Empire State Building in New York City
The Empire State Building is a 102-story landmark skyscraper and American cultural icon in New York City at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. It has a roof height of 1,250 feet (381 meters), and with its antenna spire included, it stands a total of 1,454 ft (443.2 m) high. Its name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State. It stood as the world's tallest building for 40 years, from its completion in 1931 until construction of the World Trade Center's North Tower was completed in 1972. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building once again became the tallest building in New York.
The Empire State Building is designed in the distinctive Art Deco style, and 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 building is owned and managed by W&H Properties. The Empire State Building is currently the third tallest skyscraper in the United States (after the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower, both in Chicago), and the 15th tallest in the world. It is also the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas. The Empire State Building is currently undergoing a $550 million renovation, with $120 million spent in an effort to transform the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure. Receiving a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011, the Empire State Building is the tallest LEED certified building in the United States.
The site of the Empire State Building was first developed as the John Thompson Farm in the late 18th century. At the time, a stream ran across the site, emptying into Sunfish Pond, located a block away. Beginning in the late 19th century the block was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York.
Design and construction
The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb from the 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 (designed by the architectural firm W.W. Ahlschlager & Associates) as a basis. Every year the staff of the Empire State Building sends a Father's Day card to the staff at the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem to pay homage to its role as predecessor to the Empire State Building. The building was 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. The construction company was chaired by Alfred E. Smith, a former Governor of New York and James Farley's General Builders Supply Corporation supplied the building materials. John W. Bowser was project construction superintendent.
Excavation of the site began on January 21, 1930, and construction on the building itself started symbolically on March 17—St. Patrick's Day—per Al Smith's influence as Empire State, Inc. president. The project involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, along with hundreds of Mohawk iron workers, many from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. 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 "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. Coincidentally, the first use of tower lights atop the Empire State Building, the following year, was for the purpose of signaling the victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt over Hoover in the presidential election of November 1932.
The building's opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space went without being rented. 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. Other more successful skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler Building, did not have this problem. 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.
Over the years, more than thirty people have committed suicide from the top of the building. The first suicide occurred even before its completion, by a worker who had been laid off. The fence around the observatory terrace was put up in 1947 after five people tried to jump during a three-week span.
On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck and landed on a United Nations 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 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 May 12, 1947 edition 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 paintings entitled Suicide (Fallen Body).
On December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be blown back onto the 85th floor and left with a broken hip.
Only one suicide has jumped from the upper observatory. On November 3, 1932, Frederick Eckert of Astoria, Queens, ran past a guard in the enclosed 102nd floor gallery and jumped a gate leading to an outdoor catwalk intended for dirigible passengers. Eckert's body landed on the roof of the 86th floor observation promenade.
1945 plane crash
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, 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. 14 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. 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 accident.
A year later, another aircraft had a close encounter with the skyscraper. It narrowly missed striking the building.
1997 observation deck shooting
On February 24, 1997, a Palestinian gunman shot seven people on the observation deck, killing one, then fatally wounded himself.
The Empire State Building rises to 1250 ft at the 102nd floor, and including the 203 ft pinnacle, its full height reaches (443.09 m). The building has 85 stories of commercial and office space representing 2158000 sqft. It has an indoor and outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor. The remaining 16 stories represent the Art Deco tower, which is capped by a 102nd-floor observatory. Atop the tower is the 203 ft pinnacle, much of which is covered by broadcast antennas, with a lightning rod at the very top.
The Empire State Building was the first building to have more than 100 floors. It has 6,500 windows and 73 elevators, and there are 1,860 steps from street level to the 102nd floor. It has a total floor area of 2768591 sqft; the base of the Empire State Building is about 2 acre. The building houses 1,000 businesses and has its own zip code, 10118. As of 2007, approximately 21,000 employees work in the building each day, making the Empire State Building the second-largest single office complex in America, after the Pentagon. The building was completed in one year and 45 days. Its original 64 elevators are located in a central core; today, the Empire State Building has 73 elevators in all, including service elevators. It takes less than one minute by elevator to get to the 80th floor where visitors can take another elevator or stairs to the 86th floor, where an observation deck is located.) The building has 70 mi of pipe, 2500000 ft of electrical wire, and about 9,000 faucets. It is heated by low-pressure steam; despite its height, the building only requires between 2 and of steam pressure for heating. It weighs approximately 370000 ST. The exterior of the building was built using Indiana limestone panels.
