I owe this gallery of unforgettable and rare architectural images to Hana Alberts, executive editor of Curbed NY.
A few times a year, the Woolworth Building allows tours of it’s lobby to a select few groups, including Curbed. On this occassion, Curbed NY wanted to convey the architectural majesty and beauty of the Woolworth Building for their readers and assigned me to the task. Here is the link to the Curbed NY Woolworth building post on their website.
As for the building, here’s a short history. It is a neo-gothic design, although interior designs like the vaulted ceilings are a departure from that style. Completed in 1913 by architect Cass Gilbert it was funded personally by F.W. Woolworth, of ‘five and dime’ fame. I can’t remember the actual cost figures because I was too busy getting yelled at by the guide for taking pictures during his talk. But I believe it was around $13 million at the time which is something over $1 billion in 2013 dollars.
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 . No surprise then that the Woolworth building was dubbed, “the Cathedral of Commerce” during the opening ceremony.
In addition to the immensity and style of the interior were the amazing details, and not just architecture. There are sculptural tributes to the men (Sorry ladies, no ladies. After all this was circa 1913.) central to the Woolworth building’s construction and Woolworth’s personal fortunes. Up in the corners and along the ceiling, everywhere you look, there are highly stylized sculptures of Woolworth himself, Cass Gilbert and others real and imagined. Here’s where I really missed a telephoto lens and tripod so that I could render these whimsical carvings in their proper, originally-intentioned light.
There’s just too much to tell about this amazing feat of architectural engineering but there’s plenty to find if you just Google the Woolworth building.