Today, we profile Helen Post Curry, who runs the tours of the Woolworth Building we have been part of at Untapped Cities. She’s also the great-grand daughter of architect Cass Gilbert! We are also excited to offer a new, Untapped Cities-exclusive tour of the normally off-limits Woolworth Building led by architect Cass Gilbert’s great granddaughter, Helen Post Curry. In addition to a guided visit through the spectacular lobby, we will also visit the cellar level where the bank vault is located and where the former entrances to the subway are, and provide special access to the gorgeous mezzanine level.
UC: Tell us about your connection to Cass Gilbert, the architect. How did it inspire you to work on the Woolworth Tours?
Helen: Cass Gilbert was my paternal great grandfather and knowing that his iconic Woolworth Building was to turn 100 years old in April 2013, one of my brothers and I decided to create a series of events in NYC to honor the occasion. In addition to lectures, exhibitions, visits to other Gilbert buildings and a gala dinner, tours of the magnificent Woolworth Building were included in the celebrations that we called “Woolworth Week.”
The management of the building was so pleased with them that they asked us to continue to offer the lobby tours on an on-going basis, which we have now done since the summer.
UC: What are some of your favorite secrets about the building?
Helen: I love going up to the very top of the grand staircase and looking back towards Broadway. It gives you a completely different perspective on the lobby. I like all of the wonderful details in the space, and particularly the coffered ceiling in the loading dock.
But I am most amazed by the engineering of the building and the fact that is was started on a much smaller lot and only expanded as the full block on Broadway was acquired necessitating many shifts in the foundation. There are so many behind-the-scenes “secrets” about the Woolworth Building.
UC: Do you have a background in architecture, or something completely different?
Helen: No, I don’t have a background in architecture but I was originally trained as a graphic designer and later as an Interior Designer, which is my passion.
UC: What other projects are you working on?
Helen: In addition to Interior Design, I also do Event Planning with my company Look Event Planners–weddings and parties of all kinds – that uses my organizational skills as much as running the tours does.
UC: What are some of your favorite spots in NYC?
Helen: In addition to the Woolworth Building, of course I would list all of Cass Gilbert’s NY buildings first – the Alexander Hamilton Custom House, 90 West Street, The NY County Lawyers’ Association, The Thurgood Marshall Court House, and The Brooklyn Navy Yard, among others. Then I would add some tiny spots – Paley Park, Amster Yard & the marvelous new High Line. Finally, all of Central Park.