Empire State Building
|Empire State Building|
Seen from the air, 2012
|Tallest in the world from 1931 to 1970[I]|
|Preceded by||Chrysler Building|
|Surpassed by||1 World Trade Center (North Tower)|
|Type||Office building; observation deck|
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
|Location||350 Fifth Avenue
Manhattan, New York 10118[a]
|Construction started||March 17, 1930|
|Completed||April 11, 1931|
|Opening||May 1, 1931|
($645 million in 2016 dollars)
|Owner||Empire State Realty Trust|
|Architectural||1,250 ft (381.0 m)|
|Tip||1,454 ft (443.2 m)|
|Roof||1,250 ft (381.0 m)|
|Top floor||1,224 ft (373.1 m)|
|Observatory||1,224 ft (373.1 m) (102nd floor)
1,050 feet (320 m) (86th floor)
|Other dimensions||424 ft (129.2 m) east–west by 187 ft (57.0 m) north–south|
|Floor area||2,248,355 sq ft (208,879 m2)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Shreve, Lamb and Harmon|
|Developer||Empire State Inc., including John J. Raskob and Al Smith|
|Structural engineer||Homer Gage Balcom|
|Main contractor||Starrett Brothers and Eken|
Empire State Building
Location in New York City
|NRHP reference #||82001192|
|Added to NRHP||November 17, 1982|
|Designated NHL||June 24, 1986|
|Designated NYCL||May 19, 1981|
|I. ^ Empire State Building at Emporis
The Empire State Building is a 102-story[b] Art Deco skyscraper on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the building has a roof height of 1,250 feet (380 m), and with its antenna included, it stands a total of 1,454 feet (443.2 m) tall. Its name is derived from "Empire State", the nickname for New York, as of 2017[update] the Empire State Building is the fifth-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States and the 28th-tallest in the world. It is also the sixth-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas. When measured by pinnacle height, it is the fifth-tallest building in the United States.
The site of the Empire State Building was first developed as part of John Thompson's farm in the early 18th century; in the late 1820s, it came into the possession of the prominent Astor family, with John Jacob Astor's descendants building the Waldorf–Astoria Hotel on the site in the 1890s. By the 1920s, the family sold the outdated hotel, and the site indirectly ended up under the ownership of Empire State Inc., a business venture that included businessman John J. Raskob and former New York governor Alfred E. Smith. The Empire State Building, as it was then dubbed, was originally supposed to be a standard 50-story office building. However, the original plans were revised fifteen times, with the tower ultimately being expanded to a 1,250-foot building with 86 stories and an airship mast on top, this ensured the Empire State Building would be the world's tallest building, beating out the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street, two other Manhattan skyscrapers under construction at the time that were also vying for that honor.
Demolition of the Waldorf–Astoria began in October 1929, and the foundation of the Empire State Building was excavated before demolition was even complete. Construction on the building itself started on March 17, 1930, with an average construction rate of one floor per day. A well-coordinated schedule meant that the 86 stories were topped out by September 19 of the same year, with the mast completed by November 21, from that point, interior work proceeded at a quick pace, and the Empire State Building was opened on May 1, 1931, thirteen and a half months after the first steel beam was erected. Despite the publicity surrounding the building's construction, the building's owners failed to make a profit until the early 1950s. However, it has been a popular tourist attraction since opening, with around 4 million visitors to the building's 86th and 102nd floor observatories every year.
The Empire State Building stood as the world's tallest building for nearly 40 years, from its completion until the topping out of the original World Trade Center's North Tower in Lower Manhattan in late 1970. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York, until One World Trade Center reached a greater height in April 2012.
The Empire State Building is an American cultural icon, having been featured in dozens of TV shows and movies since King Kong was released in 1933. A symbol of New York City, it has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986; in 2007, it was ranked number one on the AIA's List of America's Favorite Architecture.
- 1 Location
- 2 History
- 3 Architecture
- 4 Notable tenants
- 5 Incidents
- 6 Importance
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Empire State Building is located at 350 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, on the street's west side between 33rd and 34th Streets, although physically located in South Midtown, a mixed residential and commercial area, the building is so large that it uses its own ZIP code of 10118, being one of 43 buildings in New York City that has its own zip code.[a] The area to the south and west features other major Manhattan landmarks as well, including Macy's at Herald Square on Sixth Avenue and 34th Street, Koreatown on 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Penn Station and Madison Square Garden on Seventh Avenue between 32nd and 34th Streets, and the Flower District on 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The nearest New York City Subway stations are 34th Street–Herald Square at Sixth Avenue and Broadway, one block west, and 33rd Street at Park Avenue, two blocks east. There is also a PATH station at 33rd Street and Sixth Avenue.
To the east of the Empire State Building is Murray Hill, a mixed-use neighborhood with residential, commercial, and entertainment uses. One block east of the Empire State Building, on Madison Avenue at 34th Street, is the New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library, which is located on the same block as the CUNY Graduate Center. The library also has its main and Mid-Manhattan branches at Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, six blocks north. The Morgan Library & Museum is located four blocks away, at Madison Avenue and 36th Street.
The earliest recorded major action on the site was during the American Revolutionary War. According to one account, shots rang out on what is now Fifth Avenue from "the battle of the cornfield", some 3,500 of George Washington's troops were in the city and in danger of being trapped by the British Army. At the time, Mary and John Murray owned a farm on Murray Hill, within the area from present-day Madison Avenue to Lexington Avenue between 34th and 38th streets. Mary invited the British officers into her home for food and drink, while General Putnam was able to lead the 3,500 men out of the city and into Harlem Heights.
In 1799, John Thompson (or Thomson; accounts vary) bought a 20-acre (8 ha) tract of land roughly bounded by Madison Avenue, 36th Street, Sixth Avenue, and 33rd Street, immediately north of the Caspar Samler farm, for 482 British pounds (roughly US$2400 at the time).[c] At the time, a stream called t'Oude Wrack (Dutch for "Old Wreck") ran across the site, emptying into Sunfish Pond, located at the present-day Park Avenue South and 31st Street in Kips Bay, the stream originated at what is now Broadway and 44th Street in the middle of Times Square. A glue factory polluted Sunfish Pond heavily during the 1820s, and it was infilled in 1839 after most of its water was used to extinguish a fire at the New York House of Refuge.
Thompson was said to have sold the farm to Charles Lawton for $10,000 on September 24, 1825, although details of this sale are unclear, as details of the deed that certified the sale were later lost; in 1826, John Jacob Astor of the prominent Astor family bought the land from Lawton for $20,500.[d] The Astors also purchased a parcel from the Murrays. John Jacob's son William Backhouse Astor Sr. bought a half interest on July 28, 1827, for $20,500, for a tract of land on Fifth Avenue from 32nd to 35th streets. The Astors had intended to simply reserve the land for possible future development, but the deadly Astor Place Riot in 1849 forced the Astor family to flee to their Midtown tracts. William built an unpretentious square red brick house on the southwest corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in 1859, while his brother John Jacob Astor Jr. erected a home at the northwest corner of 33rd Street in 1862.
In 1890, William Waldorf Astor, the grandson of John Sr. and son of John Jr., inherited his father's mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, and started building the Waldorf Hotel on the site. This decision originated in part from a dispute with his aunt Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, the wife of John Jacob Astor III who lived next door, and whether Caroline or Mary Dahlgren Paul Astor, William's wife, would be known in society as "the" Mrs. Astor. The planned hotel was supposed to be an 11-story building, as per the specifications of founding proprietor George Boldt, but his wife Louise believed that 13 was a lucky number and persuaded her husband to add two floors to the construction. William Astor's construction of a hotel next to his aunt's house caused both Astors to threaten to demolish their home and build a stable on the property, but with Boldt's assistance, John Astor persuaded his mother to move uptown, the Waldorf Hotel, named after the Astors' ancestral home in the little German town of Walldorf, was opened for business March 13, 1893.
