100 Years: Woolworth Tower

The New York Giants sign Jim Thorpe, the Hudson is debuted as the first “sedan” at the 13th Auto Show in NYC, Ebbets field opens its doors. But wait, there’s more. The 1st minimum wage law in the US takes effect, also the Federal Income Tax takes effect ( 16th Amendment ) but to make up for that bad news, Cracker Jack inserts its first prize into their now famous caramel coated popcorn box. But not to be outshined by all of these outstanding historical events, New York City’s tallest skyscraper, the Woolworth Building, opens its doors for the first time. The year was 1913, and this year, 2013, marks the once giant of the sky its 100th anniversary.

Woolworth Tower
Woolworth Tower 1913

After the American Civil War, America saw its land rapidly being industrialized. Land was by any stretch, becoming a valuable commodity. By the late 19th century, the United States started to experience significant economic growth. Up until then, the status quo for architecture was to expand outwards and with wood or brick. With an abundance of technology advancements such as the elevator, electric lighting and improved methods of building with steel, one profitable option was to expand upwards. In 1885, the first skyscraper The Home Insurance Building was erected in Chicago. With 10 stories,it stood at a whopping 138 feet tall.In little over 2 decades, the buildings were being built taller and taller and by 1909, the tallest building in the world was NYC’s Met Life Tower standing proud at 50 stories and 700 ft tall.

Between 1881 and 1908, a chain of stores named Woolworth’s were popping up everywhere in the US and in 1909, discount shopping pioneer F.W. Woolworth opened his first store overseas in the UK. The original store opened in Lancaster PA was for all intended purposes titled “headquarters” and Woolworth simply outgrew it. In 1910, F.W purchased a parcel of land in New York City on the famous Broadway St.. The land was purchased from the Trenor Luther Park Estate for 2 million dollars. Roughly, that would be 50 million dollars in 2013. Woolworth hired Cass Gilbert, a renowned architect of his day and is famous for his “Gothic” style of design. Behind closed doors, Woolworth told Gilbert “ I want you to design me the tallest building in the world!” In little over two and a half years and 13.5 million dollars later, the 792 ft, 57 story statuesque Woolworth Tower was completed. With 92 ft over its rival, the Met Life Tower, Woolworth now owned the tallest skyscraper in the world.

As you walked through the front doors, you were greeted with an awe-inspiring vaulted gold leafed ceiling and towering marble columns. The gothic-style spires that outine the building’s facade took upon a devilish look but heavenly in its design. This building, this tallet skyscraper in the world by all intensive purposes was a work of art – and you were proud to work in this building. On the 54th floor there was an observation deck for visitors to overlook the city. The Woolworth Tower remained the tallest building in the world until 1930 when the Chysler Building, also in New York City, surpassed the Tower by 254 ft.

Over the Towers lifespan of 100 years, it has seen its share of tenants. Of course F.W. Woolworth occupied the first 20 floors as the companie’s Headquarters. Another tenant was Columbia Records. They setup shop in 1913 and by 1917, a full blown recording studio was built and the first recording of The Original Dixieland Jazz Band was completed. In 1966, the Tower became a National Historic Landmark and in 1983, 4tha New York City Landmark. By the year 1998, the building was sold to the Witkoff Group for 155 million and Foot Locker who is the sucessor to the Woolworth Company made its presence within the building. Recently there have been plans on renovating the top 30 floors andf converting the floors to luxury appartments with the last 5 floors as a 5 level penthouse suite.

If you are ever in New York City for business or pleasure, you should certainly make a trip to see this famous landmark and revel in the history and admire the traditions this building has had to offer for 100 years.



About Mike Reid

I am a Professional Amateur Hobbyist. Which basically means I like to do a lot of things and try to do them well. Such as, Creative Writing, Graphic Design, Photography and Music. I am an avid reader and read everything. I love making new internet friends! View all posts by Mike Reid

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