The Empire State Building is a cultural icon, an Art Deco skyscraper that has stood proudly above Manhattan since 1931. At 1,454 feet tall, it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Since 1976, its spire has been lit in different colors nightly to mark national holidays, sporting and cultural events.
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Key Features of the Empire State Building
The building was designed by William Lamb of architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon during what popular media called a “Race into the Sky,” a 1920s building boom. It held the title of “world’s tallest building” for decades.
It has 85 stories of commercial and office space, plus an indoor and outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor with 360-degree views of New York City, New Jersey and New England. The top 16 stories are part of the spire, capped by another observatory on the 102nd floor, broadcast antennae and a lightning rod. Limestone panels from the Empire Mill in Sanders, Indiana, cover the exterior, giving it a blond color.
The Empire State Building is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and the building and its ground-floor interior are New York City landmarks as well. The lobby includes two tiers of marble, zigzagging terrazzo tiles, bronze motifs depicting the industries used in its construction, and an aluminum relief of the building’s outline with radiating rays.
History of the Empire State Building
1929: Demolition of the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which relocates uptown, begins on the site.
1930: Construction begins, involving at its peak more than 3,500 workers. Many are Irish and Italian immigrants, as well as Mohawk ironworkers from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. Official accounts and media coverage say five to 42 workers died during construction, which cost $40.9 million at the time.
1931: Forty-five days ahead of schedule, the building opens on May 1. President Herbert Hoover turns on the lights ceremonially from Washington, D.C. That December, NBC and RCA begin transmitting experimental television broadcasts from the building.
1932: During its first year, the observation deck earns about $2 million in revenue from visitors paying $1 admission.
1945: On July 28, a B-5 Mitchell bomber crashes into the building’s north side between the 79th and 80th floors during thick fog, killing 14 people. Afterward, the Civil Aeronautics Administration sets a minimum flying altitude of 2,500 feet above sea level in New York City.
1970: The Empire State Building is surpassed as the world’s tallest building by the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
1997: A 69-year-old gunman kills one person and wounds six others on the 86th floor observation deck before killing himself.
2001: After the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building for a short time again becomes the city’s tallest building. Transmissions from nearly all of the city’s FM radio and commercial television stations are again broadcast here.
2009: The public areas receive a $550 million renovation, including energy-efficient upgrades, waterproofing, new air conditioning, a renovated observation deck and lobby, and a relocated gift shop on the 80th floor.
2011: The Otis Elevator Company refurbishes and modernizes its 68 elevators.
2012: The Empire State Building Company, the building’s owner, installs a new computer-driven system of 1,200 LED light fixtures for the top, capable of displaying 16 million colors.
Location & Tourism
The Empire State Building sits at 350 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It is open every day from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., rain or shine. Standard passes to visit the 86th floor indoor and outdoor observatory start at $37 for adults, $31 for children and $35 for seniors.
Interesting Facts About the Empire State Building
- The Empire State Building is the first building to have more than 100 floors. Its final rivet was made of solid gold.
- Its spire was originally meant to be an airship terminal, but Manhattan’s high winds and updrafts scuttled those plans.
- The 1945 plane crash into the building resulted in a Guinness World Record. An elevator operator plunged 75 stories, the longest survived elevator fall.
- The building has appeared in more than 250 movies, most notably 1933’s King Kong, where the giant gorilla reaches the top with actress Fay Wray in his grasp. Fans of all ages can now find Kong in plush form in the building’s gift shop.
- When not marking a holiday or special occasion, the top is lit in white.
- Although the building can host synchronized light shows, the owners do not use the tower’s lights to play advertisements.
- The Empire State Run Up, a foot race from the ground level to the 86thfloor observation deck, has been held annually since 1978.
- The 86th floor outdoor terrace has been enclosed since 1947 for safety reasons.
Directions to Belluck & Fox from the Empire State Building
Belluck & Fox’s NYC office is located in Midtown at 546 Fifth Ave., 5th Floor, New York NY 10036. In good weather, simply walk north for about a half-mile to reach our office. Otherwise, make your way one block east to Madison Avenue, which is one-way northbound, then turn left onto East 47th Street and left again onto Fifth Avenue.
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