In 1913, New York City watched as the 57 floors of the newly built Woolworth Building were lit up by electric lights. A special switch was thrown by President Woodrow Wilson in Washington DC to light up the recently completed “tallest building in the world.” This Neo Gothic skyscraper was designed by Cass Gilbert for F.W. Woolworth and his 5 and Dime company.
Before Woolworth opened his chain of stores, merchandise was kept behind a store’s counter. Customers gave the clerk a list of the items they wanted, and only after they had paid did they get to handle the items they had purchased. F.W. Woolworth had the notion that items could be placed on shelves throughout the store, and that customers should be able to handle things that they were considering buying. People evidently liked his idea, because he grew his company into the very successful international F.W. Woolworth Company. Many people copied Woolworth’s concept, and 5 and Dime Stores became fixtures in downtown areas across America.
Where Exactly is the Woolworth Building in New York City
The Woolworth Building is located at 233 Broadway (between Park Place and Barclay Street) in the northern part of New York’s Financial District. It’s located nearby the World Trade Center Site, City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge. Due to it’s convenient location, you can reach the Woolworth Building from many subway stations and lines (see map below). We recommend clicking this link for directions to the Woolworth Building from anywhere in NYC.
F.W. Woolworth commissioned a spectacular skyscraper in Lower Manhattan to serve as the company’s headquarters. The Woolworth Building, nicknamed “The Cathedral of Commerce,” is considered one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the city.
Woolworth Building Tours
The building has been closed to the public for several years, but has recently reopened. Tours are offered, so don’t miss out on a chance to see this spectacular building and learn its history!
Tours are offered in three different time increments: 30 Minute, 60 Minute and 90 Minute Tours. The 30 Minute Tour is more of a brief overview, while the 60 and 90 Minute Tours provide a more in-depth experience. You can choose the tour that is right for you based on your schedule and interests.
Tours are offered most days of the week, excluding Mondays and Tuesdays. Not all tour options are available on all days. Visit www.woolworthtours.com to see when your preferred tour is offered.
The tour does not go to the former roof observation deck. The building is privately owned and parts of it are not opened to the public.
You must register in advance. Walk-ups will not be permitted on tours.
All tours leave on time. Try to arrive a few minutes early so that you can sign in.
There are no public restroom facilities available. Plan ahead!
Parts of the tour are outdoors and they are given rain or shine. Dress appropriately to be outside.
Paper tickets are not given out, so print out your email confirmation or plan to show it on your phone. Your name will also be on a list kept at the front entrance.
Pictures are permitted, but no flash photography is allowed.
No food or drinks are allowed on the tour.
No children under 10 will be allowed on the tour.
Most of the tour will involve standing up and stairs.
Some Quick Facts About The Woolworth Building
The building cost $13.5 million to build. F.W. Woolworth paid cash for the building and never had a mortgage on it.
Even though it was the headquarters of the Woolworth Company, they only occupied one and a half floors of the building. A large profit was made renting out space to other companies, including Columbia Records.
The Woolworth Building was the tallest in the world until the completion of 40 Wall Street in 1930.
Until recently, The Woolworth company maintained a presence in the building via a FootLocker store on the ground floor. (FootLocker is owned by the Venator Group, the successor company to Woolworth’s.)
The architect of the building, Cass Gilbert, also designed the Alexander Hamilton Custom House. (Today the Museum of the American Indian.)
This beautiful building is seen in many films and TV shows. The climactic scene of Enchanted is set on the top floor of the building. It is shown to be the office building of Nick Carraway in Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby, and as the headquarters of Meade Publications in Ugly Betty.