History and Notable Facts about the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building

The iconic Empire State Building is situated in Manhattan, New York City.

A Brief History of the Empire State Building

Right after its completion in 1931, the Empire State building broke height records. Standing with a staggering height of 1250 ft, it immediately became the tallest building in the world. It was the first building to surpass the famous Chrysler Building by 200 ft.

New York City is well-known for its admiration for beauty and splendor. The determination to climb unimaginable heights fueled New Yorkers to put up the monumental structure.

Purposefully designed to break records, it has been reported that about 15 plans went into the paper before the final design was implemented.

The Origin of the Building’s Name

Name of the building is derived from the nickname of the U.S. state of New York- the Empire StateNew Yorkers as far back as the 19th century began calling using the Empire State to refer to their state. In addition to the Empire State Building, several New York buildings, places and events have been named using the nickname of the state. Examples are the Empire State Express; the Empire State Plaza; the Empire State Games; and the SUNY Empire State College.  Although the origin of New York State’s nickname is shrouded in mild mystery, many people believe that the nickname, Empire State, symbolizes massive affluence or wealth. Let’s now turn our attention straight to the voluminous nature of this skyscraper.

The building packs into itself, a total of 102 floors.  One thing that beats the imagination of many people was the haste at which the workers did the construction job. On average, 4.5 floors were built each week. Counting from the first day of contract signing, it took about 20 months for the building to be fully erected.

There are observatories at the 86th and the 102nd floors.  Millions of people yearly troop into the Art Deco building. The observatory affords visitors a 360-degree view of the city. About 73 elevators lift people up and down the entire building.

Interesting Facts about the Empire State Building

The following are 12 interesting facts about the Empire State Building:

  • At some point in time, it  was once the tallest building in the world

The Empire State Building topped the heights of all buildings on the earth’s surface for almost 4 decades, before the World Trade Center (WTC) shattered that record into pieces in the 1970s. However, it later reclaimed the title when WTC was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks in 2001. As at 2014, the WTC’s successor, the One World Trade Center (One WTC) became the tallest building in New York. At 1776 feet (541), the One WTC is considered in not just the United States, but the entire Western hemisphere of the world.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building (left) was surpassed by the One World Trade center (right) in 2014.

  • Thousands of workers were used for the construction

The human labor that did the construction job numbered about 3400. A greater percentage of the workers were European immigrants. It was officially confirmed that 5 workers lost their lives during the construction process. During construction, A.W. Aldrich was the first person to officially climb to the top of the building. It took the 49-year-old Vermont worker about 36 minutes to do so.

  • The Building was Commissioned During The Great Depression

The tough economic times created by the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s nearly marred the fortunes of the building. A huge volume of offices remained unoccupied due to lack of money in the system. The owners of the building couldn’t make enough profit from their investment for nearly 20 years after its construction. New York residents decided to give it a nickname, Empty State Building. It was during the 1950s that the building became profitable.

  • A plane once accidentally smashed into the Empire State Building

In July 1945 a military aircraft accidentally crashed into the 79th floor of the building, as a result of bad weather. After the crash debris had cut off an elevator cable, one worker (Betty Lou) fell in an elevator through 75 floors.  Miraculously, she survived the fall.  14 deaths were recorded.

  • It has a staggering height and cost

When measured from the bottom to the top, the building’s height is 1250 feet. This measured height excludes an antenna which sits on top of the building. The antenna height of 204 feet, when taken into consideration, stretches the entire height to 1454 feet. The estimated cost of construction of the project was about $ 40 million, far below the initial budget of $ 50 million.

  • The has been misused by some visitors

Over the past years, some people misused the building as a suicide zone.  While tourists visit the building to enjoy beautiful views of Manhattan, some ill-fated individuals consider the Empire State Building the best height for jumping to their deaths. Since its erection, over 30 people have sadly taken their lives  by jumping from higher floors.

  • The Empire State Building’s Architect and Contractor

William Lamb was the architect who designed the building. He worked at a firm called Shreve, Lamb & Harmon. The contract was executed by the Starret Brothers and Eken. Working together, they faultlessly gave us an iconic building.

  • A truly iconic building requires top-Notch Security Service in and around the premises

The Empire State skyscraper boasts of top tight security services, comparable to that of airport facilities. Visitors are thoroughly screened to prevent them from sending dangerous materials into the building. CCTV cameras are all over the place, 24/7.

The building is considered one of the most famous landmarks in the U.S. A 2007 poll made by the American Institute of Architects revealed that Americans regard it as “America’s Favorite Architecture”. In 1955, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the building the most iconic feat of engineering in America’s history. Also, the building appears on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s list. It even has its own zip code- 10118.

Every year, about 4 million visitors troop into the building. Among those visitors have been famous people such as Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, Celine Dion, Roger Federer, and a host of other world leaders and celebrities.

  • It was built out of a competition

Towards the latter part of the 1920s, galore of wealth in New York City, created a competitive race to put up the world’s tallest tower. The Chrysler Building and the Wall Street Bank of Manhattan where the two main towers that tried to beat each other in the competition. The race even became tougher when a New York governor by name AI Smith, formally announced that the Empire State Building was about to be erected. At the end of the day, the Empire State won the race.

  • The topmost tower was intended to serve as a landing point for airships

One surprising thing about the Empire State Building is about the original purpose of the topmost tower of the building – it was originally meant to be a docking spot for airships to lower their cables and maneuver a landing.  Experiments proved that to be very dangerous; so the plan was immediately canceled.

  • Parachute Jumpers and Daredevilry

Ever since it was put up in 1931, the building has seen its fair share of stubborn parachute jumpers and daredevil enthusiasts. These daredevils occasionally pursue a blood rush by climbing to dangerous heights of the building before jumping all the way down. In 1986, two British nationals, Alastair Boyd and Michael McCarthy, managed to jump off from the 86th floor’s observation deck. They used parachutes they had hidden underneath their clothes. When they landed safely, they were immediately taken into custody and charged for reckless behavior.  Another parachutist from Norway successfully repeated the parachute jumping. He escaped unhurt.

  • U.S. President Herbert Hoover Commissioned the Empire State Building

In May 1931, the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, sat in Washington and pressed a button to turn on the lights of the Empire State Building. From a distance of over 200 miles, he had officially opened the building for business.

  • The Building has an Ancestor

The architect of the Empire State designed the building to closely follow the design of the Reynolds Building in North Carolina. Workers in the Empire State usually present a Father’s Day gifts to the workers in the Reynolds Building.

Read More: Brief History and Major Facts about New York City

Construction Facts About the Empire State Building

Construction of the building kicked off on March 17, 1930, and was officially opened on May 1, 1931.

The Empire State Building

Facts about the Empire State Building. Facts Source

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