The Skyscraper and the City
The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York
Fenske shows here that the building’s multiplicity of meanings reflected the cultural contradictions that defined New York City’s modernity. For Frank Woolworth—founder of the famous five-and-dime store chain—the building served as a towering trademark, for advocates of the City Beautiful movement it suggested a majestic hotel de ville, for technological enthusiasts it represented the boldest of experiments in vertical construction, and for tenants it provided an evocative setting for high-style consumption. Tourists, meanwhile, experienced a spectacular sightseeing destination and avant-garde artists discovered a twentieth-century future. In emphasizing this faceted significance, Fenske illuminates the process of conceiving, financing, and constructing skyscrapers as well as the mass phenomena of consumerism, marketing, news media, and urban spectatorship that surround them.
As the representative example of the skyscraper as a “cathedral of commerce,” the Woolworth Building remains a commanding presence in the skyline of lower Manhattan, and the generously illustrated Skyscraper and the City is a worthy testament to its importance in American culture.
New York Society Library: New York City Book Award
Association of American Publishers: PROSE Book Award
Architecture and Urban Planning
Chapter 1 Woolworth’s Skyscraper
Chapter 2 Woolworth, Modernity, and the City
Chapter 3 Gilbert’s Beaux-Arts Skyscrapers
Chapter 4 Designing the Woolworth Building
Chapter 5 A Record-Breaking Feat of Modern Construction
Chapter 6 The Skyscraper as a “City”
Chapter 7 The Woolworth Building and Modern New York
Appendix 1 F. W. Woolworth Company Stores, 1910
Appendix 2 F. W. Woolworth Company Stores, 1912