Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #12

Cass Gilbert (1859 – 1934)


Although Cass Gilbert famously designed many important buildings all over the country (including three state capitols and the US Supreme Court in Washington), he is best remembered for his beautiful Neo-Gothic and Beaux Arts contributions to the New York skyline. During the first three decades of the 20th century, Gilbert was chief architect of six NYC buildings, starting with the Alexander Hamilton Custom House (now the Museum of the American Indian), which made his name. He was also a pioneer of skyscrapers and designed the beautiful 23-story office building at 90 West Street. Heavily damaged on 9/11, 90 West Street has a new copper roof that has yet to turn green. His largest NYC building complex, the Brooklyn Army Terminal would become the nation’s largest military supply base in World War II. His later buildings, the New York Life Building and the US Courthouse for the Southern District of New York (now the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse) both sport dazzling gold pyramids at their tops. But Gilbert’s greatest masterpiece is the Woolworth Building. Dubbed “the Cathedral to Commerce” when it opened in 1913, this glorious masterpiece of Gothic-Revival revelry was the tallest building in the world for 17 years.

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