When a decision was made to build a second hotel next to the Waldorf, truce provisions were developed between the Astors, including the use of corridors between the buildings that could be bricked up if needed, on November 1, 1897, Waldorf's cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, opened the 16-story Astoria Hotel on an adjacent site. The Astoria, named after the Oregon town of Astoria that had been founded by John Sr. in 1811, stood on the site of William Sr's house, and was leased to Boldt. The two hotels, under one management, were renamed the Waldorf–Astoria, the hotel became, according to author Sean Dennis Cashman, "a successful symbol of the opulence and achievement of the Astor family". The hotel was frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York.
The combined hotel had 1,300 bedrooms, making it the largest hotel in the world at the time. Of these, the Astoria portion contained 25 public rooms and 550 guest rooms, while the Waldorf portion contained 15 public rooms, 450 guest rooms, and 100 rooms for servants, it was designed specifically to cater to the needs of socially prominent "wealthy upper crust" of New York and distinguished foreign visitors to the city. It was the first hotel to offer complete electricity and private bathrooms, the Waldorf gained world renown for its fundraising dinners and balls.
Boldt died in early 1918, and Coleman du Pont bought the hotel's lease soon after Boldt's death. By the 1920s, the hotel was becoming dated, and the elegant social life of New York had moved much farther north than 34th Street, the Astor family decided to build a replacement hotel further uptown, and sold the hotel to the Bethlehem Engineering Corporation in 1928 for $14–16 million. They closed the hotel on May 3, 1929, the Waldorf–Astoria Hotel records of 1893–1929 are held by the New York Public Library's Archives & Manuscripts division.
The Bethlehem Engineering Corporation originally wanted to build a 25-story office building on the Waldorf–Astoria's site, the company's president, Floyd De L. Brown, paid $100,000 of the $1 million down payment required to start construction on the tower, with the promise that the difference would be paid later. Brown borrowed $900,000 from a bank, but then defaulted on the loan.
The land was then resold to Empire State Inc., a group of wealthy investors that included Louis G. Kaufman, Ellis P. Earle, John J. Raskob, Coleman du Pont, and Pierre S. du Pont. The name came from the state nickname for New York. Alfred E. Smith, a former Governor of New York and a former U.S. presidential candidate whose 1928 campaign had been managed by Raskob, was appointed as the head of the company. The Empire State Inc. consortium became public in August 1929. The group also purchased nearby land plots so they would have the 2 acres (1 ha) needed for the tower's base, with the combined plot measuring 425 feet (130 m) wide by 200 feet (61 m) long.
Empire State Inc. hired William F. Lamb, from the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, to design the building. Lamb produced the building drawings in just two weeks, using the firm's earlier designs for the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as a basis. Meanwhile, Lamb's partner Richmond Shreve created "bug diagrams" of what needed to be done simultaneously, coordinating tasks to the hour, because of the 1916 Zoning Act, Lamb could not build a structure with walls that ascended straight up from the street; instead, they were required to incorporate setbacks, making the lower floors much larger than the upper floors. As a result, the tower was designed from the top down, which gave it a "pencil"-like shape, during the design process, Raskob put a large pencil on a table and asked Lamb, "How high could you make it so it won't fall down?" The original plan for the building was slated to be 50 stories, but the height was later increased to 60 and then 80 stories, the planned 80-story building, with a height of about 1,000 feet (300 m), would have height limits on nearby buildings ensuring that the top fifty floors would get expansive views of the city. The New York Times lauded the site's proximity to transportation, with the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit's 34th Street station and the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad's 33rd Street terminal one block away, as well as Penn Station two blocks away and the Grand Central Terminal nine blocks away at its closest. It also praised the 3,000,000 square feet (280,000 m2) of proposed floor space near "one of the busiest sections in the world".
While plans for the Empire State Building were being finalized, there was an intense competition in New York for the title of "world's tallest building", and the 40 Wall Street (then the Bank of Manhattan Building) and the Chrysler Building in Manhattan were both under construction when work began on the Empire State Building. The "Race into the Sky", as popular media called it at the time, was representative of the country's optimism in the 1920s, fueled by the building boom in major cities, the 40 Wall Street tower was revised from 840 feet (260 m) to 925 feet (282 m) in April 1929, making it the world's tallest. The Chrysler Building added its 185-foot (56 m) steel tip to its roof in October 1929, bringing it to a height of 1,046 feet (319 m) and greatly exceeding 40 Wall Street's height. The Chrysler Building's developer, Walter Chrysler, realized that his tower's height would exceed the Empire State Building's as well, having ordered his architect William Van Alen to change the Chrysler's original roof from a stubby Romanesque dome to the narrow steel spire. Raskob, wishing to have the Empire State Building be the world's tallest, reviewed the plans and realized that he could add five more floors and a spire of his own; however, the new floors would need to be set back because of projected wind pressure on the extension. On November 18, 1929, Smith acquired a lot at 27–31 West 33rd Street, adding 75 feet (23 m) to the width of the proposed office building's site. Two days later, Smith announced the updated plans for the skyscraper, with an observation deck on the 86th-floor roof at a height of 1,050 feet (320 m), higher than the Chrysler's 71st-floor observation deck.
The 1,050-foot Empire State Building would only be 4 feet (1.2 m) taller than the Chrysler Building, and Raskob was afraid that Chrysler might try to "pull a trick like hiding a rod in the spire and then sticking it up at the last minute." The plans were revised one last time in December 1929, with a 16-story, 200-foot (61 m) metal "crown" and an additional 222-foot (68 m) dirigible mooring mast. The roof height was now 1,250 feet (380 m), making it the tallest building in the world by far, even without the antenna. The addition of the dirigible station meant that another floor, the now-enclosed 86th floor, would have to be built below the crown; however, unlike the Chrysler's spire, the Empire State's mast would serve a practical purpose. By this time the blueprints for the building had gone through up to fifteen versions before they were approved. Lamb described the other specifications he was given for the final, approved plan:
The program was short enough—a fixed budget, no space more than 28 feet from window to corridor, as many stories of such space as possible, an exterior of limestone, and completion date of [May 1], 1931, which meant a year and six months from the beginning of sketches.
The general contractors were named as Starrett Brothers and Eken, composed of Paul and William A. Starrett and Andrew J. Eken, who also constructed other New York City buildings and developments such as the original Stuyvesant Town, Starrett City and Trump Tower. The project was financed primarily by Raskob and Pierre du Pont, while James Farley's General Builders Supply Corporation supplied the building materials. John W. Bowser was the project's construction superintendent, and the structural engineer of the building was Homer G. Balcom, the plans were worked out such that construction started on one task before plans for others were finalized.
Demolition of the old Waldorf–Astoria began on October 1, 1929. Stripping the building's materials was an arduous process, as the hotel was made of stiffer material than earlier buildings had, and the granite, precious metals, and wood chips used in the old hotel were not in high demand. Most of the wood eventually either went into a woodpile on nearby 30th Street or was burned in a swamp elsewhere. A lot of the other materials that made up the old hotel, including the granite and bronze, were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean off the shore of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
By the time the hotel's demolition started, Raskob had secured all of the investors that he needed to fund the construction of the building, the plan was to start construction later that year, but on October 24, the New York Stock Exchange started a steep and sudden crash, sparking what would become the decade-long Great Depression. Even so, Raskob refused to cancel the project because of the progress that had been made up to that point. Neither Raskob nor Smith lost much money in the crash: Raskob because he had stopped his speculation about the stock market the previous year, Smith because he had never invested a great amount of money in the market. However, most of their investors did lose money, and as a result, in December of that year, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company loaned Empire State Inc. some $27.5 million so the group could start construction. Even though the stock market crash obviated the need for any new office space, Raskob and Smith proceeded to start construction anyway, since canceling the project would cause investors to incur great losses.
