The Empire State Building: Art Deco At It's Height |
by Johnny Moon
Construction on the art-deco inspired Empire State Building began on March 17, 1930, St. Patrick's Day. It cost almost $25 million to build; the onset of the Great Depression actually sliced the anticipated costs in half. The building stands at 1,454 feet (443.2 meters), has 103 floors, 6,500 windows, 73 elevators, and a maintenance and administrative staff of about 250. There are two observatories reachable by high speed elevators: the 86th floor observatory (about 1,050 feet/320 meters) and the 102nd floor observatory; both are open from 8 A.M. to 2 A.M. 365 days a year. The Empire State Building, located at 350 Fifth Avenue, also features a self-guided audio tour. As of 2007, approximately 20,000 employees work at the Empire State Building; it is one of the only buildings in the world to have its own zip code.
The building was the tallest in the world for 41 years before it was surpassed by the North Tower of the World Trade Center. After the September 11 attacks, the Empire State Building is once again the tallest building in New York City and the second highest building in the United States--only Chicago's Sears Tower is taller. The building was designated a National Historical Landmark on June 24, 1986 and has been named one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The present site of the Empire State Building was occupied by the John Thomson Farm in the late 18th century; in the 19th century it was home to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which was frequented by New York's social elite. The building was designed in two weeks by Gregory Johnson and his architectural firm, Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon and was financed by John J. Raskob. Construction was completed in 410 days and the building officially opened on May 31, 1931. In decadent fashion, President Herbert Hoover activated the now-famous lights with the touch of a button in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, because of the Great Depression the space was not profitable until 1950; locals nicknamed the building the "Empty State Building."
Because of its impressive size, the Empire State Building has been involved in some unusual situations. On July 28, 1945, an Army Air Corps B-25 crashed into the building at the 79th floor. Though the crash caused $1 million damage to the building, the structural integrity was unaffected. During the spring and autumn bird migration season, the building must turn off its signature lights on foggy nights so confused birds won't fly into the building.
The lights on the Empire State Building change seasonally or to commemorate a special event. For Christmas, the lights are red and green, blue lights were used to commemorate the death of Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra; the building sat in complete darkness for fifteen minutes when Fay Wray passed away. The building has even lit up with the colors of local sports teams. In the months after September 11, 2001, the Empire State Building used only red, white, and blue lights.
Like other New York City landmarks, the Empire State Building has been featured in countless movies since its inception, among them An Affair to Remember, King Kong, Funny Face, Guys and Dolls, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and various Woody Allen films. The Empire State Building has cemented itself not only in American popular culture, but in American history.
About the Author
Johnny Moon recommends making your Manhattan Hotel Reservations At New York Hotel Deals.