10. The Woolworth Building
Dubbed the “Cathedral of Commerce” the Woolworth Building in the Financial District was the world’s tallest skyscraper when it was built in 1913. Commissioned by Frank W. Woolworth, who revolutionized the way Americans shop with his five and dime stores, the tower epitomizes the optimism of the era. A number of technological innovations made a skyscraper of this scale possible, from the fabrication of lightweight steel to electricity and recently patented Otis elevators.
Woolworth hired Cass Gilbert and specifically instructed him to build a skyscraper taller than the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower (then the world’s tallest building), snubbing the company that denied him a loan. Gilbert looked to his recent travels in France and England for inspiration in designing a Gothic Revival tower, specifically referencing the abbeys of Mont St. Michel and St. Ouen in Normandy and the Victoria Tower in London. He incorporated gargoyles, mythical beasts, flora, fauna, and coats of arms in the decorative scheme. Inside, the sumptuous lobby is decorated with Byzantine-style mosaics, Greek marble, and gold-plated elevator doors created by Tiffany Studios. Though the building’s lobby has been off-limits since 9/11, people are sometimes let in for tours.
A Rare Look Inside the Most Glorious New York Landmarks
Next, read about 20 buildings in NYC designed by architect Stanford White!