“The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” History is merely a list of surprises that keeps on amazing us yet again and again. Over the centuries every building has given us some stories but not all are a big hit. Every story with time withers off just like grandma’s stories from childhood. 

Today’s tech-savvy generation has lost the essence of their roots so much that relying on technology has become the primary source of manifesting in designs and creativity. The use of locally available materials has become a secondary or even a tertiary choice for an economically viable project. 

But, I think that’s what exceptions are for right? Not everything that we see is technology-driven or completely heritage-driven. They are an amalgamation of two completely different environments that are brought together to adjust themselves to a certain amount of pressure and stress. 

Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet1
Hammerfest, Norway Now and Then_©www.boredpanda.com
Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet2
EIFFEL TOWER, PARIS NOW AND THEN_©www.boredpanda.com

‘’Architecture is not a movable feast, like music.’’ It is not something that gets changed itself with the growing evolution of art and technology every year but something that should be embraced with each passing decade. Buildings over the years have always been a thing of curiosity because of their artistic creations and marvelously designed buildings. 

One such building which has over the centuries made a mark on the city of New York is the “Woolworth Building” in Manhattan. Since its existence, this building remains to be one of the tallest and the most iconic buildings in the world. Apart from giving an amazing skyline to New York City, Woolworth screams of typical classic design and portrays the timeless Manhattan architecture. 

Designed by architect Cass Gilbert this American skyscraper consists of a 30-storey base which is topped by a 30-storey tower. Gilbert believed that the designer should knit into the pattern of their own civilization, i.e., their inheritance. Decorated with terracotta on its façade, the lobby consists of various mosaics, sculptures, and some architectural elements along with some limestone on the lower portion of the building. This building is created in the neo-Gothic style of architecture as it resembles the European Gothic cathedrals of that time.

Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet3
Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet4
Woolworth Building_©en.wikipedia.org

Stories have been the favourite part of knowing something hidden and great about the building we are about to enter. Woolworth Building hides an enthralling history behind that Gothic brickwork and stable foundations. Aren’t you all already excited to know what’s actually hidden behind those brick walls? I don’t know about you but I am definitely intrigued to know all the scary past stories behind those high-pitched walls. This edifice was one among the first skyscrapers to have been raised in Manhattan’s financial district. 

Due to its alikeness with the Gothic style cathedrals, it was titled as “The Cathedral of Commerce”. This building has been a marking feature for the city skyline. Within those holy halls was the secret all hidden. All sorts of deals and fortunes were made and hence its nickname. So, we got a nickname for this 792 feet tall giant by just digging up some past incidents. That is the reason I say that knowing the past helps in bringing out a great future ahead. 

Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet5
CROWN OF THE BUILDING_©en.wikipedia.org

During the official opening of the Woolworth Building, it used to have a sight for the highest dinner ever held in New York City. A dazzling dinner was laid on the 27th floor which included a lot of VIP guests. It’s hard not to imagine being in such a historically rich edifice and being able to get such an experience. I can just keep going and not stop talking about how elegant and deep into the roots can a building be even after what modernization we are going through. I see interests going down. Is it because you are thinking that what modernism does this “old building” show apart from having mosaics and sculptures all over? 

To your surprise, Woolworth has spaces for personal quarters which includes a 40th-floor renaissance-style apartment with private suites on the 25th floor and an “Empire room” office on the 24th floor reflecting the owner’s obsession with things related to Napoleon. 

Did I just up your expectation level and leave your mind to think about “what next”? I am sorry I did but you need to understand how in love I am with this building and how eager I am to make you fall in love with what it is.

Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet6

Some mysterious faces can be seen while moving in the halls and corners of this building. It may sound creepy and enchanted but many of these faces in architecture symbolize the real-life laborers who were actually included in this construction process. One of these faces also includes Mr. Frank W. Woolworth who was the actual owner of this building and on the name of which this building was entitled. 

I came across a really interesting fact about how this nation helped in conservation during the two world wars that took place long back. During the situation of World War I, just using 14 elevators and switching off the lighting fixtures in the hallways and offices helped Woolworth in reducing 70% of the energy and the same took place for World War II. 

Didn’t it just blow up your mind thinking how during those warlike situations they could come up with something so innovative and out of the box? It just made me realize that how we as architects just have somewhere forgotten to sensitize ourselves to the energy resources that are being depleted because of our carelessness and ignorance. We cannot fail in calling this edifice a pinnacle of luxury where the most expensive penthouse in the city is being located at a jaw-dropping location in Woolworth. 

Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet7
Face of Frank Winfield_©www.6sqft.com

Decorations are things that serve as an ornament to make that thing look beautiful. They are the add ons that help us know what that thing is trying to portray to us. These decorations also tell us about the period and history of that particular era in which these decorations were completed. 

Talking about Woolworth, the exterior had sculptural arches, finials, and over-scaled gargoyles that could be seen from the level of the street referring to the European medieval architecture. These decorations were carried out to catch the attention of the people and make this a remarkable building in the entire world. Inside the barrel-vaulted lobby, the walls are cladded with lavish mosaics and stained glass to catch the eye of the people and also represents the Gothic style of architecture in which Woolworth was built.

Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet8
Interior of woolworth_©www.6sqft.com
Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet9
Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet10

After knowing so much about Woolworth there is one thing that I can tell evidently and that is their love for being rooted in their culture and at the same time being able to cope with the modern technology by overshining the others. Not every building has a story that makes you want to love that building a little more every time you get to know her. I think I can just fall for this building anytime by just knowing the number of stories it tells with every work that I see. 

Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert: Anchor of the New York City - Sheet11

From the pillars to the details of this building every corner of this building has a story that is untold. Being able to just listen to the stories gives me goosebumps on how a building of social and political importance for the royal heritage changed to being a tourist place and cultural heritage for the times of today. Woolworth was a tribute not to a particular religion but to capitalism.


(1778) Pinterest. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, 

from https://in.pinterest.com/pin/527273068864607258/

13 things you didn’t know about the Woolworth Building | 6sqft. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://www.6sqft.com/secrets-of-the-woolworth-building/

8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Woolworth Building. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://www.stonehengenyc.com/blog/8-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-woolworth-building

AD Classics: Woolworth Building / Cass Gilbert | ArchDaily. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/477187/ad-classics-woolworth-building-cass-gilbert

Gilbert, Woolworth Building (article) | Khan Academy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/architecture-design/ny-skyscrapers-landmarks/a/gilbert-woolworth-building

Li, X., Lv, Z., Hijazi, I. H., Jiao, H., Li, L., & Li, K. (2016). Assessment of Urban Fabric for Smart Cities. IEEE Access, 4, 373–382. https://doi.org/10.1109/ACCESS.2016.2517072

Woolworth Building – Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolworth_Building#History


Mansi is pursuing her graduation from SMVDU, Jand K. She is an avid nature lover and in the perfect environment to pursue her architecture dreams. She looks to becoming the voice for the unspoken emotions depicted in the world of architecture. A keen observer and hard worker is what describes her well.

Write A Comment