A structural steel contract was awarded on January 12, 1930, and excavation of the site began ten days later on January 22, before the old hotel had been completely demolished. Two twelve-hour shifts, consisting of 300 men each, worked continuously to dig the 55-foot (17 m) foundation. Small pier holes were sunk into the ground to house the concrete footings that would support the steelwork. Excavation was nearly complete by early March, and construction on the building itself started on March 17, with the builders placing the first steel columns on the completed footings before the rest of the footings had been finished. Around this time, Lamb held a press conference on the building plans, he described the reflective steel panels parallel to the windows, the large-block Indiana Limestone facade that was slightly more expensive than smaller bricks, and the tower's lines and rise. Four colossal columns, intended for installation in the center of the building site, were delivered; they would support a combined 10,000,000 pounds (4,500,000 kg) when the building was finished.
The building's structural steel was pre-ordered and pre-fabricated in anticipation of a revision to the city's building code that would have allowed the Empire State Building's structural steel to carry 18,000 pounds per square inch (124,106 kPa), up from 16,000 pounds per square inch (110,316 kPa), thus reducing the amount of steel needed for the building. Although the 18,000-psi regulation had been safely enacted in other cities, Mayor Jimmy Walker did not sign the new codes into law until March 26, 1930, just before the steel was about to be laid, the first steel framework was put into place on April 1, 1930. From there, construction proceeded at a fast pace, during one stretch of 10 working days, the builders erected fourteen floors. This was made possible due to the extremely precise coordination of the building's planning, as well as the mass production of common materials such as windows and spandrels, for instance, after a supplier of dark Hauteville marble could not deliver enough material on time, Starrett switched to using Rose Famosa marble from a German quarry that was purchased specifically to provide the project with sufficient marble.
The scale of the project was massive, with trucks carrying "16,000 partition tiles, 5,000 bags of cement, 450 cubic yards [340 m3] of sand and 300 bags of lime" arriving at the construction site every day. There were also cafes and concession stands on five of the incomplete floors so workers did not have to descend to the ground level to eat lunch. Temporary water taps were also built so that workers did not waste time buying water bottles from the ground level. Additionally, small railway systems carried materials from the basement storage spaces to elevators that brought the carts to the desired floors, where the carts then delivered the materials across that level directly by using another set of tracks on that floor. 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. According to historian John Tauranac, the materials for the building came from far and wide, 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."
By June 20, the steel structure had risen to the 26th floor, and by July 27, half of the steel skeleton had been completed. Starrett Bros. and Eken endeavored to build one floor a day in order to speed up construction, a goal that they almost reached with their pace of 4 1⁄2 stories per week; prior to this, the fastest pace of construction for a building of similar height had been 3 1⁄2 stories per week. In the meantime, the final designs for the floors were being designed from the ground up (as opposed to the general design, which had been from the roof down), some of the levels were still undergoing final approval, with several orders placed within an hour of a plan's being finalized. On September 10, 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 such as 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.
Afterward, work on the building's interior and crowning mast commenced, the mooring mast topped out on November 21, two months after the steelwork had been completed. Meanwhile, work on the walls and interior was progressing at a quick pace, with exterior walls built up to the 75th floor by the time steelwork had been built to the 95th floor, the majority of the facade was already finished by the middle of November. Because of the building's height, it was deemed infeasible to have many elevators or large elevator cabins, so the builders contracted with the Otis Elevator Company to make 66 cars that could speed at 1,200 feet per minute (366 m/min), which represented the largest-ever elevator order at the time.
In addition to the time constraint builders had, there were also space limitations because construction materials had to be delivered quickly, and trucks needed to drop off these materials without congesting traffic, this was solved by creating a temporary driveway for the trucks between 33rd and 34th Streets, and then storing the materials in the building's first floor and basements. Concrete mixers, brick hoppers, and stone hoists inside the building ensured that materials would be able to ascend quickly and without endangering or inconveniencing the public. At one point, over 200 trucks made material deliveries at the building site every day. A series of relay and erection derricks, placed on platforms erected near the building, lifted the steel from the trucks below and installed the beams at the appropriate locations, the Empire State Building was structurally completed on April 11, 1931, twelve days ahead of schedule and 410 days after construction commenced. Al Smith shot the final rivet, which was made of solid gold.
The project involved more than 3,500 workers at its peak, including 3,439 on a single day, August 14, 1930. Many of the workers were Irish and Italian immigrants, with a sizable minority of Mohawk ironworkers from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. According to official accounts, five workers died during the construction, although the New York Daily News gave reports of 14 deaths and a headline in the socialist magazine The New Masses spread unfounded rumors of up to 42 deaths.
Lewis Hine took a myriad of photographs providing not only a documentation of the construction, but also a glimpse into common day life of workers in that era. Hine's images provided much fodder for the media, with many news sources publishing daily press releases that featured one of Hine's pictures. According to 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"; in Rasenberger's words, Hine turned what might have been an assignment of "corporate flak" into "exhilarating art". These images were later organized into their own collection, the steelworkers' sheer height enraptured onlookers, with New York magazine writing of the steelworkers: "Like little spiders they toiled, spinning a fabric of steel against the sky".
Opening and early years
The Empire State Building was officially opened on May 1, 1931, in dramatic fashion, when United States President Herbert Hoover turned on the building's lights with the push of a button from Washington, D.C.. The tower had been completed forty-five days earlier than its projected opening. Jimmy Walker, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Al Smith were also in attendance. After the ceremonial button pressing, they and about 350 other guests proceeded to attend a luncheon on the 86th floor. An account from that day stated that the view from the luncheon was obscured by a fog, with other landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty being "lost in the mist", the building officially opened the next day. Advertisements for the observatories were placed in local newspapers, while nearby hotels also released ads that lauded their proximity to the newly opened tower.
Builders and real estate speculators predicted that the 1,250-foot-tall (380 m) Empire State Building would be the world's tallest building "for many years", thus ending the great New York City skyscraper rivalry. At the time, most engineers agreed that it would be much harder to build a building taller than 1,200 feet (370 m), even with the hardy Manhattan bedrock. (Technically, it was possible to build a tower of up to 2,000 feet (610 m), but it was deemed uneconomical to do so, especially given the fact that the Great Depression was ongoing at the time.) As the tallest building in the world and the first one to exceed 100 floors, the Empire State Building became an icon of the city, and ultimately, of the entire country.
The Empire State Building's opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space was vacant. In the first year, 23% of the available space was rented; by contrast, during the 1920s, the average building would be 52% rented upon opening and 90% rented within five years. The lack of renters led New Yorkers to deride the building as the "Empty State Building".
Jack Brod, the building's longest-lasting original tenant, co-established the Empire Diamond Corporation with his father in the building in mid-1931 and rented space in the building until he died in 2008. Brod later recalled that there were only about 20 tenants at the time of opening, including him, and that Al Smith was the only real tenant in the space above his seventh-floor offices. Generally, during the early 1930s, it was rare for an entity to rent more than a single office in the building, despite Smith's and Raskob's aggressive marketing efforts in the newspapers and to anyone they knew, the building's lights were continuously left on, even in the unrented spaces, to give the impression of occupancy. This was exacerbated by competition from the Rockefeller Center as well as from buildings on 42nd Street, which, when combined with the Empire State Building, provided excessive space in a slow market.
Aggressive marketing efforts served to reinforce the Empire State Building's status as the world's tallest, the observatory was advertised in local newspapers as well as on railroad tickets. The building became a popular tourist attraction, with one million people each paying one dollar to ride elevators to the observation decks in 1931; in its first year of operation, the observation deck took in approximately 2 million dollars, as much money as its owners made in rent that year. By 1936, the top of the building was consistently crowded from sunset to midnight, with people heading to the top to eat leisurely $1.25 dinners with a "wide selection of long, chill drinks". NBC also took advantage of the building, leasing space on the 85th floor for radio broadcasts from 1931 on. On the whole, however, the building was in debt from the outset, losing $1 million per year by 1935. Real estate developer Seymour Durst recalled that the building was so underused in 1936 that there was no elevator service above the 45th floor, as the building above the 41st floor was empty except for the NBC offices and the Raskob/Du Pont offices on the 81st floor.
