The Woolworth Building, in New York’s lower Manhattan area, is one of the oldest skyscrapers in the United States. It is 57 stories high and is among the fifty-tallest buildings in the US and one of the 20 tallest in New York City. It remained the tallest building in the world until 1930.
Architect Cass Gilbert was commissioned in 1910 by five-and-dime king, Frank Woolworth, to design the tallest building in the world to be the Woolworth Company’s new corporate headquarters. It would be built on a full block site at Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street opposite the City Hall. It cost $13.5 million all paid in cash. It was completed in 1913 and remained the tallest building in the world until 1930. Lucia Colosi and her family would have been living farther uptown on East 20th Street at the time the building was completed.
The building was a Gothic-style skyscraper 792 feet tall. It had a spectacular ornate, cruciform lobby covered in veined marble. The lobby had a vaulted ceiling, mosaics, a stained-glass skylight and bronze furnishings. On the balconies of the mezzanine you could see murals overlooking sculpted plaster caricatures that included Woolworth counting nickels.
The Woolworth Company only occupied one and a half floors. The rest of the building was rented out to others including Columbia Records who housed a recording studio in it. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and a New York City landmark in 1983.
The building’s facade was restored between 1977 and 1981 when much of the terra-cotta was replaced with cast stone and a lot of the gothic ornaments were removed. The Woolworth Company owned the building for 85 years. It was sold in 1998 for $155 million.
The building has been referenced several times on film, including its mention by name at the beginning of the 1957 movie 12 Angry Men.