Empire State Building History

The Empire State Building is a 102-story landmark Art Deco skyscraper in New York City at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. Its name is derived from the nickname for the state of New York. It stood as the world's tallest building for more than forty years. The Empire State Building has been named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. 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 List of America's Favorite Architecture according to the AIA.

The present site of the Empire State Building was first developed as the John Thomson Farm in the late 18th century. At the time, a stream ran across the site, emptying into Sunfish Pond, located a block away. The block was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the late 19th century, and was frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York.

The Empire State Building was designed by Gregory Johnson and his architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, which produced the building drawings in just two weeks, using its earlier designs, for the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a basis. The building was actually designed from the top down. The general contractors were The Starrett Brothers and Eken, and the project was financed primarily by John J. Raskob and Pierre S. du Pont.

Excavation of the site began on January 22, 1930, and construction on the building itself started symbolically on March 17. The project involved 3,400 workers. According to official accounts, five workers died during the construction. Governor Smith's grandchildren cut the ribbon on May 1, 1931. Lewis Wickes Hine's photography of the construction provides not only invaluable documentation of the construction, but also a glimpse into common day life of workers in that era. The construction was part of an intense competition in New York for the title of the world's tallest building. Two other projects fighting for the title, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, were still under construction when work began on the Empire State Building. Each held the title for less than a year, as the Empire State Building surpassed them upon its completion, just 410 days after construction commenced. The 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.

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The building's opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space went unrented. The building's vacancy was exacerbated by its poor location on 34th Street, which placed it relatively far from public transportation, as Grand Central Terminal, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Penn Station are all several blocks away. 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. The lack of renters led New Yorkers to deride the building as the "Empty State Building". The building would not become profitable until 1950. The famous 1951 sale of The Empire State Building to Roger L. Stevens and his business partners was brokered by the prominent upper Manhattan real-estate firm Charles F. Noyes & Company for a record $51 million. At the time, that was the highest price ever paid for a single structure in real-estate history.

At 9:40 a.m. on Saturday, 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. 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.

The Empire State Building remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for 23 years before it was surpassed by the Griffin Television Tower Oklahoma (KWTV Mast) in 1954. It was also the tallest free-standing structure in the world for 36 years before it was surpassed by the Ostankino Tower in 1967.

Empire State Building was the world's tallest building from 1931 to 1973. The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build.

The Empire State Building Run-Up is a foot race from ground level to the 86th-floor observation deck that has been held annually since 1978.

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