One of the most stunning architectural gems of New York City is the Woolworth Building. It is on the “must see” checklists of architectural enthusiasts around the city and around the world. OHNY, in partnership with Control Group, were able to gain access for a small group this past Wednesday evening.

staircase off the lobby


The tour began on the grand staircase just off of the lobby. Building historian Roy Suskin explained the unique qualities of both the building and its creator, Frank Woolworth.

lobby ceiling


The ornate designs of the building were inspired by European Gothic cathedrals and redefine the meaning of extravagance. The lobby ceiling mosaic is adorned with gold leaf.

Careful inspection of the interior, reveals hundreds of interesting small details that are both playful and breath-taking.

ceiling above staircase


The stain-glass like ceiling above the grand stair case casts a golden glow onto the lobby. And a look closer reveals more intricate details.

Not only was great care put into the details of the building, the structural qualities are equally impressive. The building sits on huge steel stilts with a steel structure that is then reinforced by up to 5 feet of brick wall. Basically, the building has been over built to withstand almost anything. Most modern skyscrapers are built so that they sway slightly with the wind; the Woolworth Building is a solid rock in comparison.

At the top of the grand staircase are these imposing doors and beautiful clock. No expense was spared in the building of this landmark – Frank Woolworth fully intended it to be the greatest, tallest, most efficient and safest building in the world. It was built with no materials that could burn so it is practically fire proof. At the off chance of a fire, water hoses were installed and connected to three different water mains, in case one (or two) should break. The elevators had, at the time of construction, six different safety features (three have now been deemed unnecessary and have been eliminated). The building was also built with boilers in the basement to produce all the hot water for the building.

on the observation deck


After leaving the lobby, the tour was led up to the 43rd floor. Attention was mostly paid to the look and grandeur of the building, which meant that many practical use aspects were overlooked. Tour participants were allowed to take a full tour around the outdoor observation deck, but had to climb through a window in order to do so (since no doors were built).

The night of the tour was rainy and hazy, creating an added enchanting touch to the tour.

This is the view of the building facade looking up from the observation deck.

Once back inside, the enchanted ambiance only continued. As the tour group was headed into one of Frank Woolworth’s offices, the lights suddenly went off. The office could only been viewed through the constant camera flashes of the tour participants.

office ceiling


Here is a view of the office’s ceiling (lit by other camera flashes).

view from Frank Woolworth's office


And this is the view from the Frank Woolworth’s office, with detailing along the window frame.

Another interesting fact about the building, which appears to be a bit of a secret, is that though it is widely accepted that the building is 60 stories tall, this is not actually true. Roy Suskin explained that when publicity for the building was happening, Frank Woolworth claimed that it was 60 stories tall. However, after later count, it was revealed that this was false, even if one were to begin counting on the basement floors, the building falls short of 60 floors. In order not to contradict himself, the numbering of the floors was rigged so that it indeed appeared to have 60 floors. For example, if you look closely you can see that there is no button for the 42nd floor.



The tour then headed down into the basement. The tour group was lead through a huge, think vault door into the vault lined with thousands of safety deposit boxes.

Amazingly, the vault now just sits open yet all of the safety deposit boxes are still in the slots – making you wonder whether you might find some hidden treasure if given the time to rummage around.



Lastly, the tour group was taken into the impressive maintenance and boiler rooms and then finally into the pool area, which is not in use today.

basement swimming pool


tour group


The Woolworth Building is not open to the general public and tourists are highly discouraged from walking into the lobby – most New Yorker’s are familiar with that ominous sign outside stating “No tourists beyond this point”. OHNY was delighted to gain limited access to the building thanks to the help of Control Group and Roy Suskin and hopes that it will have more opportunities to open up the building in the future.

The Woolworth Building
233 Broadway


10 Comments to Field Trip Friday: The Woolworth Building

  1. November 18, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    This is looks amazing, hopefully the next time around I’ll be able to sneak in the tour!

  2. Dorathea Halpert's Gravatar Dorathea Halpert
    November 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I would love to have joined this field trip, but did not receive any information about it until today. Could you please inform me of the dates of the next tour[s] of the Woolworth Building.

    Thank you,

    Dorathea Halpert

  3. November 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    would have loved to have seen this can i get in line? .hope there will be another one soon.

  4. Alan Winokur's Gravatar Alan Winokur
    November 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh, please let me know if and when this opportunity happens again. I’m a photographer and admire this building greatly. I’d love to photograph the interior!


  5. Terry's Gravatar Terry
    December 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    This is amazing. I knew there was a swimming pool somewhere in the building but was told it was on an upper floor. That’s for proving that wrong and clarifying where it is. Such a shame they do not let tours of such an amazing building —

  6. Robert Rago's Gravatar Robert Rago
    January 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    A gem of a building, I have it many photographs, please post when or if the oppertunity comes up again to tour this majestic marvel of NYC.

    Rob Rago

  7. Ernest Buechel's Gravatar Ernest Buechel
    March 13, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    If a tour group does form, I would love to be included. This building truly rivals buildings in Europe in grandeur. I wandered into the entryway and was really amazed at it. Thanks for the photo’s.

  8. August 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering if there has been any work toward another tour of this stunning architectural masterpiece? I would love to be included. Thanks!

  1. By on August 20, 2012 at 6:51 am

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.