As originally planned, the Empire State Building's spire was supposed to be used as an airship docking station. Raskob and Smith proposed dirigible ticketing offices and passenger waiting rooms on the 86th floor, while the airships themselves would be tied to the spire at the equivalent of the building's 106th floor. An elevator between the 86th and 101st floors[e] would carry passengers after they checked in on the 86th floor, with steep ladders leading to the airship's entrance, the idea was impractical and dangerous, due to the powerful updrafts caused by the building itself, the wind currents across Manhattan, and the spires of nearby skyscrapers, Furthermore, even if the airship were to successfully navigate all these obstacles, its crew would have to jettison some ballast by releasing water onto the streets below in order to maintain stability, and then tie the craft's nose to the spire with no mooring lines tying the other end of the craft to the ground. On September 15, 1931, in the first and only instance of an airship using the building's mast, a small commercial United States Navy airship circled 25 times in 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) winds. The airship then attempted to dock at the mast, but its ballast spilled and the craft itself was roiled by capricious eddies, the near-disaster scuttled plans to make the building's spire into an airship terminal, although one blimp did manage to make a single newspaper delivery afterward.
In 1932, the Fifth Avenue Association gave the tower its 1931 "gold medal" for architectural excellence, signifying that the Empire State had been the best-designed building on Fifth Avenue to open in 1931. A year later, on March 2, 1933, the movie King Kong was released, the movie, which depicted a large stop motion ape named Kong climbing the Empire State Building, made the still-new building into a cinematic icon.
To save the building from bankruptcy, the management company of the building opened an observatory on the 86th floor and allowed public access to a large terrace on the eighty-first floor. A wedding chapel was also added to the building's 80th floor, this made the tower one of the city's major tourist attractions, and during the first years of operation, revenues from tourism equaled the total amount of rent paid by all tenants. The tower received its 5 millionth tourist in 1944.
On July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine shot through the side opposite the impact and flew as far as the next block, while the other engine and part of the landing gear plummeted down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people were killed in the incident. However, the building was not severely damaged or structurally compromised, and it reopened two days later.
The Empire State Building only became profitable in the 1950s, when it was finally able to break even for the first time, despite the lack of nearby transportation centers, the Empire State Building started to attract renters due to its reputation. A 222-foot (68 m) radio antenna was erected on top of the tower starting in 1950, allowing the area's television stations to broadcast from the building.
However, Raskob felt that the tower had been unprofitable for too long, and he put the tower on sale in 1951 with a minimum asking price of $50 million, the property was purchased by business partners Roger L. Stevens, Henry Crown, Alfred R. Glancy and Ben Tobin. The sale was brokered by the Charles F. Noyes Company, a prominent real estate firm in upper Manhattan, for $51 million, the highest price paid for a single structure at the time. By this time, the Empire State had been fully leased "for several years", with a "waiting list" to lease space in the building, that year, six news companies started a combined $600,000 annually for use of the tower's antenna. The antenna was completed by 1953. Crown bought out his partners' ownership stakes in 1954, becoming the sole owner, the next year, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the building one of the "Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders".
In 1961, the building was bought by Harry B. Helmsley, Lawrence A. Wien, and Wien's son-in-law Peter L. Malkin, for $65 million, which became the new highest price for a single structure. Over 3,000 people paid $10,000 for one share each in a company called Empire State Building Associates, that subletted the building to another company headed by Helmsley and Wein, raising $33 million of the funds used to pay for the change of ownership, the land itself was sold to Prudential Insurance for $29 million. The new owners quickly started a program of minor improvement projects, including the first-ever full-building facade refurbishment and window-washing in 1962; the installation of new flood lights on the 72nd floor in 1964; and replacement of the manually operated elevators with automatic units in 1966. The little-used western end of the second floor was used as a storage space until 1964, at which point it received escalators to the first floor as part of its conversion into a highly-sought retail area.
Loss of "tallest building" title
In 1961, the same year that Helmsley, Wien, and Malkin had purchased the Empire State Building, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey formally backed plans for a new World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The plan originally included 66-story twin towers with column-free open spaces, the Empire State's owners and real estate speculators were worried that the twin towers' 7,600,000 square feet (710,000 m2) of office space would create an excess of rentable space in Manhattan as well as take away the Empire State Building's profits from lessees. A revision in the World Trade Center's plan brought the twin towers to 1,370 feet (420 m) each or 110 stories, taller than the Empire State. Opponents of the new project included prominent real-estate developer Robert Tishman, as well as Wien's Committee for a Reasonable World Trade Center; in response to Wein's opposition, Port Authority executive director Austin J. Tobin said that Wein was only opposing the project because it would overshadow his Empire State Building as the world's tallest building.
The World Trade Center's twin towers started construction in 1966, the next year, the Ostankino Tower succeeded the Empire State Building as the tallest freestanding structure in the world. The Empire State also lost the title of world's tallest building in 1970, as the taller North Tower surpassed the Empire State's height on October 19 of that year, and topped out on December 23, 1970. The Twin Towers opened their 110th-floor observatory in December 1975, which meant that the Empire State Building did not even have the tallest observatory in the city anymore, the Empire State Building also lost income during this time, as many of the broadcast stations moved to the World Trade Center in 1971, although the Port Authority continued to pay the broadcasting leases for the Empire State until 1984.
By 1980, there were nearly two million annual visitors, although official estimates the previous year had placed the figure closer to between 1.5 million and 1.75 million. The building received its own ZIP code in May 1980 as part of the addition of 63 new postal codes in Manhattan, at the time, the tower's tenants received a collective 35,000 pieces of mail every day. The Empire State Building celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 1, 1981, with a much-publicized laser light show that failed to impress many viewers, as well as an "Empire State Building Week" that ran through May 8.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to make the lobby a city landmark on May 19, 1981, citing the historic nature of the first and second floors, as well as "the fixtures and interior components" of the upper floors. The building became a National Historic Landmark in 1986 for very similar reasons to the New York City Landmarks report, that year, the Plaza Hotel and Metropolitan Museum of Art further uptown were also designated as National Historic Landmarks. The Empire State Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places the next year due to its architectural significance.
In the early and mid-1990s, the alarm systems, elevators, windows, and air conditioning were replaced; the 86th floor observation deck was made accessible to disabled visitors; and the facade was again refurbished at a cost of $55 million. Prudential sold the land under the building in 1991 for $42 million to a buyer representing hotelier Hideki Yokoi, who was at the time imprisoned in connection with a deadly fire at the Hotel New Japan hotel in Tokyo. The land was bought jointly by Donald Trump and Hideki Yokoi in 1994. Having secured a half-ownership of the land, Trump devised plans to take ownership of the building itself so he could renovate it, even though Helmsley and Malkin had already started their refurbishment project, he sued Empire State Building Associates in February 1995, claiming that the latter had caused the building to become a "high-rise slum" and a "second-rate, rodent-infested" office tower. Trump had aimed to get Empire State Building Associates evicted by breaking their lease, but that action was denied, and Helmsley's companies sued Trump in May of that year, this sparked a round of lawsuits and countersuits that lasted several years, which partially arose from Trump's desire to obtain the building's master lease by taking it from Empire State Building Associates. Upon Harry Helmsley's death in 1997, the Malkins sued Helmsley's widow Leona Helmsley for ownership of the building.
The World Trade Center was destroyed in the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City, but was now only the second-tallest building in the Americas, surpassed by the Willis Tower in Chicago. Because of the September 11 attacks, nearly all of the city's commercial television and FM radio broadcast stations started transmitting again from the top of the Empire State Building; in the aftermath of the attacks, security measures at the Empire State Building were also increased due to persistent terror threats against New York City landmarks.
