The skyscraper is perhaps New York City’s most significant contribution to the world of architecture, and the Woolworth Building is the vanguard of the genre. After topping off in 1913, the 792-foot tall Neo Gothic tower reigned as the tallest occupied structure in the world until 1930. Its impressive scale and lush façade immediately captured the world’s imagination, and over time it has become somewhat of an immortal symbol of New York’s industrious gentility.
While Manhattan’s journey towards the sky was in its nascency at the beginning of the 20th century, American retail magnate Frank W. Woolworth was setting out to build the ultimate monument to his “Five and Dime” empire. With the titans of industry staking their claims over lower Manhattan’s valuable patches of bedrock, Woolworth managed to assemble one of the best sites on the entire island, ultimately underpinning his company’s superiority.
The Broadway and Park place site where Woolworth stands today allowed Mr. Woolworth and his enterprising starchitect, Cass Gilbert, to devise a monument that would tower far above the entire city. Woolworth famously posed the question to Gilbert, “How high can you make the tower?” Their creation, which broke ground in 1910, would become the past and future centerpiece for the downtown skyline.
The Woolworth Tower’s height is accentuated by the graceful Gothic designs by Cass Gilbert, who recounted that Mr. Woolworth “was passionately fond of beauty in architecture and it was his great desire that the building which bears his name should add to the beauty of New York.” Gilbert’s detailed plans for the building shaped not only its iconic design, but also the form of the skyscraper for posterity. Few other buildings of this scale were built with such detail, finesse, and care. For residents at Woolworth, that attention to detail is on permanent display in the form of dynamic Terra Cotta window surrounds, serving as an up-close glimpse of the hand-made detail that sheaths the entire building.
After over a century as Downtown’s centerpiece, The Woolworth Tower Residences are opening their doors, and New York’s preeminent skyscraper will become one of the city’s most desired residential addresses. Curated by acclaimed French designer Thierry W. Despont, The Woolworth Tower Residences are a limited collection of 33 condominium residences nestled atop this National Historic Landmark.
Picking up where Woolworth and Gilbert left off, Despont is continuing their tradition of “beauty in architecture,” curating rooms that engage with cinematic water and skyline views, framed by those world-famous handmade terra cotta window surrounds—every floor a unique experience. Gilbert’s forward-thinking design for the building fluently translates into immense scale in ceiling height, windows, and loft-like living spaces. There are so few buildings from this era that could so gracefully be transformed into monumental apartments. We’re sure that Mr. Woolworth would be proud.