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The symbol of Empire State and a big King - Kong supporter...

Updated: May 4, 2020

How did people manage to build such a great masterpiece? How many years did it take to finish? Was it ever hit by the plane? There are so many questions that come to your mind when you see this giant for the first time and there so many facts that would never come to your mind to even ask... Here is the story of The Empire State Building.

1. Empire State Building


Facts about the Empire State building:

Name: Come from the nickname of the New York State.

Style: Art Deco

Year built: 1930 to 1931.

Stores: 102

Height: 1,250 feet (380 m) and stands a total of 1,454 feet (443.2 m) tall, including its antenna.

Architects: Shreve, Lamb & Harmon

History and motivation to built it:

Building of the Empire State Building took place during some risky and challenging times for the American economy. It was built between 1930 and 1931. Original plans for the building were changed 15 times. Half of these changes were done as a result of the "Race into the Sky", a media war between some of the wealthiest people and most successful companies of New York. The goal was simple: build the biggest superstructure of that time.

All of them had the same motivation: make a building taller than your competitor. Empire State building, Chrysler building and40 Wall Street (then the Bank of Manhattan Building) were the main athletes in the race. There was even a concern that the Chrysler might try to "pull a trick like hiding a rod in the spire and then sticking it up at the last minute.” That’s how crazy the competition was. They were ready for literally anything just to be the winner.

The fertile soil!

Can you imagine a farm in the middle of Manhattan?

Neither can I! But, the lot where the building was made was a farm up to the 1800's. The tract was originally part of Mary and John Murray's farm on Murray Hill. Then during the 1800's it was being sold several times between some of the wealthiest families in the city. In the late 19th century (1893) Wiliam Waldorf Astor built the Waldorf Hotel at the site. Very soon (1897), Astor family was building one more hotel on an adjacent site. Combined, they had 1,300 rooms which made the Waldorf Astoria hotel the biggest hotel in the world! In the early 1900’s the hotel became outdated and the rich social life of New York was moving away from midtown. The Astor family decided to sell the hotel and build a replacement  further uptown in what would be the new center for New York high society. 


Try to imagine how exciting it was for the New Yorkers of that time to watch demolition of something so big and luxurious! There were great doubts that the project would be a success since laws were not ready to follow up with the mega project like building the tallest building in the world. The 57,480 short tons (51,320 long tons) of steel ordered for the project was the largest-ever single order of steel at the time, comprising more steel than was ordered for the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street combined. It really felt like the entire world was involved in the project. Building materials were sourced from numerous, and distant, sources with "limestone from Indiana, steel girders from Pittsburgh, cement and mortar from upper New York State, marble from Italy, France, and England, wood from northern and Pacific Coast forests, [and] hardware from New England.The facade, too, used a variety of material, most prominently Indiana limestone but also Swedish black granite, terracotta, and brick.

There were water pipes installed on the floors so workers do not luse time by going up and down to drink water. Construction was done so fast that workers were building almost one floor per day. As steelwork was nearing completion, Smith laid the building's cornerstone during a ceremony attended by thousands. The stone contained a box with contemporary artifacts including the previous day's New York Times, a U.S. currency set containing all denominations of notes and coins minted in 1930, a history of the site and building, and photographs of the people involved in construction. The steel structure was topped out at 1,048 feet (319 m) on September 19, twelve days ahead of schedule and 23 weeks after the start of construction. Workers raised a flag atop the 86th floor to signify this milestone.

2. Construction on the Empire State. Chrysler Building is visible in the back.

When you touch the sky:

In the moment when Empire State building was finished and everyone regrouped, they had some fascinating facts in front of them:

The Empire State Building was structurally completed on April 11, 1931, twelve days ahead of schedule and 410 days after construction commenced. The final rivet was shot and it was made out of gold.

There were 3.500 people working on a construction, including 3,439 on a single day, August 14, 1930. There were 5 reported deaths (modern history reported 12 or even 47 deaths according to some resources). The overall cost was: $40,948,900 (original prediction was $60,000,000) and was officially the highest building known to mankind at the time. 

Eye-lens witness:

Photographer Lewis Hine was following the construction and made a great collection of the process. According to the writer Jim Rasenberger, Hine "climbed out onto the steel with the ironworkers and dangled from a derrick cable hundreds of feet above the city to capture, as no one ever had before (or has since), the dizzy work of building skyscrapers".

3. Photograph of a cable worker taken byLewis Hine

(Not so) bright future but the lights are on:

The Empire State building opened officially on May 1, 1931 with a ceremony attended by 350 people including the mayor of New York and many high profile guests. Ceremony was marked by turning on the lights from Washington D.C. and officially made it the tallest building in the world and the first one to exceed 100 floors, a symbol of the great nation on the rise.

Now, the Empire State building was finished during the Great depression. In a moment when construction was done, America was suffering and the economy was crumbling. These hard conditions made the New York jewel only 23% occupied for many years to come. Media even gave the building a new name: “Empty state building”. It took more than two decades for the building to start having more than 40% occupancy. No matter the occupancy level, lights were kept on even on the empty floors so that viewers can have the feeling of full occupancy. 

Building has a very turbulent history. Many years it was witness to some of the most fascinating events. It was even hit by a plane in 1945 when a bombarder crashed into it causing the fire and tragic death of 14 people in the building. The crash of the plane caused the breaking the world record for the longest survived elevator fall. Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator.

Keeping the title safe:

Regardless of the competition, the Empire State building stayed the highest building in New York for many decades to come. It lost its title in 1970’s when twin towers of the World trade center were finished and gained its title again on September 11th, 2001. It became the highest building in New York but only second highest in the states, since Chicago Willis tower was the leading one. One world trade center which would rise on the site of the original twin towers would once again be taller than the Empire State building.

Symbol of Big Apple and the entire nation:

So, with the long and exciting history, the Empire State building still stands as one the most iconic symbols of the Nation. Every day, this giant touches the sky and cuddles the clouds remembering all of the people that are enjoying it’s views and thinks of his good old buddy King Kong. 

4. King Kong poster for the movie, 1933.

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