Rendering by Mark Foster Gage
The perpetual rivalry of New York City’s skyline has always most obviously been about height, as evidence by the earliest World Building in 1890 to the latest One World Trade Center. With all the talk about Donald Trump, we’re focusing this compilation about the city’s most over the top buildings – be it in decoration, materials, or other factors – that beat out Trump Tower, in our opinion.
The Woolworth Building soars above City Hall Park on a full-block site on Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street. Commissioned by retail tycoon Frank W. Woolworth, who controlled almost six hundred “five and dime” stores, the building was completed in 1913 and designed by architect Cass Gilbert. Once the tallest building in the world, today, the 792 feet tall skyscraper is still one of the thirty tallest buildings in New York City. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and a New York City landmark in 1983.
The building’s neo-Gothic style resembles the Gothic cathedrals in Europe, giving its nickname “The Cathedral of Commerce”. The grandeur and authority of the corporate tower is expressed on the elaborate exterior cladded in cream terra cotta panels as well as vertical piers that accentuate the verticality of the structure. Lesser known is that the top of the Woolworth Building used to be layered with gold leaf, a comparatively inexpensive method of conveying luxury as gold can spread thinly and cover over a large surface area.
These days, the closest one can get of the top of the tower is by buying one of the $100+ million apartments, but on our exclusive tour of the Woolworth Building led by the great granddaughter of Cass Gilbert, visitors can view the grand symmetrical cruciform lobby, featuring barrel vault mosaics, a stained glass skylight, veined marble walls, bronze furnishings, and plaster grotesques. Although not lined with gold, visitors can still see the glass tessarae and the murals of Commerce and Labor on the mezzanine levels, which are well preserved.