We all know about the wealthiest 1%. But Greeter Bob Gelber showed us a building of such palatial splendor, its soon-to- be residents will be the .000000001%!
Bob’s knowledge of the famed Woolworth Building was also a thing of splendor. Built in 1913 at 233 Broadway in Manhattan, it is 60 stories high, neo-Gothic in style, and was the tallest building in the world for seventeen years. Frank Winfield Woolworth spent $13.5 million to build his corporate headquarters, making it also the world’s most expensive building at the time.
Bob spoke about how Frank’s five-and- ten-cent stores took over the U.S., Great Britain, France and South America; and about his architect, Cass Gilbert, one of our country’s most successful.
And what luxury awaited us! The lobby is one of the most extravagant in the city: with floors and walls of veined marble, a stained-glass skylight and a soaring ceiling made of 1.5 million glass tiles. Because it resembles Gothic churches, the building was nicknamed “The Cathedral of Commerce.”
There are funny sculpted heads tucked under the lobby’s balconies, including Cass Gilbert holding a model of the building, and Frank Woolworth counting his nickels and dimes. There is also a lower level swimming pool, where Frank often swam with synchronized female swimmers.
Bob told us that in 1997, all Woolworth stores went out of business because of one company: Walmart. In 1999, the building was sold for $126.5 million to the Witkoff Group. Today there are many tenants, such as lawyers, accountants and doctors.
In August 2012, Alchemy Properties, a New York developer, bought the top 30 floors, to be turned into only 34 condominiums to be called The Woolworth Tower Residences. The project is expected to cost $150 million and although the work isn’t finished, one resident has already bought a $56 million, 8-bedroom, 10-bath unit. He professes to have a weak bladder.
If you’re pretty sure you won’t be buying one of the condominiums, the only way to see this spectacular lobby is on a guided tour. Go to woolworthtours.com and get ready to have your breath taken away.