Famous Buildings in New York: The Woolworth Building

The Woolworth Building, is a lovely Neo-Gothic skyscraper at 233 Broadway in lower Manhattan. It is one of the 50 tallest buildings in the US. It was built in 1913 and until the construction of 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building in 1930, it was actually the tallest in the U.S. The Woolworth Building is still among the top 25 tallest buildings in New York City.

Designed by Cass Gilbert

One of the fun facts about the Woolworth Building is that its architect was Cass Gilbert, an Ohioan who was also the architect for the U.S. Supreme Court building. He’s considered a leader in the architecture of skyscrapers. Gilbert drafted thirty plans for the building over the course of two years before he decided on the final one.

Commissioned by Frank W. Woolworth

Frank Woolworth founded the Woolworth Company, a chain of “5 and 10” stores. Upon commissioning the building, he paid for the $13,500,000 skyscraper in cash.

Struggles with Lewis Pierson

The Woolworth building also housed the Irving Bank, whose president was Lewis Pierson. The Irving Bank was a major tenant and Pierson’s needs had to be considered. He and Woolworth frequently had animated debates over their conflicting visions of what the building should look like.

Old Observation Deck

The observation deck was located on the 57th floor, but was closed to the general public in 1945.

National Historic Landmark

The Woolwprth Building has been a National Historic Landmark since 1966.

Columbia Records

Beginning in 1913, Columbia Records was one of the first tenants and had a famous studio on the premises. The studio was in use as early as 1917.

Frank Woolworth’s Private Office

The office is done in the baroque French Empire style and is decorated in marble.

Unplanned Heights

The original plan was it was only meant to be around a twelve or sixteen story office building at the corner of Broadway and Park Place, but Woolworth kept acquiring more land. The height of the building grew in the same way.


The Woolworth building’s colonnade galleries are decorated with caricatures of the skyscraper’s champions. When rental agent Edward Hogan found out he was not among the caricatures created by Paul Jenewein, he was upset and insisted that his caricature be put in also.

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