In 2002, Trump and Yokoi sold their claim to the land to the Empire State Building Associates, now headed by Malkin in a $57.5 million sale. This action merged the building's title and lease for the first time in a half-century, despite the lingering threat posed by the 9/11 attacks, the Empire State Building remained popular, with 3.5 million visitors to the observatories in 2004 compared to about 2.8 million in 2003.
Leona Helmsley's remaining share in the building was bought by Peter Malkin's company in 2006; in 2008 the building was temporary “stolen” by the New York Daily News to show how easy it is to transfer the deed on a property, since city clerks were not required to validate the submitted information, as well as to help demonstrate how fraudulent deeds could be used to obtain large mortgages and then have individuals disappear with the money. The paperwork submitted to the city included the names of Fay Wray, the famous star of King Kong, and Willie Sutton, a notorious New York bank robber. The newspaper then transferred the deed back over to the legitimate owners, who at that time were Empire State Land Associates.
The building's public areas received a $550 million renovation in 2009 (see § Major renovations). The building received new air conditioning, waterproofing, a renovated observation deck and lobby, and a relocated 80th-floor gift shop, this included $120 million of energy efficient upgrades, which allowed the building to receive a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011. The new One World Trade Center surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest LEED-certified building when it opened in 2014.
As of 2014[update] the building is owned by the Empire State Realty Trust with Anthony Malkin as Chairman, CEO, and President. Details on the trust's profits are scarce, but it gained significantly more revenue from tourism than from leasing the office space in 2011; in August 2016, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) gained a 10% share in the Empire State Building through a $622 million investment to the Empire State Realty Trust. The trust’s president John Kessler called it an “endorsement of the company’s irreplaceable assets”, the investment has been described as “an unusual move for a sovereign wealth fund”, as they typically buy direct stakes in buildings rather than real estate companies. Other foreign entities that have a stake in the Empire State Building include investors from Norway, Japan, and Australia.
The Empire State Building rises to 1,250 ft (381 m) at the 102nd floor, and including the 203 ft (61.9 m) pinnacle, its full height reaches 1,453 feet 8 9⁄16 inches (443.092 m). At that distance, the tower is visible from the ocean up to 50 miles (80 km) away, from upstate up to 70 miles (110 km) away, and from an airplane up to 100 miles (160 km) away.
The building has 85 stories of commercial and office space representing 2,158,000 sq ft (200,500 m2) of rentable space. It has an indoor and outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor, the highest floor within the actual tower, the remaining 16 stories represent the Art Deco spire, which is capped by a 102nd-floor observatory. The spire is hollow, and there are no floors between levels 86 and 102. Atop the tower is the 203 ft (61.9 m) pinnacle, much of which is covered by broadcast antennas, with a lightning rod at the very top.
The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build, including demolition of the Waldorf-Astoria (equivalent to $644,878,000 in 2016), this was lower than the $60 million budgeted for construction. Official fact sheets cite building statistics thusly: an ascent of 1,860 steps from the first to the 102nd floor; a weight of 365,000 short tons (331,122 t); a volume of 37,000,000 cubic feet (1,000,000 m3); and an exterior with 200,000 cubic feet (5,700 m3) of limestone and granite, along with ten million bricks and 370 short tons (330 long tons) of steel. Other oft-cited statistics include 1,172 miles (1,886 km) of elevator cable and 2,000,000 feet (609,600 m) of electrical wires, as well as capacity for 20,000 tenants and 15,000 visitors.
The building has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 2007, it was ranked number one on the AIA's List of America's Favorite Architecture.
The Empire State Building's art deco design is typical of pre–World War II architecture in New York, the modernistic stainless steel canopies of the entrances on 33rd and 34th Streets lead to two-story-high corridors around the elevator core, crossed by stainless steel and glass-enclosed bridges at the second-floor level. The riveted steel frame of the building was originally designed to handle all of the building's gravity stresses and wind loads, the exterior of the building is clad in Indiana limestone panels, which came from the Empire Mill in Sanders, Indiana, and give the building its signature blonde color. The limestone facade, which is lined with vertically aligned steel mullions parallel to each window, also makes the steel frame even stiffer against the winds, the large amount of material used in the building's construction made it very stiff compared to other skyscrapers, with a structural stiffness of 42 pounds per square foot (2.0 kPa) versus the Willis Tower's 33 pounds per square foot (1.6 kPa) and the John Hancock Center's 26 pounds per square foot (1.2 kPa). A December 1930 feature in Popular Mechanics estimated that a building with the Empire State's dimensions would still stand even if hit with an impact of 50 short tons (45 long tons).
The Empire State Building contains one major setback and several smaller ones that cause the floors to shrink as the height increases, which make the higher 81 floors much smaller than the lower five floors but allow the top floors to be both illuminated by sunlight and positioned away from the noisy streets below, this design was mandated as per the 1916 Zoning Resolution, which was intended to allow sunlight to reach the streets as well.[f] Normally, a building of the Empire State's dimensions would be permitted to build up to 12 stories on the Fifth Avenue side, and up to 17 stories on the 33rd/34th Streets side, before it would have to utilize setbacks. However, the setbacks were arranged such that the largest setback was on the sixth floor, above the five-floor "base", so the rest of the building above the sixth floor would have a facade of uniform shape.
The Empire State Building was the first building to have more than 100 floors, it has 6,500 windows; 73 elevators; a total floor area of 2,768,591 sq ft (257,211 m2); and a base covering 2 acres (8,094 m2). Its original 64 elevators, built by the Otis Elevator Company, are located in a central core and are of varying heights, with the longest of these elevators reaching from the lobby to the 80th floor, as originally built, there were four "express" elevators that connected the lobby, 80th floor, and several landings in between; the other 60 "local" elevators connected the landings with the floors above these intermediate landings. Of the 64 total elevators, 58 were for passenger use (comprising the four express elevators and 54 local elevators), and eight were for freight deliveries, the elevators were designed to move at 1,200 feet per minute (366 m/min). At the time of the skyscraper's construction, their practical speed was limited to 700 feet per minute (213 m/min) as per city law, but this limit was removed shortly after the building opened. Additional elevators connect the 80th floor to the six floors above it, as the six extra floors were built after the original 80 stories were approved, the Empire State Building has 73 elevators in all, including service elevators. Utilities are grouped in a central shaft.
On each floor between levels 6 and 86, the central shaft is surrounded by a main corridor on all four sides, as per the final specifications of the building, the corridor is surrounded in turn by office space 28 feet (8.5 m) deep. Each of the floors has 210 structural columns that pass through it, which provide a structural stability but impede the creation of any significant open space. However, the relative dearth of stone in the building allows for more space overall, with a 1:200 stone-to-building ratio in the Empire State compared to a 1:50 ratio in similar buildings.
The main lobby is accessed from Fifth Avenue, on the building's east side, and contains an entrance with one set of double doors between a pair of revolving doors, at the top of each doorway is a bronze motif of three of the "crafts or industries" used in the building's construction—Electricity, Masonry, and Heating from north to south. The lobby contains two tiers of marble: a lighter marble on the top, above the storefronts, and a darker marble on the bottom, flush with the storefronts. There is a pattern of zigzagging terrazzo tiles on the lobby floor, which leads from the entrance on the east to the aluminum relief on the west, the chapel-like three-story-high lobby, which runs parallel to 33rd and 34th Streets, contains storefronts on both its northern and southern sides. These storefronts are framed by tubes of dark, "modernistically rounded marble", and above the storefronts is a vertical band of grooves set into the marble. Immediately inside the lobby is an airport-style security checkpoint.