The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build (Equal to roughly $500,000,000 in 2010). Long-term forecasting of the life cycle of the structure was implemented at the design phase to ensure that the building's future intended uses were not restricted by the requirements of previous generations. This is particularly evident in the over-design of the building's electrical system.
Unlike most of today's skyscrapers, the Empire State Building features an art deco design, 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 elevator core contains 67 elevators.
The lobby is three stories high and features an aluminum relief of the skyscraper without the antenna, which was not added to the spire until 1952. 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. These panels were eventually moved near a ticketing line for the observation deck.
The building's lobbies and common areas received a $550 million renovation in 2009, which included new air conditioning, waterproofing, and renovating the observation deck; moving the gift shop to the 80th floor. Up until the 1960s, the ceilings in the lobby had a shiny art deco mural depicting 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. Over 50 artists and workers used 15,000 square feet of aluminum and 1,300 square feet of 23-karat gold leaf to re-create the mural. 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.
In 1964, floodlights were added to illuminate the top of the building at night, in colors chosen to match seasonal and other events, such as St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, Independence Day and Bastille Day. After the eightieth birthday and subsequent death of Frank Sinatra, for example, the building was bathed in blue light to represent the singer's nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes". After the death of actress Fay Wray (King Kong) in late 2004, 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 Queen 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). This would also be shown after the Westminster Dog Show. Traditionally, in addition to the standard schedule, the building will 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). The first weekend in June finds the building bathed in green light for the Belmont Stakes held in nearby Belmont Park. The building is illuminated in tennis-ball yellow during the US Open tennis tournament in late August and early September. It was twice lit in scarlet to support nearby 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.
In 1995, the building was lit up in blue, red, green and yellow for the release of Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system, which was launched with a $300 million campaign.
The building has also been known to be illuminated in purple and white in honor of graduating students from New York University and blue and white in honor of those graduating from Columbia University. A particular elevator, traveling between the 86th and 102nd floors, was supposed to transport passengers after they checked in at the observation deck on the 86th floor. However, the idea proved to be impractical and dangerous after a few attempts with airships, due to the powerful updrafts caused by the size of the building itself, as well as the lack of mooring lines tying the other end of the craft to the ground. A large broadcast tower was added to the top of the spire in 1953. The lines to enter the observation decks, according to the building's website, 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.
- Boy Scouts of America, Greater New York City Councils, 4th Floor
- Croatian National Tourist Board, Suite 4003
- World Monuments Fund, Suite 2412
- Turkish Airlines
- China National Tourist Office<ref name="Foreigners"/> (now located at 370 Lexington Avenue)
- National Film Board of Canada<ref name="Foreigners"/> (now located at 1123 Broadway)
- Nathaniel Branden Institute
- List of buildings with 100 floors or more
- List of tallest buildings in the world
- List of tallest buildings by U.S. state
- List of tallest freestanding structures in the world
- Skyscraper#History of tallest skyscrapers
- Further reading
- Official website
- Film footage of the construction of the Empire State Building, 1930
- "Man's Mightiest Monument" Popular Mechanics, December 1930, pp 920-924 detailed article on construction and initial plans for building
- Commercial Construction.com
- Lighting Schedule
- Empire State Building Green Retrofit
- Empire State Building Trivia
- Empire State Building Information
- The Construction of the Empire State Building, 1930–1931, New York Public Library
- VIVA2 – Online archive of over 500 construction photographs
- NYC Insider Guide Visitor information.
- Streetscapes: The Empire State Building — slideshow by The New York Times
- Empire State Building: Made by Hand — slideshow by Life magazine