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Visualizing Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building

About the Project

Recently purchased for the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, the Reiman Collection contains more than 150 previously-unknown architectural drawings of the Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert's office, including elevations, floorplans, mechanical drawings and details. These working drawings complement those in other public collections, notably at the New-York Historical Society and the Library of Congress.

When it opened in 1913, the 60-story (792-foot) Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan offered the latest technological innovations in the tallest building in the world. Gilbert modeled his design on medieval guild halls and London's Houses of Parliament creating a headquarters for F.W. Woolworth Company's chain of 5-and-10-cent stores. Gilbert included the most up-to-date technologies: direct elevator access to two subway lines, wind bracing, electrical power generation, heating, and cooling. The Woolworth Building changed New York's skyline and fascinated the general public and modern artists-like John Marin-who saw it as the dynamism of contemporary urban life embodied.

Ellen Dement

About the Fellow

Ellen Dement is a junior double majoring in American History and History of Art with a minor in American Studies. In the past, she has worked as a research assistant on a forthcoming book on early modernist female architects, an intern with a historic preservation consulting firm, and an office assistant with the Vanderbilt History Department. Ellen is also on the executive committee of the Vanderbilt History of Art Society, historian for her sorority, and a member of Historic Nashville, Inc.'s Easement Program Committee. She hopes to pursue a career in architectural history and historic preservation. Ellen worked with the library’s Mary Anne Caton and Dr. Kevin Murphy, the chair of the History of Art Department, to create an online resource for a collection of Cass Gilbert’s drawings of the Woolworth Building.

Fellowship: Visualizing Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building