The Empire State Building

Like the Rockefeller Centre, the Empire State Building was a depression era project. But while Rockefeller’s comparatively down to earth dream was to create a city within New York City, the sky was the limit for the men behind the Empire State building. They wanted to create the tallest structure on earth! The building was designed by architect Gregory Johnson and constructed by a company named the Starrett Brothers and Eken.

The Empire State Building from the NY City Sights bus
The Empire State Building from the NY City Sights bus

Work began on the site of the former Waldorf Hotel on the corner of Fifth Avenue on St Patrick’s Day (March 17) 1930.  The 3,400 labour force was made up mainly of European immigrants and Mohawk steel workers from Montreal. 60,000 tons of structural steel, 10 million bricks, 1,8886 60 kilometres of elevator cable, 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone and granite façade and 6, 4000 windows went into the 86 floor, 331,000 ton structure. On May 1, 1931 President Herbert Hoover pressed a button in the White House which turned on the lights and the Empire State building was officially opened. It was 6 weeks ahead of schedule and $5 million dollars under budget.

The piece de resistance of the finished building is the magnificent five story art deco lobby lined with granite and marble and highlighted with brushed steel. It is decorated with a metal mosaic depicting the Empire State building as the centre of the universe and hung with giant bronze medallions portraying the master craftsmen who worked on it. The metal tower at the summit was originally intended to serve as a zeppelin port. But the age of the zeppelins was brief and only one craft ever moored there. Still, since it opened, more than 117 million people have come to enjoy the magnificent views from the observation deck on the 86th floor. Over 1,000 businesses are housed in the Empire State building which has its own dedicated zip code.

From 1931 until 1972, when the World Trade Centre was raised, the Empire State building was the tallest in the world. With the tragic events of September11, 2001 it became, once again, the tallest building in New York but by this time, out in the world, it had been surpassed.

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