Dedication Ceremony of Empire State Building

On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially dedicates New York City’s Empire State Building, pressing a button from the White House that turns on the building’s lights. Hoover’s gesture, of course, was symbolic; while the president remained in Washington, D.C., someone else flicked the switches in New York.

President Herbert Hoover

President Herbert Hoover

The idea for the Empire State Building is said to have been born of a competition between Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation and John Jakob Raskob of General Motors, to see who could erect the taller building. Chrysler had already begun work on the famous Chrysler Building, the gleaming 1,046-foot skyscraper in midtown Manhattan.

Chrysler Building, Manhattan, NYC 1929

Chrysler Building, Manhattan, NYC 1929

Not to be bested, Raskob assembled a group of well-known investors, including former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith. The group chose the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates to design the building. The Art-Deco plans, said to have been based in large part on the look of a pencil, were also builder-friendly: The entire building went up in just over a year, under budget (at $40 million) and well ahead of schedule. During certain periods of building, the frame grew an astonishing four-and-a-half stories a week.

View of the Empire State Building with Chrysler in background

View of the Empire State Building with Chrysler in background

At the time of its completion, the Empire State Building, at 102 stories and 1,250 feet high (1,454 feet to the top of the lightning rod), was the world’s tallest skyscraper. The Depression-era construction employed as many as 3,400 workers on any single day, most of whom received an excellent pay rate, especially given the economic conditions of the time.

NYC Empire State iron workers

NYC Empire State iron workers

The new building imbued New York City with a deep sense of pride, desperately needed in the depths of the Great Depression, when many city residents were unemployed and prospects looked bleak. The grip of the Depression on New York’s economy was still evident a year later, however, when only 25 percent of the Empire State’s offices had been rented.  In 1972, the Empire State Building lost its title as world’s tallest building to New York’s World Trade Center, which itself was the tallest skyscraper for but a year.  Of course we all know what happened to the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.

World Trade Center, NYC September 11, 2001

World Trade Center, NYC September 11, 2001

Today the honor belongs to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, which soars 2,717 feet into the sky.

comparison2

The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

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2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    That tall building is crazy! I am scared of heights so to me-Crazy! Those men on the beam-Crazy!!! Never in a millions year will I ever be caught on that. This is a great post on the building and I like how the one had to be a little taller. Even though the Empire State was the tallest and became famous for King Kong too and the plane crash I still like the Chrysler building better-maybe because it gleams so

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    • The Chrysler building is beautiful. I’ve been to NY so many times and never thought to go up in it but have been in the Empire State Building a few times. Does the Chrysler allow visitors? I’ve been in the World Trade Center (many years before 9/11) but when you go to an office for a meeting, you don’t really think about the view.

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