The walls on both the northern and southern sides of the lobby each contain storefronts and escalators to a mezzanine level, at the west end of the lobby is an aluminum relief of the skyscraper as it was originally built (i.e. without the antenna). The relief, which was intended to provide a welcoming effect, contains an embossing of the building's outline "with the rays of an aluminum sun shining out behind it and mingling with aluminum rays emanating from the spire of the Empire State Building"; in the background is a state map of New York, with the building's location marked by a "medallion" in the very southeast portion of the outline. A compass is located in the bottom right, and a plaque to the tower's major developers is on the bottom left, at this point, the lobby feeds into a one-story tall, similarly-designed rectangular-shaped corridor that surrounds the banks of escalators. The rectangular shaped corridor actually consists of two long hallways on the northern and southern sides of the rectangle, as well as a shorter hallway on the eastern side and another long hallway on the western side, at both ends of the northern and southern corridors, there is one bank of four low-rise elevators in between the corridors. The western side of the rectangular elevator-bank corridor extends north to the 34th Street entrance and south to the 33rd Street entrance, it borders three large storefronts and leads to escalators that go both to the second floor and to the basement. Going from west to east, there are secondary entrances to 34th and 33rd Streets from both the northern and southern corridors, respectively, at approximately the two-thirds point of each corridor.[g]
Until the 1960s, the ceilings in the lobby had a shiny art deco mural inspired by both the sky and the Machine Age, until it was covered with ceiling tiles and fluorescent lighting, because the original murals, designed by an artist named Leif Neandross, were damaged, reproductions were installed. Renovations to the lobby alluded to original plans for the building; replacing the clock over the information desk in the Fifth Avenue lobby with an anemometer, as well as installing two chandeliers originally intended to be part of the building when it first opened. The north corridor contained eight illuminated panels, created by Roy Sparkia and Renée Nemorov in 1963 in time for the 1964 World's Fair, which depicts the building as the Eighth Wonder of the World, alongside the traditional seven, the building's owners installed a series of paintings by the New York artist Kysa Johnson in the concourse level. Johnson filed a federal lawsuit in January 2014 under the Visual Artists Rights Act, alleging the negligent destruction of the paintings and damage to her reputation as an artist, as part of the building's 2010 renovation, Denise Amses commissioned a work consisting of "15,000 stars and 5,000 circles" superimposed on a 13-by-5-foot (4.0 by 1.5 m) etched-glass installation in the lobby.
Capital improvements were made to the Empire State Building during the early to mid-1990s at a cost of $55 million, these improvements entailed replacing alarm systems, elevators, windows, and air conditioning; making the observation deck compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA); and refurbishing the limestone facade. The observatory renovation was added after disability rights groups and the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the building in 1992, in what was believed to be the first lawsuit filed by an organization under the then-new ADA law. A settlement was reached in 1994, in which the Empire State Building Associates agreed to add ADA-compliant elements, such as new elevators, ramps, and automatic doors, during its ongoing renovation.
The building's public areas received a $550 million renovation in 2009, with improvements including new air conditioning, waterproofing, and renovating the observation deck, and moving the gift shop to the 80th floor, as well as refurbishing the main lobby. Of this, $120 million was spent in an effort to transform the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure, with the goal of reducing energy emissions by 38% within five years. For example, all of the windows were refurbished onsite into film-coated "superwindows" which block heat but pass light. Air conditioning operating costs on hot days were reduced, saving $17 million of the project's capital cost immediately and partially funding some of the other retrofits. The Empire State Building won a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011, as well as the World Federation of Great Towers' Excellence in Environment Award for 2010.
Above the 102nd floor
The final plan for the building called for the installation of a hollow mast, complete of 158-foot (48 m) steel shaft with elevators and utilities, above the 86th floor. At the top would be a conical roof and the 102nd-floor docking station, the elevators would ascend 167 feet (51 m) from the 86th floor ticket offices to a 33-foot-wide (10 m) 101st-floor[e] waiting room. From there, stairs would lead to the 102nd floor,[e] where passengers would enter the airships, the airships would have been moored to the spire at the equivalent of the building's 106th floor.
On the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building (formerly the 101st floor), there is a door with stairs ascending to the 103rd floor (formerly the 102nd),[e] this was built as a disembarkation floor for airships tethered to the building's spire, and has a circular balcony outside. It is now an access point to reach the spire for maintenance, the room now contains electrical equipment, but celebrities and dignitaries may also be given permission to take pictures there. Above the 103rd floor, there is a set of stairs and a ladder to reach the spire for maintenance work, the mast's 480 windows were all replaced in 2015.
Broadcasting began at the Empire State Building on December 22, 1931, when NBC and RCA began transmitting experimental television broadcasts from a small antenna erected atop the spire, with two separate transmitters for the visual and audio data, they leased the 85th floor and built a laboratory there. In 1934, RCA was joined by Edwin Howard Armstrong in a cooperative venture to test his FM system from the building's antenna, this setup, which entailed the installation of the world's first FM transmitter, continued only until October of the next year because of disputes between RCA and Armstrong. Specifically, NBC wanted to install more TV equipment in the room where Armstrong's transmitter was located.
Afterward, the 85th floor became the home of RCA's New York television operations, first as experimental station W2XBS channel 1, then as commercial station WNBT, channel 1 (now WNBC-TV channel 4) from July 1941 on. NBC's FM station W2XDG, began transmitting from the antenna in 1940. NBC retained exclusive use of the top of the building until 1950, when the FCC ordered the exclusive deal broken, based on consumer complaints that a common location was necessary for the seven extant New York-area television stations to transmit from so that receiving antennas would not have to be constantly adjusted. Construction on a giant tower began on July 27, 1950. Other television broadcasters then joined RCA at the building, on the 83rd, 82nd, and 81st floors, often along with sister FM stations. Multiple transmissions of TV and FM began from the new tower in 1951, and was completed by 1953. Six broadcasters paid a combined $600,000 for the use of the antenna in 1951 per year; in 1965, a separate set of FM antennas was constructed ringing the 103rd floor observation area to act as a master antenna.
The stations' placement in the Empire State Building became a major issue with the construction of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers during the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the towers were taller than the Empire State Building, this would cause waves from the Empire State Building to sometimes bounce off the walls of the taller Twin Towers. As a result, some broadcasters decided that it would be easier to move to the Twin Towers instead, rather than suing the complex's developer, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to stop construction. Even though the nine stations who were broadcasting from the Empire State Building were leasing their broadcast space until 1984, most of these stations moved to the World Trade Center as soon as it was completed in 1971, the broadcasters obtained a court order stipulating that the Port Authority had to build a mast and transmission equipment in the North Tower, as well as pay the broadcasters' leases in the Empire State Building until 1984. After the leases expired, there were very few broadcasters remaining in the Empire State Building.
The September 11 attacks in 2001 destroyed the World Trade Center and the broadcast centers atop it, leaving most of the city's stations without a station for ten days until a temporary tower was built in Alpine, New Jersey. By October 2001, nearly all of the city's commercial broadcast stations (both television and FM radio) were transmitting from the top of the Empire State Building, the stations' placement in the Empire State Building was considered "problematic" due to interference from other nearby towers, as contrasted with the former Twin Towers, which had very few buildings of comparable height nearby. In 2003, a few FM stations were relocated to the nearby Condé Nast Building to reduce the number of broadcast stations using the Empire State Building. Eleven television stations and 22 FM stations had signed 15-year leases in the building by May 2003, it was expected that a taller broadcast tower in Bayonne, New Jersey, or Governors Island would be built in the meantime, with the Empire State Building being used as a "backup" since signal transmission from the Empire State Building was still of poor quality.
- Television: WCBS-2, WNBC-4, WNYW-5, WABC-7, WWOR-9 Secaucus, WPIX-11, WNET-13 Newark, WNYE-25, WPXN-31, WXTV-41 Paterson, WNJU-47 Linden and WFUT-68 Newark
- FM: WBMP-92.3, WPAT-93.1 Paterson, WNYC-93.9, WPLJ-95.5, WXNY-96.3, WQHT-97.1, WSKQ-97.9, WEPN-98.7, WBAI-99.5, WHTZ-100.3 Newark, WCBS-101.1, WFAN-101.9, WNEW-FM-102.7, WKTU-103.5 Lake Success, WAXQ-104.3, WWPR-105.1, WQXR-105.9 Newark, WLTW-106.7 and WBLS-107.5
The 86th and 102nd floors contain observatories, which combined see an average of 4 million visitors per year, since opening, the observatories have been more popular than similar observatories at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the Chrysler Building, the first One World Trade Center, or the Woolworth Building, despite being more expensive. Tourists must pay to visit the observation deck on the 86th floor and an additional amount for the 102nd floor.
