Business to breathe new life into Watertown’s historic Woolworth Building

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:48 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Downtown Watertown’s empty, but historic Woolworth Building is getting a new tenant: BCA Architects & Engineers.

Two signs sit outside BCA Architects on Mullin Street in Watertown. One says, “For sale,” and the other, “We’re joining the movement downtown.”

“We really appreciate all the effort that’s going into downtown Watertown, and we just really want to be a part of it,” said

Travis Overton, leader of architecture & engineering.

Driving down Arsenal Street, the vacancy at the Woolworth Building has been apparent. Nearly 11,000-square-feet of commercial space has sat empty for years.

“That space with the historical significance of that building, and that corner being on the map, downtown Watertown, just felt good to us,” said Overton.

Toni Engleman of the Jefferson County Historical Society says the Woolworth Building started out as a hotel. First it was the “White House Hotel,” then the “American Hotel.”

“In 1813 President Martin Van Buren held a reception in that building,” said Engleman.

Eventually in 1916, Frank W. Woolworth opened a department store. Yes, that Woolworth of Woolworth’s Department Store, who made Woolworth’s a household name.

He tore down what was there, building the current 6-story structure which has now stood for 100 years.

“It was a mercantile. They started a five and dime there, which was a new concept at the time,” said Engleman.

In 2013, work began as out of town developers took on a $15 million renovation project, transforming the building into apartments and commercial space.

However, nothing has ever filled the corner storefront since F.W. Woolworth left in 1971.

“It’s such a beautiful place and its sat empty for so long. I’m just happy to see something happening with it,” said Engleman.

BCA Architects will take up all of the window space and what used to be Eye Crave.

“We’re really excited about being able to create a modern, vibrant space right there on the square with all that glass to kind of show off our work and creative ability,” said Overton.

BCA Architects is in the process of designing the space and will soon look for a company to make those designs come to life. If all goes well, Overton says all of BCA’s employees, around 60 of them, will be relocated by April 2022.

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