columns, door frames, hardware, brackets and balusters.

During a recent Bard Center exhibition preview half a dozen side tables had just been delivered. Gilded legs ending in hooves, paws and talons were peeking out of crates. Blowups of black-and-white period photos showed how Hoentschel displayed his wares, and the actual wares were being installed nearby.

“Morgan was taken in by how extraordinary they all looked together,” Ms. Krohn said. She pulled out a sinuous fragment of a harp frame that Hoentschel acquired somewhere along the line as inspiration for his carvers. “He must have been a big pack rat,” she said.

Chips and even missing statue limbs and heads are evident in the Bard Center galleries, and the original functions of some objects are still being researched. A walnut urn has an ill-fitting lid that may have been removed from a porcelain vase now lost. A rough-edged garden scene with Chinese courtiers may have served as a side panel on an 18th-century French sedan chair, used by porters to carry around the wealthy.

American robber barons developed a taste for dismantled sedan chairs.

“Their reuse in collectors’ homes could range from showcases for knickknacks to telephone booths,” the Bard Center historian Katrina London writes in the catalog.

The curators are devoting cases to Art Nouveau ceramics, by Hoentschel and his protégés, that evoke swirling sea foam. Their works can also be found now at Manhattan specialty dealers including the Macklowe Gallery, Lillian Nassau and Jason Jacques.

From April 5 to 25 Mr. Jacques is displaying about 20 vessels from Hoentschel’s circle, with four- and five-figure prices. The gallery has given them memorable titles, like “antique alien womb (http://www.jasonjacques.com/artworks/antique-alien-womb-hog004/#1)” and “devil’s seed pod.”


April 12th, 2013, 11:05 PM
A Rare Glimpse Inside as the Woolworth Building Turns 100

by Hana R. Alberts

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[All photos by Bob Estremera (http://www.fotoarchitectura.com/about/), who runs a site with more photos called Foto Architectura (http://www.fotoarchitectura.com).] It was NYC photographer Bob Estremera's lucky day. The New York Landmarks Conservancy invited him on a tour (http://www.fotoarchitectura.com/the-woolworth-building/) of the famed, beguiling, renovated neo-Gothic masterpiece that is the 100-year-old Woolworth Building (not to hype it up too much, of course), and he jumped at the chance. He emerged with 30 shots of the palatial lobby, the carved grand staircase framed by archways, the detailed sculptural gargoyles perched here and there, the elevator bank... we could go on, but his photos speak for themselves.

"Interesting, I think, is the opening shot I took after exiting the 6 train at City Hall. It's a classic tale of the old and the new. On the left, is the venerable Woolworth Building, one of the world's early and tallest skyscrapers. On the right, still under construction, is the new Freedom Tower, its modern equivalent," writes Estremera (http://www.fotoarchitectura.com/the-woolworth-building/) on his photo-filled website, Foto Architectura (http://www.fotoarchitectura.com). "Upon entering, the visitor is immediately confronted by the vaulted ceilings and grand staircase framed in marble. The curved ceilings are a glittering galaxy of thousands of individual tiles. And the ones that look like gold—O.M.G., they are actually coated in gold leaf! Immediately, you are transported to the heavens exactly as you are in a European cathedral."

We took a look into the building when it was gutted and under renovation in 2007 (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2007/10/09/curbed_inside_the_woolworth_buildings_makeover.php ), and we also captured the terracotta exterior (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2008/02/22/curbed_inside_out_the_woolworth_building.php) from the typically closed-off 63rd-floor observation deck. Then in 2012, we got to see the building's secret basement pool (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/08/20/sneak_a_peek_at_the_woolworth_buildings_secret_poo l.php).

The building officially turns 100 on April 24, just 12 days from now. Another major milestone will occur later in its birthday year, when the top floor is converted into some pretty covetable condos (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/08/07/woolworth_buildings_top_floors_will_become_luxury_ condos.php) that are set to hit the market in early 2014. Now all Estremera wants—and who wouldn't?—is a chance to go back inside and shoot some more.

Official site: Foto Architectura (http://www.fotoarchitectura.com) [www.fotoarchitectura.com] (http://www.fotoarchitectura.com])

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/04/12/a_rare_glimpse_inside_as_the_woolworth_building_tu rns_100.php

May 2nd, 2013, 02:18 PM
I need to clean my keyboard now.

May 2nd, 2013, 04:01 PM
There are beautiful large W crests (ala Worth St. IRT) over the SERVICE elevators in this building. In that sort of way, they truly don't build them like they used to.

July 17th, 2013, 03:06 PM
Open for tours!

December 8th, 2013, 01:01 AM
Wonderful view of all that gorgeous ornamentation:



September 28th, 2014, 08:13 PM
Nice slideshow with article. You'd think NYT would want to spread it around when they have a good article, as long as the credit is posted but nooo, they have to make it nearly impossible.


October 20th, 2014, 10:58 AM
Just came across this.

Penthouse on top of the Woolworth Building going for $110M

By Lois Weiss
May 25, 2014



April 13th, 2015, 11:21 PM

April 15th, 2015, 05:23 AM
Would it kill the to put a fresh facade of limestone on this building? Or at least fill in the poor quality concrete tiles with the actual material the building was designed with?