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Woolworth Building Opens Historic Lobby to Tours

 The Woolworth Building is now offering tours of its historic lobby.
The Woolworth Building is now offering tours of its historic lobby.
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Carol Highsmith

LOWER MANHATTAN — The Woolworth Building is offering tours of the majestic vaulted ceilings and detailed sculptures of its historic lobby — which was previously off-limits to the public.

Helen Post Curry, the great-granddaughter of the building's architect, Cass Gilbert, helped organize a series of events, including tours of the lobby, to celebrate the centennial of the Woolworth in April. The tours were such a success that the building decided to continue and expand the offerings, Curry said.

Since late July, visitors have been able to book tours that are either 15, 45 or 90 minutes long through woolworthtours.com. Prices range from $10 to $40 per person.

Curry, who owns an event management company, also offers specially arranged tours for groups.

The tours, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, are now running on a trial basis, but they may continue indefinitely, Curry said.

"We're thrilled to offer these tours," Curry said. "The lobby is absolutely gorgeous and we're glad to finally have it open to the public. It's something we've wanted to do for a long time."

Aside from those who work in the office building, the lobby has been technically closed to the public since World War II, but management began to more strictly enforce a "no tourists" policy after 9/11, Curry said.

Built in 1913, the great Gothic tower’s 100th birthday is being celebrated this year with a special exhibit dedicated to its striking architecture and influential past at Battery Park City’s Skyscraper Museum. That exhibit has extended its run through Sept. 8.

Known as the “Cathedral of Commerce,” the 792-foot-tall skyscraper at 233 Broadway was the crowning achievement for five-and-dime king Frank Woolworth, who paid for the entire project with his personal fortune, and was involved in every aspect of its construction.

Tourists in 1913 paid the hefty price of 50 cents — the equivalent of about $11 dollars today — for a view from what was then the highest perch in the world.