The Empire State Building stood as the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years, from its completion in early 1931 until the topping out of the World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970.
Here are the facts you ought to know:
- designed by William F. Lamb from the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon
- excavation of the site began on January 22, 1930
- construction on the building itself started symbolically on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day
- completed in just under 15 months
- architectual height: 1,250 ft (381.0 m)
- roof height: 1,250 ft (381.0 m)
- tip height: 1,454 ft (443.2 m)
- floors: 103
- floor area: 2,248,355 sq ft (208,879 m2)
- elevators: 73
It was designed in the distinctive Art Deco style and named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The project involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, along with hundreds of Mohawk iron workers, many from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. According to official accounts, five workers died during the construction.
In 1964, floodlights were added to illuminate the top of the building at night, in colors chosen to match seasonal and other events. In 2012, the floodlights were replaced with LED fixtures, increasing the available colors from nine to over 16 million
Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986
It has one of the most popular outdoor observatories in the world, having been visited by over 110 million people. The 86th-floor observation deck offers impressive 360-degree views of the city. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd floor that is open to the public.
New York City is the largest media market in the United States. Since the September 11 attacks, nearly all of the city’s commercial broadcast stations (both television and FM radio) have transmitted from the top of the Empire State Building, although a few FM stations are located at the nearby Condé Nast Building. Most New York City AM stations broadcast from sites across the Hudson River in New Jersey or from other surrounding areas.
The site of the Empire State Building was first developed as the John Thompson Farm in the late 18th century. At the time, a stream ran across the site, emptying into Sunfish Pond, located a block away. Beginning in the late 19th century, the block was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York
The limestone for the Empire State Building came from the Empire Mill in Sanders, Indiana which is an unincorporated town adjacent to Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington, Bedford and Oolitic area are known as the limestone capital of the world. It is a point of local pride that the stone for the Empire State building came from there
The building’s opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space was initially unrented, which led New Yorkers to refer to the building as the “Empty State Building”. The building would not become profitable until 20 years later, in 1950.
The distinctive Art Deco spire was originally designed to be a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles (airships). The 103rd floor was originally a landing platform with an elevator traveling between the 86th and 102nd floors, which was supposed to transport passengers after they checked in at the observation deck on the 86th floor. The idea proved to be impractical and dangerous after a few attempts with airships, due to the powerful updrafts caused by the size of the building itself.
At 9:40 am on Saturday, July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted in thick fog by Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr., crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors, where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located.
Over the years, more than thirty people have attempted suicide by jumping from various floors of the building
On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck and landed on a limousine parked at the curb. Photography student Robert Wiles took a photo of McHale’s oddly intact corpse a few minutes after her death. The police found a suicide note among possessions she left on the observation deck: “He is much better off without me … I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody”. The photo ran in the May 12, 1947 edition of Life magazine, and is often referred to as “The Most Beautiful Suicide”. It was later used by visual artist Andy Warhol in one of his prints entitled Suicide (Fallen Body).
On February 24, 1997, a gunman shot seven people on the observation deck, killing one, then fatally wounded himself
Following the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, the Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York (although it was no longer the tallest in the US or the world), until One World Trade Center reached a greater height on April 30, 2012.
Perhaps the most famous popular culture representation of the building is in the 1933 film King Kong, in which the title character, a giant ape, climbs to the top to escape his captors but falls to his death after being attacked by airplanes.
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