In the world of architecture, there are precious few spaces and structures that can’t be properly depicted via words and images. These spaces are so transcendent that they must be experienced firsthand; there is no substitute for being there. Among the towering architectural achievements that dot the New York City skyline, there is no finer example of this phenomenon than the Woolworth Tower Residences.
Designed by the great Cass Gilbert in the early 19th century, it is a gleaming white paean to a golden age of New York. Today, it begins a new chapter in its history as a collection of downtown luxury condominiums known as The Woolworth Tower Residences.
And while countless artists – photographers, painters, writers, and illustrators – have attempted to capture the majesty of this structure (many quite brilliantly), none have been able to convey the grandeur that this landmark exudes. Like all great works of art, it is best experienced in person. But you shouldn't take our word for it. Read on to learn about some of the most famous reactions to The Woolworth Tower Residences.
A Towering Tribeca Jewel
At 792 feet, the Woolworth Building is one of the tallest structures in the United States. From 1913 to 1930, however, it was the tallest building in the world, and Hollywood took notice. "Look, there's the Woolworth Building," says April in the 1929 movie Applause. "That's some sight, isn't it?" replies Tony, to which April agrees, "It's wonderful."
Though it's been overtaken in stature by many other skyscrapers in the past several decades, The Woolworth Tower Residences retains a rare ability to stop you in your tracks and make you peer upward from the cobblestone streets of Tribeca, especially as the contrast between its stoic, dignified presence and the sleekness of modern architecture grows starker by the year.
As Stan Ponte, member of The Woolworth Tower Residences sales team, recently noted, "When I first visited, I was a freshman in college and had only been in New York for a month. I spoke with my grandmother on the phone, and she asked me if I had visited the Woolworth Building yet. Well, that afternoon I walked down Broadway from the NYU campus and was absolutely awe-struck by the beauty and the majesty of the building. Not only was this the world's first and highest skyscraper. It was mine, too!"
Clearly, the magic has not faded over the years.
What’s on the Inside
Of course, the facade of The Woolworth Tower Residences only tells half of its story. Those who've been lucky enough to venture inside have been almost beside themselves with wonderment. "The lobby looks like a Romanesque Cathedral, with mosaics, gilded details, and a marble stairway," marvels Megan Willet in one Business Insider article. She cites the stained-glass ceiling, decorated with important dates
Of course, the facade only tells half the story. Those lucky enough to venture inside this building that was once known as the “cathedral of commerce” are likely to experience a pronounced sense of awe. Indeed, the great architect Philip Johnson once claimed it was his favorite skyscraper. In its contemporary form, beautifully sympathetic touches have been made to the building: the lobby, for instance, is an art deco-style gem with a coffered ceiling that’s been restored and relocated from Frank W. Woolworth’s own private office. A five-foot saltwater lap pool, flanked by cream loungers, adds a touch of neo-Roman magnificence. The handsome Gilbert Lounge offers somewhere to shoot billiards and sip Scotch, accompanied by striking views of Manhattan.
What was Stan’s favorite feature? "From an architectural standpoint, the steel curtain wall construction translates into no-load bearing walls. That allows for wonderful flexibility in the floor plans, which are some of the best layouts available."
Practical as well as stunning, then.
An Architectural Muse
Applause wasn't the only film to be inspired by The Woolworth Tower Residences. It's featured in everything from the Gene Kelly classic On the Town to Spider-Man 2 and the climactic scene of the Disney movie Enchanted (well, it does hint at a fairy-tale castle, after all). And it isn't just films and books that the luxury residence has inspired: it even has its own song. F. Henri Klickmann's “Woolworth Rag” was a smash hit when released in 1913. We suggest you source a copy to spin at cocktail parties in your own Woolworth Tower condominium.
Perhaps the greatest accolade of all, though? Take a gander at The Lincoln American Tower in Memphis, Tennessee—which is a one-third-size replica of The Woolworth Tower. They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Still, we recommend you put Memphis to one side and visit the full-size deal in Tribeca instead. No doubt you'll come out with an awe-inspired quote of your own.