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15 historic American skyscrapers that aren't the Empire State Building

By: Matt Hickman on March 4, 2016, 12:53 p.m.
Woolworth Building in New York City during autumn

Photo: torbakhopper/flickr

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Woolworth Building, New York City

While many early 20th century New York City skyscrapers have quietly faded into the background over the decades, that isn't at all the case with the Woolworth Building, a neo-Gothic gem that's influence — and distinctive physical presence — has never waned.

Designed by celebrated proto-starchitect Cass Gilbert, the Woolworth Building was completed in 1913 as corporate HQ for pioneering American five-and-dime-store, the F.W. Woolworth Company. Dubbed the "Cathedral of Commerce" due to its retail associations and eye-popping Gothic ornamentation seemingly plucked straight from medieval Europe, the 57-story Woolworth Building continues to tower over Lower Manhattan as one of top 25 tallest buildings in the Big Apple — a hugely impressive feat for a 103-year-old office building. While its rank will likely drop in the coming years, the Woolworth Building — 792 feet tall, by the way — did enjoy the top spot as tallest building in the world from 1913 to 1930. It was in 1930 that New York's second wave of record-breaking skyscrapers kicked off with the completion Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, followed in quick succession by the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. And while the Woolworth Building usually falls beyond the radar of most casual tall building tourists, a guided tour of the tower's breathtaking, beyond-ornate lobby is simply a must for architecture buffs and skyscraper enthusiasts.