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On May 1, 1939, a button was pressed in Washington, D.C. by President Herbert Hoover that turned on the lights to the world's tallest building at the time. The Empire State building, though now the fifth tallest building in the United States and the thirty-fourth tallest in the world, is still one of the most well-known structures in New York City. Standing at 102 stories tall, it's impossible to not find this gargantuan structure located on 5th Avenue. Visitors can view the Big Apple from the famous Observation Deck on the 86th floor.


  • The Empire State Building from a distance.
  • Photograph of a worker during construction in 1930.
  • The top of the building lit up at night.
  • The progress of construction

Legend has it that the concept of the building was created from a competition between Walter Chrysler, creator of the Chrysler Building, and John Jakob Raskob from General Motors to see who could create the taller building between the two. After seeing that Chrysler had already created a tall building in Midtown Manhattan, Raskob put together a team of investors, including former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, and chose the architecture company Shreve, Lamb and Harmon to design the building. The team purchased a parcel of land at 350 Fifth Avenue, the spot of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and demolished the hotel and began construction of the building that would soon define a city. 

The original designs called for it to be a flat-topped building but later announced that a 200-foot mooring mast would be added. On March 17, 1930, construction began on the structure by erecting 210 steel columnns, with twelve of them running the entire building height. A tight work schedule was put in place by construction firm Starrett Bros. & Eken with the belief that "the sooner the building opened, the sooner the owners could start making money by collecting rent from tenants." Construction supposedly went so fast that the building rose at a rate of four and a half floors per week. On May 1, 1931, after over a year of construction, the Empire State Building officially opened its doors, giving New Yorkers a new sense of pride in the midst of the Great Depression.

The building itself has garnered much fame since its opening. The beginning of its long-running fame began after part of the 1933 film King Kong was set outside the building, as the gigantic gorilla ascended the structure with the film's heroine before being shot down by planes with machine guns. Planes would later put the structure to the test when a B-25 Bomber crashed into the building on July 28, 1945, killing fourteen people and leaving an eighteen-foot-wide tear in the façade of the building. The Empire State Building lost its title of world's tallest building in 1972 when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were completed.   

"Empire State Building Dedicated." History. Accessed Web, 5/19/17. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/empire-state-building-dedicated.

"Historical Timeline." Empire State Building. Accessed Web, 5/19/17. http://www.esbnyc.com/explore/historical-timeline.

"The Empire State Building." Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Accessed Web, 5/19/17. http://www.unmuseum.org/7wonders/empire_state_building.htm.