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    Woolworth Building: tour of the charming lobby of the Roaring Twenties skyscraper

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    “You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go
    Downtown, things’ll be great when you’re
    Downtown, no finer place for sure,
    Downtown, everything’s waiting for you”

    "You can forget all your troubles, all your worries, and go Downtown,
    Things will get better when you go downtown,
    There is definitely no better place than Downtown,
    Downtown is just waiting for you! "

    Why did we start this article with the famous words of “Downtown” (which you can hum in the cover version of your choice)?

    Because the landmark of New York that we will know today is located in the southern part of Manhattan, the business center of the city: it is the Woolworth Building. So, if your Big Apple sightseeing program takes you here, where the Brooklyn Bridge begins, also consider a visit to this skyscraper: it's true, the area is still full of things to see, but the Woolworth is something unique. of its kind.

    This large building, in fact, compared to the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock, is not so famous for the wonderful view (reserved for those who actually live in the building), but for its unmistakable Neo-Gothic style and for the its atrium, now restored after being closed to the public for a long time, which has preserved the style of the era of the "roaring years".

    So if you want to take a step back in time and immerse yourself in a '10s /' 20s atmosphere in the "Great Gatsby" style, the Woolworth Building is the right place for you, and here we will explain how to visit it.

    But first a little history ...


    • The Woolworth Building: a bit of history
    • How to visit the Woolworth Building: the Woolworth Lobby Tour
    • Useful Information
    • How to get to the Woolworth Building
    • What to visit around the skyscraper
    • Where to eat nearby

    Il Woolworth Building: a bit of history

    If New York is one of the most "contemporary" cities par excellence, teeming with life and novelty, the Woolworth Building is one of its most "historic" buildings: it is in fact one of the "oldest" New York skyscrapers still standing: it was inaugurated in 1913, so it has more than 100 years of history to tell.

    It was commissioned in 1910 to the architect Cass Gilbert da Frank W. Woolworth, CEO of the FW Woolworth Company, and owner of a chain of 5 cents / 10 cents shops (a kind of ancestors of the current “All for one euro” shops, so to speak). Mr. Woolworth's intention, in commissioning the construction of the building, was to move the company's headquarters there, thus bringing it to the beating heart of the world economy, which was precisely New York at the time.

    The choice of the architect Gilbert was not accidental: the latter in fact already had some important buildings in Lower Manhattan under his belt, including what at the time was the customs office (and, as a good importer, Woolworth must have visited it several times) . Furthermore, he must also have been fascinated by the neo-Gothic style of another Gilbert building, namely the West Street Building, still standing in Downtown New York.

    For his part, the architect well understood the entrepreneur's need to give his headquarters the appearance of a point of reference, of a majestic work that was not only the alter ego of its owner, but also knew how to place itself and to place the image of the company as a "public work". He therefore decided to draw inspiration from the style of the bell towers and town halls he saw during a recent trip to Belgium, together with some details of the English and French cathedrals.

    The inauguration took place with great fanfare on April 24, 1913, after a thorough media campaign: it was all the more effective, given that the newly built building, from its almost 242 meters (792 feet) high, claimed to be the new tallest skyscraper in New York (and remained so for 17 years, until 1930, when it was surpassed by the Empire State Building).

    For the occasion, a switch was placed in the White House for the same presidente Woodrow Wilson could turn on the lights (for the first time organized in a lighting system) of the new miracle of engineering: the construction of the Woolworth Building, in fact, was a real celebration of the technical and artisan progress achieved at the time, starting from the steel structure up to the terracotta coverings, and its owner was well aware that it would rise as a perennial "advertising billboard" of his work.

    In 1916, Reverend S. Parkes Cadman dubbed the Woolworth Building as "The Cathedral of Commerce": certainly partly for the architectural style, but also to promote it as an "ethical" workplace. For over a century, therefore, the Woolworth Building has stood out as a style icon and symbol of the city's economic roar: on the occasion of the centenary, between 2010 and 2013 it was completely updated to the newest construction technologies, so it is still offers as a welcoming home for startups, organizations, companies and companies, as well as for apartments equipped with every comfort and a wonderful view.

