Since the destruction of the World Trade Center almost 10 years ago, the tallest building in lower Manhattan has been the AI building (formerly Cities Services) at 70 Pine Street. The runner up, 40 Wall Street, was also narrowly defeated at the time of its construction for the title of world’s tallest by my personal favorite, the Chrysler Building. The soon to be completed Beekman Place currently holds the title of downtown’s third tallest, and SOM’s One Chase Manhattan Plaza is fourth.
Holding rank as fifth tallest in lower Manhattan, 16th tallest in the city, 44th tallest in the U.S., and 148th tallest in the world is the beautiful Woolworth Building (233 Broadway), which, until it was surpassed by the Chrysler in 1930, was the world’s tallest at 792 feet.
Completed in 1913, the Woolworth Building remains a gorgeous lower Manhattan landmark, receiving its historic status in 1966. It was designed by Cass Gilbert in a neo-gothic style to serve as the new corporate headquarters for Frank Woolworth’s namesake department store company. Inspired by towering Gothic cathedrals, Gilbert created the glazed terra-cotta façade without typical cornices to further accentuate its soaring height. The strong detailing of the tower can be clearly seen for many blocks and still serves as one of New York’s most recognizable buildings.
The construction cost nearly $14 million, which was financed entirely in cash. When complete, the corporation only occupied one and a half of the building’s 57 floors, thus the expenses were quickly recuperated via the renting of the remaining floors to other offices. To celebrate the inauguration of the building, President Woodrow Wilson flipped a switch in the White House that triggered all the interior lights in the building to simultaneously illuminate and the Reverend Cadman, who was presiding over the ceremonies in New York, exclaimed the tower to be a “Cathedral of Commerce.”