The 86th floor observatory contains both an enclosed section and a wide-open section, the 102nd floor observatory is completely enclosed and much smaller than the first one. For several years until 2005, the 102nd floor observatory was closed, the observation decks were redesigned in mid-1979.
The lines to enter the observation decks, according to Concierge.com, are "as legendary as the building itself:" there are five of them: the sidewalk line, the lobby elevator line, the ticket purchase line, the second elevator line, and the line to get off the elevator and onto the observation deck. For an extra fee tourists can skip to the front of the line, the Empire State Building garners significant revenue from ticket sales for its observation decks, making more money from ticket sales than it does from renting office space during some years.
New York Skyride
The Empire State Building also has a motion simulator attraction located on the 2nd floor, opened in early 1994, it was built as a complement to the observation deck. The cinematic presentation lasts approximately 25 minutes, while the simulation is about eight minutes. As of October 2017[update], tickets are $42 for adults, $32 for children, and $36 for senior citizens.
The ride has had two incarnations, the original version, which ran from 1994 until around 2002, featured James Doohan, Star Trek's Scotty, as the airplane's pilot, who humorously tried to keep the flight under control during a storm. After the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in September 11, 2001, the ride was closed. An updated version debuted in mid-2002 with actor Kevin Bacon as the pilot, with the new flight also going haywire, this new version served a more informative goal, as opposed to the old version's main purpose of entertainment, and contained details about the 9/11 attacks. The simulator has received mixed reviews, with assessments of the ride ranging from "great" to "satisfactory" to "corny".
The building was originally equipped with white searchlights atop the tower, they saw their first use in November 1932 when they lit up to signal Roosevelt's victory over Hoover in the presidential election of that year. They were swapped for four "Freedom Lights" in 1956; in February 1964, flood lights were added on the 72nd floor to illuminate the top of the building at night so that the building could be seen from the World's Fair later that year. The lights were shut off from November 1973 to July 1974 because of the severe energy crisis at the time. New red, white, and blue lights were installed in 1976 in time for the country's bicentennial.
Since 1976 the spire has been lit in colors chosen to match seasonal events and holidays, with organizations able to make requests through the building's website, the building will also be lit in the colors of New York's sports teams on the nights they have home games (orange, blue and white for the New York Knicks, red, white and blue for the New York Rangers, and so on). It was twice lit in scarlet to support New Jersey's Rutgers University: once for a football game against the University of Louisville on November 9, 2006, and again on April 3, 2007 when the women's basketball team played in the national championship game.
There have also been special occasions where the lights are modified from the usual schedule, after the eightieth birthday and subsequent death of Frank Sinatra in 1998, for example, the building was bathed in blue light to represent the singer's nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes". After actress Fay Wray died in September 2004, who starred in King Kong, the building stood in complete darkness for 15 minutes. The floodlights bathed the building in red, white, and blue for several months after the destruction of the World Trade Center, then reverted to the standard schedule, on June 4, 2002, the Empire State Building donned purple and gold (the royal colors of Elizabeth II), in thanks for the United Kingdom playing the Star Spangled Banner during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace on September 12, 2001 (a show of support after the September 11 attacks). On January 13, 2012, the building was lit in red, orange, and yellow to honor the 60th anniversary of NBC's The Today Show, from June 1 to 3, 2012, the building was lit in blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag, in honor of the 49th annual Celebrate Israel Parade.
During 2012, the building's four hundred metal halide lamps and floodlights were replaced with 1,200 LED fixtures, increasing the available colors from nine to over 16 million, the computer-controlled system allows the building to be illuminated in ways that were unable to be done previously with plastic gels. For instance, on November 6, 2012, CNN used the top of the Empire State Building as a scoreboard for the 2012 United States presidential election. When incumbent president Barack Obama had reached the 270 electoral votes necessary to win re-election, the lights turned blue. Had Republican challenger Mitt Romney won, the building would have been lit red. Also, on November 26, 2012, the building had its first ever synchronized light show, using music from recording artist Alicia Keys, the building's owners adhere to strict standards in using the lights; for instance, they would not use the lights to play advertisements.
The longest world record held by the Empire State Building was for the tallest skyscraper (to structural height), which it held for 42 years until it was surpassed by the North Tower of the World Trade Center in October 1970. The Empire State Building was also the tallest man-made structure in the world before it was surpassed by the Griffin Television Tower Oklahoma (KWTV Mast) in 1954, and the tallest freestanding structure in the world until the completion of the Ostankino Tower in 1967. An early-1970s proposal to dismantle the spire and replace it with an additional 11 floors, which would have brought the building's height to 1,494 feet (455 m) and made it once again the world's tallest at the time, was considered but ultimately rejected.
With the destruction of the World Trade Center in the September 11 attacks, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City, and the second-tallest building in the Americas, surpassed only by the Willis Tower in Chicago. The Empire State Building remained the tallest building in New York until the new One World Trade Center reached a greater height in April 2012. As of July 2016[update], it is the third-tallest building in New York City after the One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue, and the fifth-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States behind the two other tallest buildings in New York City, as well as the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. The Empire State Building is the 28th-tallest in the world As of October 2017[update], the tallest being Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is also the sixth-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas behind the five tallest buildings and the CN Tower.
The Empire State Building Run-Up, a foot race from ground level to the 86th-floor observation deck, has been held annually since 1978, its participants are referred to both as runners and as climbers, and are often tower running enthusiasts. The race covers a vertical distance of 1,050 feet (320 m) and takes in 1,576 steps. The record time is 9 minutes and 33 seconds, achieved by Australian professional cyclist Paul Crake in 2003, at a climbing rate of 6,593 ft (2,010 m) per hour. ESRT began trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange on October 2, 2013.
The building houses around 1,000 businesses. Current tenants include:
- Air China
- Boy Scouts of America, Greater New York Councils
- Croatian National Tourist Board
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- Filipino Reporter
- Human Rights Foundation
- Human Rights Watch
- Kaplan International Center
- Li & Fung
- Media General
- Noven Pharmaceuticals
- People's Daily
- Polish Cultural Institute
- Qatar Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- World Monuments Fund
Former tenants include:
- The King's College (now located at 56 Broadway)
- China National Tourist Office (now located at 370 Lexington Avenue)
- National Film Board of Canada (now located at 1123 Broadway)
- Nathaniel Branden Institute
1945 plane crash
At 9:40 am on July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted in thick fog by Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr., crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors, where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located. One engine shot through the side opposite the impact and flew as far as the next block, where it landed on the roof of a nearby building, starting a fire that destroyed a penthouse, the other engine and part of the landing gear plummeted down an elevator shaft. The resulting fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. Fourteen people were killed in the incident. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded.
Despite the damage and loss of life, the building was open for business on many floors on the following Monday, two days later, the crash helped spur the passage of the long-pending Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, as well as the insertion of retroactive provisions into the law, allowing people to sue the government for the incident. Also as a result of the crash, the Civil Aeronautics Administration enacted strict regulations regarding flying over New York City, setting a minimum flying altitude of 2,500 feet (760 m) above sea level regardless of the weather condition.
A year later, on July 24, 1946, another aircraft narrowly missed striking the building, the unidentified twin-engine plane had scraped past the observation deck, scaring tourists there.
