The 1910’s: “The Cathedral of Commerce”

Woolworth Building Cast Iron Bank (LEO Design)

When the Woolworth Building was completed in 1913, at 792 feet it was the tallest building in the world—and would remain so until the Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1930. Employing state-of-the-art principles like steel frame construction and high-speed elevators, the Woolworth Building paved the way for even taller skyscrapers in the future.  Yet, despite its pioneering engineering and construction, the Woolworth Building was clad in a Gothic Revival façade—inspiring the nickname, “The Cathedral of Commerce.”  Indeed, F. W. Woolworth, the Five-and-Dime Merchant King, housed his offices in the building.  Much of the building he rented-out to other businesses including Columbia Records who had a recording studio on-site.  And the building’s ornate entrance lobby is still one of the most impressive in The City.

The building stands on Manhattan’s lower Broadway, right across from City Hall.  When it opened on 24 April 1913, then-President Woodrow Wilson flipped-on the building’s lights by means of a remote switch in Washington, D.C.

Even today, over 100 years after opening, the Woolworth Building is still amongst the tallest 100 buildings in the United States.  And, after many years of ownership by the Woolworth parent company, it has recently been sold to a private developer who will convert some of the building into residential apartments.  The penthouse is expected to sell for $110 million—considerably more than the building’s original $13.5 million price tag.

The cast iron Woolworth Building bank, pictured above, might help you marshal your funds if you’d like to acquire that dreamy penthouse.


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