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Empire State Building in New York City skylineEmpire State Building

once the tallest building in the world

In 1929, a group of investors that included John Jakob Raskob, Coleman Du Pont, Pierre S. Du Pont, Louis G. Kaufman, Ellis P. Earle, and Alfred E. Smith paid approximately $16 million for a parcel of land at 34th Street and 5th Avenue, in Midtown Manhattan. The group then hired Shreve, Lamb & Harmon to design a building guaranteed to be the tallest in the world. Once the design had been finalized, construction was turned over to Starrett Bros. & Eken.

Excavation of the site began on January 22, 1930, and construction began on March 17, 1930. Using a variety of innovations that saved time and man-power, the steel framework was soon rising at a rate of 4-1/2 stories a week, and the Empire State Building was officially opened on May 1, 1931, only 15 months after ground was broken. The same innovations that allowed the builders to finish so quickly also saved money; final cost was $40,948,900 (including the land), compared to an expected cost of approximately $50 million.

The Empire State Building topped out at 102 stories for a total ground-to-uppermost ceiling height of 1,250 feet, surpassing its rival, the Chrysler Building, as the tallest structure in the world by 25 stories and 204 feet. It held that distinction until 1967, when it was surpassed by the 1,772-foot Ostankino Tower in Moscow. It held the title of world's tallest office building until 1972, when it was surpassed by the World Trade Center's North Tower.

The Empire State Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Miscellaneous Facts and Figures

Jakob Raskob wanted to make sure that the Empire State Building would surpass the Chrysler Building in height, so he had a dirigible mooring mast added at its summit. The plan was that a dirigible would anchor itself to the mooring mast and then let passengers disembark down a gangplank onto the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. One small dirigible managed to dock in September of 1931, but the logistics proved way too complicated and the mast was never used again.

The Empire State Building is now topped by a communications tower that adds 203 feet 8-9/16 inches to its total height.

There are 73 elevators in the building. Those elevators are "organized" into seven separate banks, with each bank servicing a specific portion of the floors (3rd through 7th, 7th through 18th, etc.).

On July 28, 1945, an Army Air Corps B-25 crashed into the 79th floor. Only two floors were damaged, but fourteen people were killed (11 office workers and 3 crewmen).

There are observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors. Approximately four million visitors take in the view from one or both of them every year, and they can see 80 miles into New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts on a clear day.

Static electricity is so strong at the top of the building that people on the observatory floor can see sparks when they kiss.

Thanks to 2,768,591 square feet of rentable space, the Empire State Building is able to accomodate over 1,000 businesses and 21,000 employees.

The official address of the Empire State Building is 350 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 10118 (it has its own ZIP code).

The Official Site of the Empire State Building is

Empire State Building 3-D Puzzle

Alfred E. Smith

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> Middle Atlantic States >> New York >> New York City

This page was last updated on January 15, 2017.