The History Of The Empire State Building

Detailed history of the Empire State Building, including the massive effort to build the structure, and its cultural and architectural significance.

The Empire State Building is an architectural marvel, and one of the most striking attractions in New York City. The building itself was constructed during the Great Depression and is a living monument to that era and the city it so proudly illuminates.

The Empire State Building is located at Fifth and 34th Avenues. For 40 years after it was constructed, it held the record for being the largest skyscraper in the world. The building has starred in over 90 movies, and it remains one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions.

At the time it was built, the Empire State Building was the center of a competition between Walter Chrysler, of the Chrysler Corporation, and John Raskob, creator of General Motors. The competition, appropriately enough, was to see who could build the highest building first. And it was no small wager. In the year 1929, Mr. Raskob set about this task with a group of very well known investors that included Coleman du Pont, Pierre S. du Pont, president of E.I Du Pont de Nemours, Louis G. Kaufman and Ellis P. Earl, from Empire State, Inc. The group named former Governor of New York and Presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith to head the corporation.



The excavation for the project began on January 22, 1930 and took only one year and 45 days to complete, or 7 million hours. The masonry for the structure was completed on May 1, 1931, significantly ahead of schedule. On that date, President Herbert Hoover pressed a button in Washington, D.C. to officially open the building by turning on the Empire State Building's lights.

The total cost to construct the skyscraper was $40,948,000, including the cost of the land. The building alone was constructed with a little over $24,000,000. The onset of the depression significantly reduced the amount needed to construct the building. The total height of the building is 1,454 feet. The 86th floor observatory, where visitors can overlook the Chrysler Building, Harlem River and other scenes of New York City, is 1,050 feet above ground. There are 102 floors and 6,500 windows. Originally, the building's dirigible mast, now the base of the TV tower, was designed as a mooring mast for blimps. However, because of the volatile wind conditions at 1,350 feet and a few unsuccessful attempts, the idea was eventually abandoned.

The site used to construct the building was constructed by the group of investors in 1928. It was formerly the Waldolf-Astoria Hotel, which sold for $20 million. After the building was constructed, the investment group initially had trouble finding tenants to occupy their rather monstrous building. Not only was it the height of the Depression, but Fifth Avenue and 34 Street was not a prime location for office space at the time. The building was kept in the hands of the original investors until 1951, when it was sold by the Raskob estate for $34 million to the group headed by Roger I. Stevens. Then in 1954, a Chicago group headed by Col. Henry J. Crown bought the building for $51.5 million.

Since it was first built, the Empire State Building has lit up the New York City skyline in a diverse array of colors and designs, with an appeal like no other building could have. Since 1931 taller buildings have been erected, but perhaps none remain as famous as the Empire State Building. There is also deep the history of the building, which includes the mishap, when in 1945 at the end of WWII, an Army Air Corps bomber plane crashed into the 79th floor in a dense fog. Since 1931, the building has also acted as the official welcoming landmark of New York to many of the world's most renown political and entertainment figures, like Fidel Castro, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth and Nikita Khrushchev.

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