Friday, February 27, 2009

PODCAST: Freedomland U.S.A.

What is Freedomland U.S.A.? An unusual theme park in the Bronx, only in existence for less than five years, Freedomland has become the object of fascination for New York nostalgia lovers everywhere.

Created by an outcast of Walt Disney's inner circle, Freedomland practically defines 60s kitsch, with dozens of rides and amusements related to saccharine views of American history. Along the way, we'll take a visit to the Blast-Off Bunker, Casa Loca, and, yes, Borden's Barn Boudoir!

Listen to it for FREE on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or click this link to listen to the show or download it directly from our satellite site.

NOTE: There's nothing wrong with your speakers! I include a short clip in this podcast of an original Freedomland radio advertisement from 1960. The sound quality of the clip is extremely bad, however I thought it was important to include as it sets the tone for what Freedomland was all about (or, rather, wanted to be about).

The map through Freedomland mimicked the outline of the United States. (Well, sorta.) Visitors entered through Washington D.C. and meandered through candy-coated interpretations of various national regions, ending up in the future (located in the American South).

San Francisco in the Bronx, a Disney-like village served by the Santa Fe Railroad (pic courtesy Stuff From The Park)

Another view of the Santa Fe (courtesty Gorillas Dont Blog)

Looking out over the 'United States'

A rather blurry image -- perhaps that's best -- of Borden's Barn Boudoir, featuring the private rooms of one Elsie the Cow (Pic courtesty Benros, who has a great page on Freedomland.)

The picture below is NOT from Freedomland, but it gives you an idea of what Elsie's bedroom might have looked like. Apparently, Bordens loved nothing more than putting their bovine mascot in this type of setting; she also had a bedroom at the World's Fair of 1964-65 in Flushing Meadows, most likely transported from the failing Freedomland attraction.

Why people are so entertained by this, I'll never understand. But if fire was your game, Freedomland let you enjoy the re-burning of Chicago every day. And sometimes, the firemen actors would grab volunteers to help put out the blaze! (Pic courtesy God Bless Americana)

Freedomland was perpetually in debt and often a great inconvenience with long lines and unfinished rides. This family, visiting in July 1960, doesn't seem to mind. (Flickr)

A promotional poster for Freedomland's futuristic Satellite City, which wasn't opened for a few days after the park's opening, by which time crowds had died off considerably. (Pic courtesy Perky Pickle, who has other great poster images from the park's heyday.)

This frightening little attraction was the Blast-Off Bunker, because there's nothing more fun than hanging out in a dark bunker on a nice summer's day. In fact, inside you could enjoy the 'tense excitement' of a Cape Canaveral control room.

You could experience the joys of riding a 'modern automobile' in Freedomland's knockoff future land. A sad way of marketing a go-cart, but at least this picture is pretty great. (Courtesy Flickr)

Freedomland was more than happy to abandon its themes if it meant more paying customers. Here are two stunt men from a 'Colossus' spectacular in 1961. (Benros)

Some detailing from a Freedomland souvenir fan, featuring a map of the park on one side, and beer advertisement on the other. This was, after all, a 'family entertainment center.' (Click it for a closer look.)

Freedomland was replaced by another oddity -- the massive Co-op City, housing over 50,000 residents, and often referred to as a 'city within a city'. Theoretically, one never need leave Co-op City.

After the closing of Freedomland, some rides were rescued by other amusement parks, including the Tornado Adventure, seen here at Lake George, NY. It was eventually closed for good in 2003. If you really want to experience the delights of a tornado, you'll have to go to the midwest! (Courtesy Laff In The Dark)

I tried to include a lot of link above to other great websites with more information on Freedomland. The most comprehensive tribute can be found on Rob Friedman's old site on the park, with dozens of pictures, sounds and personal stories.

Any of you remember visiting this place? Leave a comment!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

'Starlight' express: fun and death in a lost Bronx park

It's raining men at Starlight Park in the Bronx, circa 1921 (photo cleaned up and courtesy of Shorpy)

For residents of the west Bronx, getting to Coney Island might have been quite a chore in 1918. So they decided to bring Coney Island to them.

I believe Starlight Park can be called the Bronx's first amusement park. But it wasn't the last. (More on that tomorrow.) Located on the Bronx River near the borough's famous zoo, in the neighborhood of West Farms, it became a summer respite for residents looking for a cool swim or merely to ogle hot bodies in their revealing bathing suits (bare legs and arms!).

