Go Deeper into the Woolworth Building

Woolworth Lobby Photo Credit - Carol HighsmithGood news from Chuck Post of Woolworth Tours: “We have just negotiated the ability to continue to offer 30-, 60- or 90-minute tours of the lobby, mezzanine, and bank vault in the basement.” There’s no telling how long the building will allow it, so if you’ve never done it, you really should.

The press release explains it a bit further: “Public tours of the lobby for 30-, 60- or 90-minutes are currently being offered on a pre-registration basis. No walk-ins are permitted. Depending upon the length of the tour, various areas of the lobby, its mezzanine and basement can be seen. All tours are led by architectural historians [….] Photographs can be taken but no flash or videos are allowed.”

The 30-minute tours and 60-minute tour both explore the lobby. The 90-minute tours are the ones that those of us who have done the lobby tour will be most excited about. What you see (and learn) depends on which guide you sign up with; both visit the bank vault.

One tour will be led by noted historian, author and tour guide Anthony W. Robins, and will provide a detailed look at the building’s unmatched polychromatic terra-cotta exterior, and an in-depth discussion of the Landmarked lobby and its wealth of ornamentation, a visit to hidden corners and staircases that are not seen by most visitors, and a special visit to the mezzanine level for a unique perspective on the spectacular space and an up-close view of its extraordinary mosaic ceiling and historic murals. This tour will also include a look at Cass Gilbert’s first New York skyscraper, the nearby Broadway-Chambers Building, and a discussion of how Gilbert’s work led to the creation of the tallest skyscraper in the world and his impact on skyscraper design and the development of future skylines. The first 30 minutes of this tour will take place outside the building and include a brief walk along Broadway to Chambers Street. The remainder of the tour will take place inside the building. Please note that this tour includes stairs, walking and significant time standing. To make a reservation for this tour, click here.

The other tour of Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building will offer a view of the emerging urban identity of New York as it was being forged in the early 20th century as seen through the beauty of one of the city’s grandest civic spaces. This tour, led by architectural historian and Gilbert expert, Barbara Christen, will offer unusual views of the lobby, including those from the mezzanine, a spectacular location from which to survey the monumental barrel vaults, their scintillating mosaics, and other richly-crafted aspects of the lobby, including designs by Tiffany Studios. It will also include examination of original sculptural “grotesques” of key figures who were memorialized in the most public areas of the lobby. Emphasis will be placed on the history and context of Frank W. Woolworth’s empire, the then-existing construction industry, design development of the building, and the marketing of the resulting architectural landmark. Come also to hear about the Woolworth Building’s original transit connections and luxury amenities, making it a most desirable business address at its completion in 1913. To make a reservation for this tour, click here.

The photo at top of the Woolworth Building lobby is by Carol Highsmith.

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1 Comment

  1. During a lobby tour last year, we had the good fortune to meet up with the building manager. He let us tour the bank vault informally; it was fascinating in a guilty, surrepticious kind of way.