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Definition: Empire State Building from The Columbia Encyclopedia

in central Manhattan, New York City, on Fifth Ave. between 33d St. and 34th St. It was designed by the firm of Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon and built in 1930–31. For many years its 102 stories (1,250 ft/381 m high) made it the tallest building in the world. The construction of the World Trade Center ended its reign as the world's and the city's highest skyscraper, but it regained the latter distinction through misfortune when the Trade Center was destroyed (2001) by a terrorist attack. An office building, the Empire State Building accommodates some 25,000 tenants. On a very clear day the view from its highest observation tower embraces an area with a circumference of nearly 200 mi (320 km).

  • See study by J. Tauranac (1995);.
  • Willis, C., Building the Empire State (1998).

Summary Article: Empire State Building from Encyclopedia of American Urban History

Since the building opened to the public on May 1, 1931, the distinctive shape of the Empire State Building has been an unmistakable part of the New York City skyline, towering above midtown Manhattan at 1,453 feet, 8 and 9/16 inches. Located at 350 Fifth Avenue on a two-acre site stretching from West 33rd to West 34th streets, the building was perhaps most famously cemented in the American psyche as the site of the giant ape's refuge in the 1933 film King Kong. The 365,000-ton, art deco-style building is home to hundreds of businesses employing more than 25,000 workers; it is simultaneously a cultural icon hosting thousands of visitors each day who ascend to the 86th-floor observation deck located 1,050 feet above street level.

From the outset, the Empire State was meant to be a testament to free enterprise and American ingenuity. Tycoons John Raskob and Pierre S. du Pont and former New York mayor Alfred E. Smith planned to build the tallest and most impressive building in the world amid the bull market and real estate boom of the 1920s. Architect William F. Lamb of the firm Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon originally designed a 1,000-foot structure, but competition drove the developers to add floors and a dirigible mooring mast (never actually used) to push the building definitively above the 1,048-foot height of the nearby Chrysler Building. The structural core of the tower stands 102 stories tall, capped by a 204-foot antenna and lightning rod. Upon completion, the building was the tallest in the world for 40 years, surpassed by New York's World Trade Center in 1972. Since September 11, 2001 it is again the tallest building in New York City.

Construction began on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1930, scant months into the Great Depression, supplying more than 3,000 much-needed jobs for laborers, ironworkers, and carpenters. Each week, four stories were added to the massive building's shell, and final masonry was laid in place on May 1, 1931, significantly ahead of schedule. Construction required seven million hours of labor, 200,000 cubic feet of stone, 6,500 windows, 10 million bricks, and more than 700 tons of steel and aluminum. Visitors and tenants are conveyed to their destinations by 73 elevators, or brave souls can climb the 1,860 stairs to the 102nd floor.

Final cost of the building and land was approximately $40 million. Because of a 114-year low-cost lease and management contract granted in 1962 by then-owners The Prudential Company to the Helmsley-Spear management agency, the building is valued at only about the same amount today. Financiers suspect that, were it not saddled with the lease running through 2076, the Empire State would be worth at least a billion dollars to a potential buyer.

See also

New York, New York

Further Readings and References
  • Pacelle, M. (2002). Empire: A tale of obsession, betrayal, and the battle for an American icon. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Taurana, J. (1997). Empire State Building: The making of a landmark. New York: St. Martin's Griffin.
  • Wagner, G. B. (2003). Thirteen months to go: The creation of the Empire State Building. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press.
  • Finn, Donovan
    Copyright © 2007 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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