Similar to Flushing Meadows, Queens -- which became a public park after its creation for the 1939 World's Fair -- Starlight Park also started off as a campus for a international exhibition, albeit far smaller. No one much talks about the Bronx International Exposition of Science, Arts and Industries, which opened here at 177th Street in the Bronx on June 30, 1918. The grounds, called Exposition Park, were not quite finished for the opening of the fair, which was held to "attract foreign trade to this country after the war."

After the fair closed in November 1918, the park became the public playground Starlight Park. Just from reading about Starlight's many amusements, it sounds like a hyper, dizzying place. Most prominent was an enormous swimming pool with faux rock features, a nearby roller coaster, your typical Coney Island-esque games and rides, boat rides, and outdoor performances by opera singers and greased up wrestlers (presumably, not all at once).

One of the park's more popular attractions was something left over from the Expo: a small submarine called the Holland, the very first commissioned by the United States Navy. (The Holland is pictured below in its home in Philadelphia, just a couple years before being transported to the Bronx.)

Later, the park's centerpiece was a giant stadium, built in 1928, called the Coliseum which held up to 15,000 people. They were often there to cheer on New York's premier soccer team, the New York Giants, who made Starlight their home from 1923 to 1930.

In these heady days before safety precautions, the Starlight was also the scene of a tragic roller coaster fatality. "Somebody in a skylarking mood stood up in a seat on a roller-coaster train ... and fell out as the train struck a curve on the fifty-foot level," reports the New York Times in May 1922. "The other passengers were thrown completely out of the two-train car."

(My favorite line of the story: "Inquiry by the police at an address noted on a card in [the victim's] pocket failed, however, to disclose any one who knew such a person.")

By the 1930s, most of the rides had closed, but the pool was still a popular draw. The park became a magnet for the area's working class families, who enjoyed sunbathing, picnicking and, if they stayed after dark, moonlight dancing to live big band music. One of the very first Bronx radio station WKBQ also made Starlight its broadcasting home in 1931.

Sadly, Starlight met with a rather ignoble fate. The park was slowly demolished over the year and by 1940 it was permanently closed, transformed into a city "truck facility." A fire in the late 1940s destroyed any remaining vestages of the park, and its memory was completely wiped away by expanses of the Cross Bronx Expressway.

You can still go to a Starlight Park in the Bronx however. Or rather, you will be able to. The current Starlight Park, nearby the original location, is closed for renovations. Look here for more information on what's going on there and when it's opening. But for now, leave your bathing suits at home.

And click here to see the belle of Starlight Park.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Name that Neighborhood: what exactly is a Throgs Neck?

Some New York neighborhoods are simply named for their location on a map (East Village, Midtown). Others are given prefabricated designations (SoHo, DUMBO). But a few retain names that link them intimately with their pasts. Other entries in this series can be found here.

What is a Throgs Neck? And why isn't it a Throggs Neck?

Of course that's the name of a pleasant peninsular neighborhood in the Bronx. Many people with cars are probably as familiar with the Throgs Neck Bridge, a 1,800-foot Robert Moses/Othmar Ammann production which connects the Bronx to Queens. But where did that unusual name come from? Is a throg some kind of creature native to New England?

The "Neck" part is easy. The slender Throg's Neck peninsula dangles where the East Rivers finally empties into the Long Island Sound. The neighborhood expands up the peninsula and out through the mainland.

For the throg, you'll have to go back to the Dutch occupation of the region to find the answer. There was of course a contentious relationship between the Dutch and the British regarding territorial boundaries in the New World, a dispute that resulted in the eventual takeover of all Dutch lands in 1664. However, over 20 years earlier, the leader of the New Amsterdam colony, William Keift, seemed to take a more charitable view towards individual English families, especially those fleeing British rule due to religious intolerance.

The most famous of these satellite English settlements on alleged Dutch soil was that of Anne Hutchinson, a charismatic and determined leader who fled Massachusetts and Rhode Island out of religious persecution by the Puritans. Perhaps simmering with delight at Englishmen fleeing their own kind, Keift allowed Hutchinson and her flock to settle in the areas that are now called Pelham and Eastchester today. The Hutchinson River, which runs through these areas, reminds us of the impact of this ballsy lady.

Just a year earlier (1642) however, Keift allowed another persecuted religious leader to settle just downstream. The Rev. John Throggmorton (or Throgmorton or Throckmorton, take your pick, depending on which ancient document you prefer) and 35 others families were allowed to settle on this peninsula, valuable real estate if your living required contact with water, but dangerous because of the potential of being bottled in by an enemy.

The land had previously been known as Vredeland by the Dutch (or 'land of peace') owing to the lush natural beauty of the region. They dropped the old peaceful name and changed it to Throggmorton’s Neck.

Keift, who frequently provoked Indian anger, may have thought that additional European settlements could be used as a buffer against Lenape attacks to New Amsterdam, just 24 miles south. Eventually the Indians did attack; in one horrifying massacre on September 20, 1643, tribes exterminated the Hutchinson settlement, then traveled down to do the same to the Throggmortons. (Few in the future Bronx neighborhood escape the slaughter, including the borough's namesake Jonas Bronck.)

Many families on Throggmorton’s Neck were brutally massacred, although a passing boat managed to rescue a few distraught family members. Strangely enough, Throggmorton himself was away that day. He never returned the area which would forever keep his name.

Within 150 years, the name would be shortened to Throgg's Neck. Or, better yet, according to George Washington himself, "Frog's Neck."

You may have noticed that John's last name has two g's in it, while most common spellings have only one. Legend has it that this is another thing you can blame on Robert Moses. Not exactly known for reaching out to communities for their thoughts and opinions, Moses decided to drop a 'g' in 1955 when the bridge started construction, believing it would fit on more traffic signs without an additional and needless letter. Who cares if it was in use that way for over 300 years!

Purists prefer Throggs Neck. It is Throggs Neck. Either way, it's an unforgettable name, with an unforgettable story.

BELOW: A bridge to lesser consonants -- construction workers greet drivers at the grand opening of the Throgs Neck Bridge, opened in 1961

Monday, February 23, 2009

Behold the Bronx Bookmobile!

How amazing it would have been to see this odd vehicle pull up into your town. To service those areas of the Bronx without permanent libraries, the Bronx Traveling Library took to the roads. The first picture above is from 1936, the one below from 1928.

Click pictures for a more detailed view. Pics courtesy, naturally, the New York Public Library

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Golden Swan: a 'hell hole' for Village inspiration

ABOVE: Charles Demuth's lively 'At the Golden Swan'

To get you in the mood for the weekend, every other Friday we'll be celebrating 'FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER', featuring an old New York nightlife haunt, from the dance halls of 19th Century Bowery, to the massive warehouse spaces of the mid-90s. Past entries can be found HERE.

The nightclubs and taverns of yore usually never leave a mark. Never appreciated in their latter days and rarely ever landmarked, historic nightclubs and cubbyholes are demolished, accessories parceled off, their contributions living on only in phtographs and memories of bad hangovers.

The remnants of the Golden Swan, however, is quite easy to find. Head down Sixth Avenue to Fourth Street, next door to the Washington Square Diner and across the street from the basketball courts, and you'll find a prim little garden park named appropriately Golden Swan Garden. Here sat one of Greenwich Village's seediest but most influential hangouts, the inspiration for artists, thinkers and playwrights.

As with any place flocked by creative types, the Golden Swan CafĂ© went by different nicknames, most notably the Hell Hole, though there are few signs anything truly devilish happened here.  Like many 19th century watering holes, it was opened by an Irish prize-fighter, Thomas Wallace, who lived upstairs in the three-story building with his brother George and several other boarders.

You wouldn't need directions to locate the Golden Swan.  A gold-painted swan hung over the doorway, the bar's wide glass windows overlooking the Sixth Avenue elevated train.  (Here's a great picture of it.)  It doesn't appear to be that different from any number of taverns in the West Village today.

It was who chose to haunt the Golden Swan in the first quarter of the 20th century that made it legendary.  The Village was already a magnet of bohemiann life by the turn of the century.  Photographers, painters, writers and gadabouts slowly began frequenting the Golden Swan's backroom, swilling its cheap liquor.

But none were more renown -- and none made the bar more famous -- than Eugene O'Neill (pictured right), a patron of the Golden Swan (or 'Hell Hole', as he preferred it) during his most creative period, from the mid 1910s on.  When he wasn't in Cape Cod with the Provincetown Players -- or in a small theater on MacDougal street, working on a new show -- he was here at the 'HH', regaling drinkers with poetry, enjoying the company of writer friends (like activist Dorothy Day) or delighting in the antics of the tavern's thuggish bartenders, such as Lefty Louie.

From one of O'Neill's letters to his wife (1919):  "Last night I made a voyage to the Hell Hole to see how it had survived the dry spell. [Prohibition] There was no whiskey in the house....and it had to be stolen by some of the gang out of a storehouse, and sold to Tom Wallace.  All hands were drinking sherry and I joined this comparatively harmless and cheap debauch right willingly."

ABOVE: John Sloan's take on the 'Hell Hole', O'Neill in the upper right

The place was every bit as rough and raunchy as any bar on the Bowery. Women were only allowed to use a side entrance, and many of those were, in Eugene's words "'hard' ladies of the oldest profession." Eugene occasionally slept upstairs in Wallace's apartment.

O'Neill eventually paid tribute to the Swan by putting it in one of his greatest works, The Iceman Cometh, even including a tavern owner (Harry Hope) closely modeled after Wallace.

The Golden Swan inspired several artists including John Sloan, who worked just across the street, and captured the joys of the tavern in his work "The Hell Hole," (pictured above) featuring depictions of both O'Neill and Day.  Charles Demuth was similarly inspired in his 1919 painting "At the Golden Swan,"

Activist Mary Vorse attributes the bar with otherworldly qualities, "something at once alive and deadly sinister. It was as if the combined soul of New York flowed underground and this was one of its vents."

The party lasted only a few years after those statements.  As with many structures along Sixth Avenue, the Golden Swan was torn down during construction of the subway right below it.  At least with the Golden Swan Garden, constructed in 2000, you can at least stand in the spot where so many great minds once let loose with the low lifes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Know Your Mayors: Jacob Radcliff and John Ferguson

ABOVE: Jacob Radcliff, politically wishy-washy, multi-term mayor

Our modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City. Other entrants in our mayoral survey can be found here.

Politics is a messy, incomprehensible thing sometimes. Keep Blagojevich, Senate appointments, and all other recent government scandals in mind as you traipse through the thickets of political absurdity below.

The year 1815 marks the real beginning of New York City's Tammany Hall era.

The legendary Democratic political machine had of course been around long before, founded in 1789 as a social club that swiftly developed political interests. (Most notably, the presidential candidacy of Aaron Burr in 1800.) And it wouldn't reach full strength until the election of the outrageous Fernando Wood in 1854.

But 1815 was a most pivotal year (a 'tipping point' if you like), the moment Tammany first experienced its most bittersweet tastes of omnipotence and backlash, in the brief toppling of the city's most charismatic leader, DeWitt Clinton. And that's where Jacob Radcliff and John Ferguson come in. They are by no means exceptional leaders; they were Tammany men at the right time, in an era before absolute corruption pervaded the society's every activity.

In New York politics circa 1810, the mayor was not an elected post, but rather chosen by a state-run Council of Appointments, one year at a time. The ambitious and well connected Clinton (his uncle George once being governor) had already been New York mayor for several years, from 1803-1810, excepting a single year (between 1807-1808) when he was replaced by Revolutionary War hero Marinus Willett. You can hear all about it in our DeWitt Clinton podcast from last year.

New York politics is so entangled with overlap in the 1810s that it's virtually impossible to explain in a short article. For instance, Clinton, who was a lifelong Democratic-Republican** (the precursor to today's Democratic party), eventually became an enemy to most of New York's disenfranchised faction of that party. And he even ran for president -- while mayor -- as a Federalist! Clinton, pictured above, with a headache trying to keep it all straight.

On top of the usual partisan stew of a swiftly growing city, the war of 1812 left party affiliations malleable, with Federalists opposing action (even suggesting secession from the United States!) and staunch Democratic-Republicans generally favoring the conflict. Thus, as you can imagine, it would be difficult to remain balanced in such unstable political waters, even for somebody as saavy and popular a career politician as Clinton.

In this wily tug-of-war between the Federalists and Tammany candidates, Clinton was again unceremoniously ousted in 1810 and replaced with Jacob Radcliff, an associate of Alexander Hamilton and a former justice of the New York Supreme Court whose lasting claim of fame would be as a founding father of the city of Jersey City, New Jersey.

The winds shifted again the next year, and Clinton was placed back in the mayor's seat in 1811. (Following this so far?)

As war broke out with England in 1812, all political parties and affiliations seemed to disintegrate entirely. As James Renwick says in his biography of Clinton, "On this occasion the old party lines were completely obliterated; no trace of affection for Great Britain remained in any mind, and the very name of federalist only exists to be used as a mode of discrediting a political adversary in the minds of the ignorant."

As a result, many Federalists jumped ship to join the surging Tammany Democrats. Among their number was formery mayor Jacob Radcliff, warmly greeted by Tammany head 'grand sachem' John Ferguson.

ABOVE: John Ferguson, mayor for approximately four months

A perfect storm brewed in 1815 when Tammany for the first time controlled the state senate and enjoyed great gains in local elections. For the first time, Tammany could really do what it wanted. And what it wanted was to get rid of that old stalwart Clinton. Once and for all.

And who better to replace him than the head of Tammany himself, John Ferguson? However, whether by intent or sudden whim, Ferguson stepped down after only three months in office to take on the far-more lucrative job of officer of the Port of New York custom house, according to one source a major center "of federal revenue, political patronage and potential graft."

And so he was replaced with....Jacob Radcliff again, now a mayoral appointee representing an entirely different political party from the first time he had the job!

Clinton had the last laugh in all of this. Most incredibly, public support for Clinton was so high that, for political sake alone, "Tammany .... took the utmost pains to represent the removal as only a political exigency" and issued a 'vote of thanks' to the former mayor via the Common Council (equivalent of today's City Council). Clinton became governor in 1817 and handily swept away his opponents.

Meanwhile, Radcliff was caught up in a scandal when, halfway into his term, he was caught distributing a list of potential Tammany replacements for all still-remaining Federalist council members, a politically insensitive move which galvanized the Council and ensured that 1816 would be Radcliff's last year ever as mayor.

**To make it all the more confusing while doing research, Democratic-Republicans are referred to as Democrats in some later histories, Republicans in others!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Special delivery: Pretty postcards at the Met Museum

Tucked up on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard" gives those colorful rectangular tourist tools their due. Evans, known mostly for his defining photography of the Great Depression, was an avid postcard collector, and the Met fills its walls with his collection. You'll be straining your eyes looking for your favorite American destinations, rendered in idealized, colorful hues and arranged in dizzying rows.

New York City of course plays a part, with eye-popping retro glances of the Flatiron Building, Columbus Circle, Chelsea Piers and many other famous city locales.

But the joy of this show is in finding places far off the beaten path, mindnumbing rows and rows of postcards from identical locations you've never heard of. The exhibit is accompanied by a few of Evans' own prints that seem to take cues from his particular passion.

The show runs until May 25, 2009 in the Howard Gilman Gallery on the second floor of the Met. More info on their website.

ABOVE Wish you were here: a photomechical view of Manhattan from the 1910s

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Singer Building sewn up

More views of the Singer Building, the tallest New York building in 1908 and my favorite pre-Woolworth skyscraper mentioned on this week's podcast:

The Singer Building was replaced on the New York skyline with the grim, black monolith known as One Liberty Plaza.

Monday, February 16, 2009

From Washington To Lincoln, via the streets of New York

It takes lots of creativity -- and a really full Metrocard -- but you can conceivably visit places and important artifacts representing or associated with most of the presidents between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in your personal celebration of Presidents Day. Just check the following places off your list (and if you have any further suggestions, please leave a comment!):

George Washington Bridge/Washington Square/Washington Heights/statue at Federal Hall/equestrian statue at Union Square etc. etc.

John Adams Playground
Queens, 133 Ave, 101 to 103 Sts

Thomas Jefferson Park
Brooklyn, 1 Avenue to FDR Drive, East 111 to 114 streets

(James) Madison Square Park
Manhattan, 23rd Street and Broadway

James Monroe High School
Bronx, 1300 Boynton Ave
he was also buried here for 27 years at the New York City Marble Cemetery in the East Village.

