Cass Gilbert’s NYC skyscraper turns 100

We know him as the famous local son who designed our State Capitol, numerous churches and mighty residences.  This week, New York celebrates the centennial of a building the changed its skyline: Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building.  When it was completed April 24, 1913, it was the tallest building in the world at 792 feet.


The Woolworth Building @100 is also the subject of a new exhibit at the Skyscraper Museum in New York:

“Architect Cass Gilbert, who once defined the skyscraper simply as “a machine to make the land pay,” aspired to elevate his building beyond the realm of real estate to the status of a civic monument.”

His civic monument drew inspiration from European cathedrals, and was called a “Temple to Commerce.”

The Skyscraper Museum notes that  800 dignitaries attended the Woolworth Building’s grand opening which employed floodlighting for the first time — “Eighty thousand incandescent bulbs illuminated the New York night.”

Woolworth Building at Night, April 24, 1913. Library of Congress

Here’s one nice detail from the lobby: the architect holding the tower in his hands.

Sculpture of architect Cass Gilbert holding the Woolworth Building, located in the Woolworth Building lobby, New York, New York. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress.

If you’re inspired to see the grand buildings from his early career in St. Paul,  check out this Cass Gilbert Society walking tour of St. Paul, or find more examples of his durable legacy here.