Woolworth Building: The Mother of All Skyscrapers is Almost 110 Years

8:12 am  |  22.01.2022

The first skyscraper, which crashed the 50-floating boundary and broke up some other records, was the Woolworth Building in New York. In 1913 it was opened with 80,000 light bulbs.


The builder paid bar. He could have done it with 270 million five-cent pieces, which were intermediately and a half to the earth. Enough of it he had, after all, he was the “king of the five-cent stores”: On April 24, 1913, Frank Woolworth opened the building in New York. In a sense, it was the city’s first skyscraper, and certainly, it was a milestone in architectural history – and the race continues to date around the highest building in the world.

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In 1910, the work began to advance Louis Horowitz as a general contractor.

Source: Picture Alliance / Everett Colle

“Huge buildings, towers, and churches, all compete with each other for the name “HIGHEST AND GREAT”. But over everything is the Woolworth Building, quiet and unassailable.”

For the punctual completion, it was received a premium of $ 300,000. The building itself cost 13.5 million, which paid the builder Franklin Winfield Woolworth, “King of the Five Center shops”, cash.

Source: Picture Alliance / Everett Colle

Since the construction was just opened after 29 months. At that time new: A general contractor took care of the whole project and ultimately collected a bonus. Louis Horowitz was the man and he said later: “In all my nightmares, I dreamed that we failed in this huge order.” He did not do it, delivered punctually, and got the promised $ 300,000. The whole building cost 13.5 million dollars.

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Gothic Elements and Gargoyle

Airplanes in the sky

Source: Picture Alliance / Everett Colle


Woolworth got a piece of architectural history – and the highest building in the world. Previously, nobody had recovered over the 700-foot brand (213 meters) and not over 50 floors. But what architect Cass Gilbert put on the Broadway was a true skyscraper: 792 feet, 241 meters high, 57 floors. Gilbert added gothic elements including pointed arches and water sparsers – in the middle of the New York of the 20th century.

After September 11, 2001, Woolworth Building tore like a defiant symbol over the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center in the sky.

Source: Picture Alliance / Everett Colle

At the opening, US President Woodrow Wilson personally set up the 80,000 light bulbs throughout the building – per dipper from the White House in Washington. 800 guests of honor were invited and one, a clergyman, spoke of the “Cathedral of Commerce”. The nickname was still hanging.

A newspaper praised the “royal view” on “the old New York”. Everyone could enjoy that, paid. On the observation deck, more than 100,000 tourists from 60 countries were counted in 1916. An express lift brought them to the 54th floor, from there it went on in the glass lift to the top floor. That cost 50 cents. This is about twelve dollars and thus about half of what visitors to the Empire State Buildings have to pay.

“How high can New York climb in the sky?” A newspaper asked. Totally self-evident, for a long time, the highest building had to stand in New York. Almost two decades, the record of Woolworth Buildings, he tumbled every few months until the Empire State Building held four decades and then the World Trade Center for four years.

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Symbol of the Resistance Sake of the City

When this was a victim of Islamic suicide bombers on September 9, 2001, the old record holder was like a deserted monument in the dust of the collapsed Twin Towers. As if it were a symbol of the resistance will New York and its skyscrapers.

Today, 30 floors of the skyscraper are converted into luxury apartments.

Source: DPA

Meanwhile, the highest buildings are very elsewhere. The Burj Khalifa opened three years ago in Dubai is 830 meters high. If the Woolworth Building were three times the case as it is actually, there was still a good 100 meters left.

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What remains is the fame in the architectural books and the reputation to be a New York tourist attraction. Woolworth has been sitting in Woolworth Building for a long time, just 30 floors – very exclusive apartments are being expanded. The price of rebuilding: $ 150 million – the elfache of the then buffer price.

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