Cass Gilbert's Woolworth Building

Contemporary Reactions

When it was completed in 1913, the Woolworth Building stood as the tallest building in the world. Unsurprisingly, this elicited awe from contemporaries around the world, manifested in a variety of publications and media.

Frank W. Woolworth, the company's founder, published an official guide for visitors to the building, entitled "Above the Clouds and Old New York." This publication illustrated various aesthetic components of the building, juxtaposed with a history of early New York settlement. Doing so implied that the Woolworth Building--and by extension, Frank Woolworth--was as essential to New York's history as its early founders themselves.

The building's commercial function combined with its Gothic architecture, traditionally an ecclesiastical style, earned it the moniker "The Cathedral of Commerce." A 1913 publication‚Äč of the same name emphasized the building's designs and function as symbolic of commerce in modern day America.

In 1921, Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand created a film entitled "Manhatta" that depicted a typical day in New York City. The Woolworth Building was prominently featured in the footage.

Newspaper articles frequently emphasized the building's height, like the article "What is Your New York Altitude?" published in 1924 in the New York Times.

Even after it was replaced in 1930 by the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building as the tallest building in the world, the Woolworth Building continued to attract the attention of tourists. A 1936 guidebook, All About New York, attests to the building's continued popularity in the public imagination.

This page references:

  1. Above the Clouds and Old New York
  2. What Is Your New York Altitude?
  3. All About New York excerpt
  4. The cathedral of commerce, the highest building in the world
  5. Manhatta: A Film by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler