A rare peek inside iconic Woolworth Building, where penthouse costs a record-obliterating billion dimes

Jennifer Karmon
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View from the observation deck. Click any photo for a slideshow.
View from the observation deck. Click any photo for a slideshow.
F.W. Woolworth counts his dimes in a lobby corbel.
F.W. Woolworth counts his dimes in a lobby corbel.

For the billionaire looking for the latest trophy/investment, a verrrrry interesting proposition has just popped up.

The Woolworth Building cupola. A nine-story penthouse there.

That's a home "second only to placing penthouses atop the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building," the New York Times said a couple of years ago, when the plan was still nascent.

Now Bloomberg reports that the once-in-a-lifetime offer is very real, with a stratospheric price tag to match: $110 million. No one has ever dared ask that much for a downtown Manhattan condo before. A sale wouldn't just break records, it would obliterate them, according to Curbed New York. At half the price, it'd beat the current record holder by several million dollars.

Even in a town studded with glorious architecture, the Woolworth Building stands out -- as it was meant to. F.W. Woolworth, father of the five-and-dime store, wanted the building to be a billboard for his success. Contemporaries called it the Cathedral of Commerce, and indeed, it's quite a monument to the power of nickels and dimes. (And in case you're counting: $110 million is 1.1 billion dimes, or 2.2 billion nickels.)

Yet the Woolworth doesn't lack for lighthearted charm. Grotesque caricatures of Woolworth, architect Cass Gilbert, the structural engineer, rental agents and other people associated with the building look down on tenants and passersby.

For years, the Woolworth Building has been open to the public only sporadically, so we've assembled a slideshow to give you an armchair look. Unfortunately, modern interior photos are hard to come by -- except for the gorgeous lobby, which you'll see in the gallery -- but we dug up archival photos of Mr. Woolworth's posh 14th-floor office; the little-known basement pool and Turkish bath; the German restaurant called Miller's Postkeller that the building housed a century ago; a barbershop; and more.

It may be your only chance to see so much of the building -- unless you have $110 million to burn. Click here to launch the gallery.

[Update, Friday evening PT: This just in! We've obtained a CBS video that contains a tour of the penthouse area. See below, starting about 17 seconds in.]

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