Today in History: Empire State Building Opens for Business

Today in History: Empire State Building Opens for Business

M.C. Millman 

On May 1, 1931, the Empire State Building officially opened in New York City after a record-breaking 410 days of construction. 

On opening day, President Hoover pressed a button in Washington, D.C., 'turning on' the Empire State Building's lights for the first time.

The tallest building in the world (at the time) rose 1,250 feet from the footprint of the former Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The building was assembled at a record speed of 4 and a half stories per week under the direction of architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, and builders Starrett Bros. & Eken.

The construction of the Empire State Building took place during the Depression era and employed as many as 3,400 workers per day. According to History Channel, most workers received an excellent pay rate, especially considering the economic conditions of the time. The new building also helped instill New Yorkers with a deep sense of pride, which was particularly important during the Great Depression when many people were unemployed and had bleak-looking prospects.

John Tauranac, author of "The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark," wrote that the Empire State Building was built with 10 million bricks, 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone, 6,400 windows, and 37 million cubic feet of space.

The Empire State Building held on to the title of the tallest building in the world for 40 years when it was surpassed by the World Trade Center Towers in 1971. The towers only held on to the title until 1973 before being replaced by Chicago's Sears Tower. Today the honor of the tallest building belongs to Dubai's Burj Khalifa Tower, which stands 2,716 feet tall.    

The Empire State Building's website boasts that it hosts more than 4 million visitors from practically every region of the globe annually. The building has also been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

photo credit: Flickr

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