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Celebrate The Empire State Building's Birthday With These Fun Facts And Photos!


Have you been to the top? (via MCNY and Getty Images)

82 years ago today, the Empire State Building opened to the public. Let's gaze upon her beauty, and learn a little more about the ol' gal.

  • On May 1st, 1931, President Herbert Hoover dedicated the Empire State Building by pressing a button from the White House that turned on the building's lights. But this was just symbolic... the lights were actually turned on by someone in New York.
  • The site of the Empire State Building was also the site of the old Waldorf-Astoria, which was demolished for its construction.
  • John Jacob Raskob (of General Motors) was the main man behind the Empire State Building, and legend has it he had two requirements of the architects: for the building look like a pencil and for it to be the tallest on earth.
  • The 103rd floor is closed to the public, but we've been up there... and it's terrifying. So, bravo Raskob.
103esb0413.jpgPhoto by Katie Sokoler/Gothamist
  • Some say he held a pencil up to architect William Lamb and asked, "Bill, how high can you make it so that it won't fall down?"
  • The idea for the building was born out of a competition between Raskob and Walter Chrysler to see who could build the tallest structure.
  • While the ESB started later, it only took just over a year to build, giving the Chrysler Building less than a year to be the tallest in the city's skyline.

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Workers on the building in 1931. (via the NYPL)

  • The building is 1,250 feet high (1,454 feet to the top of the lightning rod). When it was completed it was the world's tallest skyscraper, and it kept that title until the World Trade Center took it over in 1972.
  • It became the tallest building in New York City and New York State on September 11th, 2001. Today, 1WTC is the tallest.
  • Just like the Woolworth Building did before it, it has touched Heaven.

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"1985: A view of the Empire State Building completely cloaked in fog which has clung to the side of the building all day." (Getty Images)

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(Getty Images)

  • All in all it cost about $40 million to build.
  • It was built during the Great Depression, and for a while only 25% of office space was rented out.
  • The original intent was that it was to be used as a mooring mast and depot for zeppelins, but that proved to be, you know, totally dangerous. Here's what that would have looked like:

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"Over the mooring mast. Dirigible over Empire State Bldg. The blimp Columbia trying to pick up a sack of mail for delivery to outbound liner, circa 1930s. (MCNY)

  • On a foggy July 28th, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr., crashed into the north side of the building between the 79th and 80th floors. 14 people were killed.
  • On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the observation deck of the building, and photographer Robert Wiles took this photo, leaving some to call her death "the World's Most Beautiful Suicide."

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  • Over 30 people have since committed suicide by jumping off the building. But the first occurred 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 a happier note: it is so romantic!

  • And in the 1980s King Kong clung to the spire (until he deflated... womp womp).
    newKINGKONGESB83.jpg
    via Lime Contracting and Flickr

    • Tonight the building lights will not be shining in celebration of itself. Intead, the lights will be all peach, in honor of the Financial Times' 125 anniversary.
  • Featured in Arts & Entertainment