Empire State Building, New York

Empire State building is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State. It stood as the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years, from its completion in early 1931 until the topping out of the original World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970.


It is generally thought of as an American cultural icon. It is designed in the distinctive Art Deco style and has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.


The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.


The limestone for the Empire State Building came from the Empire Mill in Sanders, Indiana which is an unincorporated town adjacent to Bloomington, Indiana. The construction was part of an intense competition in New York for the title of “world’s tallest building”. Two other projects fighting for the title, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, were still under construction when work began on the Empire State Building.


Each held the title for less than a year, as the Empire State Building surpassed them upon its completion, just 410 days after construction commenced. Instead of taking 18 months as anticipated, the construction took just under fifteen.


The building was officially opened on May 1, 1931 in dramatic fashion, when United States President Herbert Hoover turned on the building’s lights with the push of a button from Washington, D.C.


When the Empire State Building opened on May 1, 1931, it was the tallest building in the world – standing at 1,250 feet tall. The idea for the Empire State Building is said to have been born of a competition between Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation and John Jakob Raskob of General Motors, to see who could erect the taller building.


Chrysler had already begun work on the famous Chrysler Building, the gleaming 1,046-foot skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Not to be bested, Raskob assembled a group of well-known investors, including former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith.


The group chose the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates to design the building. The Art-Deco plans, said to have been based in large part on the look of a pencil, were also builder-friendly: The entire building went up in just over a year, under budget (at $40 million) and well ahead of schedule.


It took 7 million man hours to complete the 365,000 ton structure. The framework rose at a rate of 4 ½ stories per week. During the course of construction, 3,400 workers practicing sixty trades were involved. It lost the title of tallest man-made structure in 1953 when the Griffin Television Tower in Oklahoma was completed.

The Empire State Building

An image of the Empire State Building in New York

The structure underwent the most violent test of its design on Saturday, July 28, 1945 when a B-25 Mitchell bomber, lost in fog, struck the building between the 78th and 80th floor. The ten-ton aircraft made a tear in the structure 18-feet wide, killing fourteen people.


One of the plane’s engines blew a hole straight through the building, while the other engine and part of the landing gear dropped down an elevator shaft. The impact also started a fire. During the fire, rescuers tried to evacuate an injured woman by using an elevator not knowing the cables had been damaged. The cables broke and the elevator plummeted 75 floors.


It regained the title of the tallest building in New York City, however, with the tragic destruction of the World Trade Center by terrorist attack in 2001.


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