    How to visit the Woolworth Building: the Woolworth Lobby Tour

    If during the first years of its glorious existence one of the main attractions of the Woolworth Building was the view that could be enjoyed from the top of its 240 meters, now unfortunately, as we have said, the observatory is closed to the public. (But out of curiosity, and to give you some preventive emotion, I suggest you visit the website of the rental company that manages the apartments).

    What you can visit, however, is its atrium, a jewel of architecture and decoration of the early twentieth century hidden from most: in fact you can only enter through guided tours, which must be booked, and which they do not take place every day; however, they are quite cheap and you can choose the duration between these options:

    • Visit for 30 minutes: the cost is 17,48€ and includes a visit to the atrium of the Woolworth Building.
    • Visit for 60 minutes: the cost is 26,22€, and includes a more in-depth tour of all three atrium areas, as well as an explanation of the skyscraper's importance and what it meant to New York City and the world.
    • Visit for 90 minutes: this visit costs 39,33€, and in addition to everything included in the 60-minute visit, it includes a very interesting explanation of the development of Lower Manhattan and the skyscrapers, with a look at the history and context. In short, if you love the New York skyline not only from a visual point of view but also from a "physical" point of view, this visit is the one for you!

    Below you will find the link for purchasing tickets, and where you can check the dates on which the various types of tours take place (for example, the 30-minute one you can find mostly only on Fridays and Saturdays! and 60 minutes do not depart every day):

    Tickets for the Woolworth Building

    Useful Information

    WARNING! To visit the Woolworth Building there are some important information to keep in mind:

    • You can take advantage of the guided tour only if you book! Therefore you cannot arrive on site at the appointed time and make the tickets on the spot.
    • there are no public toilets that you can use in the building.
    • there is no way to sit down, and all visits take place standing.
    • ... but the visit is wheelchair accessible, and the elevated points can be reached with special lifts.
    • Photographs are allowed, but without flash. Also you can't make videos.
    • children under 10 cannot participate in the tour; therefore the prices do not have age ranges, they are unique for "adults" aged 10 and over.
    • It is possible to organize personalized visits, but they cost a little more: you can find more info at this site

    How to get to the Woolworth Building

    The Woolworth Building is located at 233 Broadway. The area, given its importance, is very connected, so the building is practically surrounded by metro stops: the closest is that of Park Pl., on 2 and 3, otherwise just behind the building is the "Chambers Street Station", From which the A and C pass.

    From the City Hall stop, not far from Park Pl., The N, R and W pass instead. City Hall, located on 2, 4, 5 and 6. To better orient yourself, I remind you to read our guide on how to use the subway in New York.  

    What to visit around the skyscraper

    New York City Hall

    The Woolworth Building is not an isolated pearl: it is in fact located in the neighborhood of Tribeca: the name of this part of the city is short for "Triangle Below Canal Street", and it has become a residential area where many celebrities have taken up residence.

    The building is also famous for being the seat of the Tribeca Film Festival, conceived by Robert De Niro to bring new life to the neighborhood after the inevitable depression suffered due to its proximity to the World Trade Center.

    The 11/9 Memorial is another place that you can visit, if you pass through here, to remember what happened and the ability to react of this extraordinary city. Finally, right next to the Woolworth Building is the New York City Hall, or the New York City Hall, the oldest city hall in the States that has maintained its function.

    Where to eat nearby

    For some time now, Downtown Manhattan is no longer just the home of the "white collar", but is a part of the city full of life; therefore you will certainly have no problem finding refreshment points that suit your tastes, however here are some "tips":

    • Right in the Woolworth building, there is a Starbucks! So if you get a sudden craving for coffee, you won't run the risk of being disappointed.
    • On Church Street, the street behind the skyscraper, there is a restaurant of the Pret-à-manger chain.
    • At 23 Park Pl., On the right looking at the Woolworth Building, is “Barleycorn”, a quaint gastro-pub where you can choose from many types of beers and listen to good music.
    • At 6 Murray Street, parallel to Park Pl., You can find the Manhattan Proper, “TriBeCa's trendiest Sports Bar”: the ideal place for workers who leave the office and want to relax in a beautiful and welcoming place.
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