5th Avenue & 34th Street, NYC
The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, 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 September 11 attacks in 2001, the Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York (although it was no longer the tallest in the US or the world). The Empire State Building was once again demoted to second-tallest building in New York on April 30, 2012, when the new One World Trade Center reached a greater height. The Empire State Building is currently the third-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States (after the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower, both in Chicago), and the 22nd-tallest in the world (the tallest now is Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai). It is also the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas.
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.
The limestone for the Empire State Building came from the Empire Mill in Sanders, Indiana which is an unincorporated town adjacent to Bloomington, Indiana. The Empire Mill Land office is near State Road 37 and Old State Road 37 just south of Bloomington. Bloomington, Bedford and Oolitic area are known as the limestone capital of the world. It is a point of local pride that the stone for the Empire State building came from there.
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 22, 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 project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Instead of taking 18 months as anticipated, the construction took just under fifteen. Due to reduced costs during the Depression, the final costs totaled only $24.7 million (372.8 million 2012 dollars) instead of the estimated $43 million. 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 Empire State Building rises to 1,250 ft (381 m) at the 102nd floor, and including the 203 ft (62 m) pinnacle, its full height reaches 1,453 ft–89⁄16 in (443.09 m). The building has 85 stories of commercial and office space representing 2,158,000 sq ft (200,500 m2). 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 (62 m) 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 2,768,591 sq ft (257,211 m2); the base of the Empire State Building is about 2 acres (8,094 m2). 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, which contains a gift shop and an exhibit detailing the building’s construction. From there, visitors can take another elevator or climb the stairs to the 86th floor, where an outdoor observation deck is located. The building has 70 mi (113 km) of pipe, 2,500,000 ft (760,000 m) 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 3 psi (14 and 21 kPa) of steam pressure for heating. It weighs approximately 370,000 short tons (340,000 t). 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 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-carat 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.
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