Not just any old tourist can waltz into the Woolworth Building.
Once the tallest building in all of New York City, the Woolworth has been recognised as a historical landmark since 1983.
Completed in 1913, the building was equipped to maintain its own electricity, heat, subway entrance, and barber shop.
With tenants such as Nikola Tesla and the Manhattan Project (the team that helped develop atomic bombs during World War II), the building has been coveted by historians and New Yorkers for decades.
After the building’s observation deck closed during World War II, the building was completely closed to tourists until 2013. Even now, access is somewhat limited.
Luckily, Untapped Cities has given a handful of tours inside the building, just to show what it’s like after all these years. We joined them for their September tour, which even included an exclusive look at the basemenet.
The entrance to the lobby of the Woolworth Building faces Broadway, in New York's trendy Tribeca neighbourhood.
F.W. Woolworth earned millions from his chain of five-and-dime stores between the years 1879 and 1913. He used his newfound wealth to pay for the building and all of its flourishes.
Woolworth aimed to create the best building ever constructed, and since he had the money to do so, he hired the famous architect Cass Gilbert.
Construction workers were nervous about working on the building because skyscrapers were still a relatively new concept at the time, and there was lots of pressure to execute perfectly.
The architect and construction team knew they wanted to make a gorgeous building, but it was difficult for them to choose a style for their skyscraper.
At the time, buildings tended to have odd shapes -- like the famous Flatiron Building, for example -- as there hadn't yet been a consensus about what a skyscraper should look like.
Stylistically, the Woolworth Building is very interesting. Though it was supposed to be built in the Gothic style, it's technically a steel frame with Gothic ornamentation.
To ensure that it was fire-safe, almost no wood was used in the building. The little bit that was used was fire-tested and encased in metal.
When you look up to the ceiling, you'll see various countries listed within the outer edge of the center tiled panel. The list honours the countries that were considered the world's economic powers when the building was completed in 1913, though it's not known what criteria was used.
There are four posters that depict old scenery of New York -- but, oddly, someone stole the labels off of all of them.
On that same level is an old safe that was used by a bank branch until 1931. These days, there's no real practical use for a giant safe, so it's been left empty.
When the bank branch went out of business, the state of New York disabled all the locks so that you couldn't accidentally lock yourself inside.
If you ever find yourself designing a building, it's probably best to avoid following this same method. The incredibly crammed setup often means that in order to fix anything, you have to take out 12 or so pipes that are in the way of the one you need to fix.
Originally, the builders thought the pipes would never be faulty, and for the first 75 years they were right.
While here, our tour guide reminded us that the building was designed to be self-contained. Building engineers made their own electricity, heat, and hot water, which required having six giant boilers.
The building had everything but their own water. Original construction plans had workers digging down around 1,500 feet to find water before they finally gave up. Still, digging for water proved that the bedrock in Manhattan went down at least 1,538 feet.
The rest of the building has mainly been used as offices, but the top 30 floors are currently being renovated to be condos.
Nikola Tesla was even an office tenant for a year before they threw him out for failing to pay his rent.
History comes with a price -- the penthouse will cost you $110 million. A one-bedroom apartment is priced at about $4.5 million.
Before central air conditioning, the only way not to melt in the summer heat was to be by a window. Woolworth and the architect decided that every office would be within 10 feet of a window. How do you do that? You make the hallway huge.
While the lobby of the building is spectacular, the building has plenty of faults resulting from the architects' elaborate efforts to make it the best in the world.
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