John Quincy Adams photograph (the first photo ever taken of an American president)
Manhattan, Metropolitan Museum of Art

(Andrew) Jackson Square Park
Manhattan, Greenwich Ave and Eighth Avenue
(also: Old Hickory Park -- taking Jackson's famous nickname) -- in Queens, at Vernon and Jackson)

Martin Van Buren Playground
Bronx, Crotana Park

William Henry Harrison -- sorry he was only president for one month, but his father Benjamin Harrison gives Harrison Avenue in Brooklyn its name

John Tyler School
Staten Island, 58 Lawrence Ave

James Polk's brigadier-general William Jenkins Worth is buried underneath the Worth Memorial, at the traffic island in front of the Flatiron Building.

Zachary Taylor's ancestor Issac Allerton has the Allerton Ballfields named after him in the Bronx. (There's also a Zachary Taylor Street upstate in Stony Point, NY!)

The Millard Fillmore Tavern in Flushing Queens (16602 65th Ave)

Franklin Pierce's Secretary of State William Learned Marcy has an avenue and Brooklyn park named after him

James Buchanan
Okay, I got nothing here. (Even the New York parks department throws up their hands.) However, you will delight in reading this New York Times editorial from 1863 reacting to the mis-reported death of Buchanan's vice president John Breckinridge: "If it be true, as is now positively declared, that a loyal bullet has sent this traitor to eternity, every loyal heart will feel satisfaction and will not scruple to express it."

Lincoln Center/Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza/Abe's statue in Union Square/etc. etc.

Friday, February 13, 2009

PODCAST: The Woolworth Building

When this classic photo was taken in 1928, the Woolworth Building was still the tallest in New York

F.W. Woolworth was the self-made king of retail's newfangled 'five and dime' store and his pockets were overflowing with cash. Meanwhile, in New York, the contest to build the tallest building was well underway. The two combine to create one of Manhattan's most handsome buildings, cutting a Gothic profile designed by America's hottest architect of the early century. So what exactly does it all have to do with sneakers and gym clothes?

Listen to it for FREE on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or click this link to listen to the show or download it directly from our satellite site.

Frank Winfield Woolworth was an upstate New York who worked in general stores in his youth before branching out into his own unique 'five and dime' retailers -- places where customers could interact with the merchandise directly, without a store clerk.

Frank's stores changed the way people shopped for everyday items. This fancy Woolworth location even had a lofty address -- 5th Avenue and 39th Street (courtesy Corbis)

The tallest structure in New York for many years was the spire of the Trinity Church, on Broadway, at the foot of Wall Street. In 1890, its height was finally topped with the completion of the World Building by the influential publisher of the New York World newspaper, Joseph Pulitzer.

In 1894, Pulitzer lost the tallest building title with the completion of the Manhattan Life Building, a clever structure with two sides that top out with an iron bridge and a towering lantern at 348 ft. It was across the street from Trinity Church (today occupied by the domineering Bank of New York Building).

The Park Row Building came next, completed in 1899. It still stands today, with the Woolworth looking down on it. J&R Music World still occupies many of its floors today.

Perhaps the strangest building to become New York's tallest was the Singer Building, built in 1908 at a then-staggering 612 feet. It has the very dubious distinction of being the tallest building in history ever to be purposefully demolished (in 1968, making way for the frustratingly bleak One Liberty Plaza).

In order for Frank to build New York's tallest structure, he need to beat the Metropolitan Life Tower, completed in 1909, still a beauty next to Madison Square Park.

The Woolworth, nearly complete in this picture from 1913 (courtesy the Life archives)

View from the Hudson, mid 1910s: three tallest buildings are the Woolworth Building, the Singer Building and the Bankers Trust Building (built in 1912) Pic courtesy Library of Congress

From this old postcard and photograph below, you can see the Woolworth's proximity to City Hall and the old Post Office (later demolished to expand City Hall Park)

It's height was enough of a marvel that this rather odd comparison was made in the book Our Wonder World Vol. IV, Geo. L. Shuman & Co., 1914 (Courtesy Flickr)

A view from the other side of the Woolworth, taken in 1920, reveals two other buildings that were once considered 'the tallest building in New York': the domed World Building to the left, the Park Row Building to the right.

A remarkable and rather dreamlike nighttime shot of Manhattan in 1919, with the Woolworth building gleaming like a candle

An owl 'gargoyle', one of many playful details Cass Gilbert incorporated into the building's massive terra cotta face.

Inside the vaulted, gold-drenched lobby (courtesy Flickr)

To promote the most recent Batman film The Dark Knight, the Bat Signal was projected onto the Woolworth Building.