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The True History Behind the Harry Potter Spinoff's Ministry

Harry Potter fans are finally learning details about the American world of wizardry that will be the setting for J.K. Rowling#8217s Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly has the scoop on the film, the story of Newt Scamander, a #8220magizoologist#8221 and the author of a textbook about magical creatures that is referenced only one time in the entire Potter series. Though the film is being shot in Leavesden Studios in England, where the entire Potter series was filmed, we now know that the building that supposedly houses the Magical Congress of the United States of America is a real New York City landmark.

In fact, the new cover of EW features Eddie Redmayne as Scamander, in 1926, standing in a set dressed as the lobby of that building: New York#8217s Woolworth Building. The Magical CongressmdashMACUSA, the North American answer to the Ministry of Magicmdashis #8220hidden from Muggle view#8221 inside the skyscraper. #8220Wizards enter through an ultra-fast-spinning revolving door into a grand lobby,#8221 according to EW.

The real Woolworth building was completed in 1913 by Cass Gilbert, who was named President of the National Academy of Design in 1926. The 792-ft.-tall building was the tallest in the world when it was built. (It lost the title in 1930.) The building, known as the #8220Cathedral of Commerce,#8221 was named for the F.W. Woolworth Co., led by Frank Winfield Woolworth, who owned Woolworth stores around the U.S., Canada and England. His companyrsquos offices were housed on the 24th floor. His own office cost $35,000 and was a replica of Napoleonrsquos library.

The Woolworth earned attention for its Tudor Gothic portal, opening to a lobby reminiscent of a Romanesque cathedral that featured gilded tracery, mural-filled arches and a marble staircase that led to the Irving National Exchange Bank. The New York Times has called it ldquothe most sumptuous office lobby in New York.rdquo It also features other Gothic touches, like gargoyles, including one of Gilbert and one of Woolworth himself.

A view of the Woolworth building ain New York City on Jan. 21, 2015. Bloomberg/Getty Images

Critics initially objected the buildingrsquos Gothic deacutecor, but Gilbert stood up for his choices. ldquoNew schools of design come, with intervals of centuries between, by slow evolution, and can no more be created out of whole cloth that new social orders or systems of government,#8221 his obituary quoted him as saying. #8220The problem of this great shaft cried aloud for some form of Gothic treatment and the soaring sense of uplift achieved more than justifies it.rdquo Gilbert had also designed the George Washington Bridge and the U.S. Supreme Court building in Manhattan.

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