The Empire State Building remains among the most impressive structures in the world and with more than 3 million visitors a year is still one of New York’s top tourist attractions.
The idea for the project originated from four wealthy New York businessmen. One of these men was John Jakob Raskob, who played a significant role in the creation of General Motors. Their project had yet another automotive connection because it was in a race with plans by Walter Chrysler to erect the world’s tallest building in New York City.
In 1929 these businessmen united to form Empire State, Inc. and construction of the skyscraper began on March 17, 1930. Amazingly, it took just one year and 45 days to build this towering edifice. When it opened in 1931 the Empire State Building was officially designated as the World’s Tallest Building.
Once the construction began, the building’s steel frame rose at an average rate of four and a half floors per week. To speed construction, the posts, beams, windows and window frames were made in factories and put together on the site. Some 60,000 tons of steel was brought in from steel mills in Pennsylvania by train, barges and trucks.
William Lamb of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon was the architect for the Empire State Building, and his design was influenced by the perpendicular style of Eliel Saarinen. Most of his design was based on a simple pencil with its clean and soaring lines. Lamb decided that the columns of stone would be easier to put up if they were separated from the windows with metal strips. The fact that they covered the stone’s edges meant the stone could be rough-cut at the quarry and then heaved into place without any final cutting or fitting. This feature turned out to be another time saver in their race against Walter Chrysler.
By October 3, 1930, 88 floors were completed and only 14 top floors remained to be built. These were the most difficult ones due to building’s distinctive design of a tower made of glass, steel, and aluminum topped with a dome, rising about 200 ft. into the sky. Yet, on May 1st, 1931, President Hoover pressed a button in Washington, D.C. that turned on its lights and officially opened the Empire State Building to business and visitors.
Over the years, the Empire State Building has gone on to host important dignitaries and political and entertainment figures. The famous observation deck has been the site for many movie scenes. Among the many films that featured it were Annie Hall, The French Connection, Guys and Dolls, Independence Day, Serpico, Superman II, Taxi Driver, and When Harry Met Sally. Perhaps movie fans will remember the Empire State Building most of all for the infamous scene in King Kong where the giant ape hung from the tower swatting at bi-planes.
In 1986, the Empire State Building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Recent improvements have modernized it so that visitors today are whisked by high speed elevator to the 86th floor open-air observatory. There they can enjoy a panoramic view for as far as 80 miles, as well as New York’s incredible architecture.
Don’t forget to schedule a visit the observation deck the next time you take a student group to New York City. Not only will the students learn about this amazing skyscraper they’ll also have the best seat on the East coast to view the sights of New York City.