2000 elevator plunge
On January 24, 2000, an elevator in the building suddenly descended 40 stories after a cable that controlled the cabin's maximum speed was severed, the elevator fell from the 44th floor to the fourth floor, where a narrowed elevator shaft provided a second safety system. Despite the 40-floor fall, both of the passengers in the cabin at the time were only slightly injured, since that elevator had no fourth-floor doors, the passengers were rescued by an adjacent elevator. After the fall, building inspectors reviewed all of the building's elevators.
Because of the building's iconic status, it and other Midtown landmarks are popular locations for suicide attempts. More than 30 people have attempted suicide over the years by jumping from the upper parts of the building, with most attempts being successful.
The first suicide from the building occurred on April 7, 1931, before the tower was even completed, when a carpenter who had been laid-off went to the 58th floor and jumped, the first suicide after the building's opening occurred from the 86th floor observatory on February 1935, when 22-year-old Irma P. Eberhardt fell 1,029 feet (314 m) onto a marquee sign. On December 16, 1943, William Lloyd Rambo, a 22-year-old ex-United States Navy gunner's mate, jumped to his death from the 86th floor, landing amidst Christmas shoppers on the street below; in the early morning of September 27, 1946, shell-shocked 27 year-old Marine Douglas W. Brashear, Jr. jumped from the 76th-floor window of the Grant Advertising Agency after phoning a co-worker to tell her, "I know now this is the end." Police found his shoes 50 feet from his body.
On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck and landed on a limousine parked at the curb. Photography student Robert Wiles took a photo of McHale's oddly intact corpse a few minutes after her death, the police found a suicide note among possessions that she left on the observation deck: "He is much better off without me.... I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody", the photo ran in the edition of May 12, 1947 of Life magazine and is often referred to as "The Most Beautiful Suicide". It was later used by visual artist Andy Warhol in one of his prints entitled Suicide (Fallen Body). A 7-foot (2.1 m) mesh fence was put up around the 86th floor terrace in December 1947 after five people tried to jump during a three-week span in October and November of that year. By then, sixteen people had died from suicide jumps.
Only one person has jumped from the upper observatory. Frederick Eckert of Astoria ran past a guard in the enclosed 102nd floor gallery on November 3, 1932 and jumped a gate leading to an outdoor catwalk intended for dirigible passengers, he landed and died on the roof of the 86th floor observation promenade.
Two people have survived falls by not falling more than a floor, on December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be blown back onto a ledge on the 85th floor by a gust of wind and left with a broken hip. On April 25, 2013, a man fell from the 86th floor observation deck, but he landed alive with minor injuries on an 85th-floor ledge where security guards brought him inside and paramedics transferred him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Two fatal shootings have occurred in the direct vicinity of the Empire State Building. Abu Kamal, a 69-year-old Palestinian teacher, shot seven people on the 86th floor observation deck during the afternoon of February 23, 1997, he killed one person and wounded six others, supposedly in response to events happening in Palestine and Israel, before committing suicide.
On the morning of August 24, 2012, 58-year-old Jeffrey T. Johnson shot and killed a former co-worker on the building's Fifth Avenue sidewalk, he had been laid off from his job in 2011. Two police officers confronted the gunman, and he aimed his firearm at them, they responded by firing 16 shots, killing him but also wounding nine bystanders, most of whom were hit by fragments, although three took direct hits from bullets.
As the tallest building in the world and the first one to exceed 100 floors, the Empire State Building was immediately an icon of the city and of the entire country. Time magazine called the building a way that "you know that you’re in New York City". John Tauranac calls the tower "'the' twentieth-century New York building", even despite the existence of taller and more modernist buildings. Early in the building's history, travel companies such as Short Line Motor Coach Service and New York Central Railroad used the building as an icon to symbolize the city, after the construction of the first World Trade Center, architect Paul Goldberger noted that the Empire State Building "is famous for being tall, but it is good enough to be famous for being good."
As an icon of the United States, it is also very popular among Americans; in a 2007 survey, the American Institute of Architects found that the Empire State Building was "America's favorite building". The building was originally a symbol of hope in a country devastated by the Depression, as well as a work of accomplishment by newer immigrants. Benjamin Flowers writes that the Empire State was "a building intended to celebrate a new America, built by men (both clients and construction workers) who were themselves new Americans." Meanwhile, BBC News' culture section referred to the building as an "icon of American design".
The Empire State Building has been hailed as an example of a "wonder of the world" due to the massive effort expended during construction. The Washington Star listed it as part of one of the "seven wonders of the modern world" in 1931, while Holiday magazine wrote in 1958 that the Empire State's height would be taller than the combined heights of the Eiffel Tower and the Great Pyramid of Giza. The American Society of Civil Engineers also declared the building "A Modern Civil Engineering Wonder of the United States" in 1958, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1994. Ron Miller, in a 2010 book, also described the Empire State Building as one of the "seven wonders of engineering", it has often been called the Eighth Wonder of the World as well, an appellation that it has held since shortly after opening. The panels installed in the lobby in 1963 reflected this, showing the seven original wonders alongside the Empire State Building.
In popular culture
As an icon of New York City, the Empire State Building has been featured in dozens of films, books, TV shows, and video games; in his book about the Empire State Building, John Tauranac writes that the first documented appearance of the tower in popular culture was Swiss Family Manhattan, a 1932 children's story by Christopher Morley. A year later, the film King Kong depicted Kong, a large stop motion ape, who climbs the Empire State Building. That movie brought the Empire State Building into the popular imagination, with subsequent movies such as An Affair to Remember (1957), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and Independence Day (1996) showing the building. The building has also been featured in other works, such as "Daleks in Manhattan", a 2007 episode of the TV series Doctor Who; and Empire, an eight-hour black-and-white silent film by Andy Warhol that was later added to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry.
- Empire State Building in popular culture
- History of the tallest skyscrapers
- List of buildings with 100 floors or more
- List of tallest buildings in the world
- List of tallest buildings in the United States
- List of tallest buildings in New York City
- List of tallest buildings by U.S. state
- List of tallest freestanding structures in the world
- The Empire State Building is located within the 10001 zip code area, but 10118 has been assigned as the building's own zip code by the United States Postal Service since 1980.
- Most sources state that there are 102 floors, but a few give a figure of 103 floors due to the presence of a balcony above the 102nd floor. See § Opening and early years and § Above the 102nd floor for a detailed explanation.
- Some sources say that this purchase was made for $2600.
- Some sources say the farm may have been purchased by Charles Lawton for $10,000 in 1825 and purchased by John Jacob Astor's son William Backhouse Astor Sr. in 1827, but others say John Jacob bought Thompson's farm directly in 1826. This conflates John's purchase of the entire parcel with William's subsequent purchase of a half-interest that included the current Empire State Building's land.
- The 101st floor was later renamed the 102nd floor and is 101 floors above ground. The former 102nd floor, now the 103rd floor, is now a balcony that is off-limits to the public, and is 102 floors above ground.
- As per the 1916 Zoning Act, the wall of any given tower that faces a street could only rise to a certain height, proportionate to the street's width, at which point the building had to be set back by a given proportion. This system of setbacks would continue until the tower reaches a floor level in which that level's floor area was 25% that of the ground level's area, after that 25% threshold was reached, the building could rise without restriction. This law was modified in 1961.
- See Landmarks Preservation Commission 1981, PDF page 26, for a diagram of the lobby.
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The 103-floor Empire State Building draws
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The walkway circles around the building’s narrow spire, which, in 1930, was envisioned as a mooring mast for dirigibles.
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|Look up Empire State Building in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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- Official website
- Empire State Building on CTBUH Skyscraper Center
- Empire State Building under construction (1930–1931) at the New York Public Library
- Empire State Building at Viva 2 – archive of over 500 construction photographs at The Skyscraper Museum
|World's tallest structure
|World's tallest freestanding structure on land
|Tallest building in the world
World Trade Center (1973–2001) (North Tower)
|Tallest building in the United States
|Tallest building in New York City
World Trade Center (1973–2001) (North Tower)
|Tallest building in New York City
One World Trade Center (current)