Find cool historical tidbits about the beloved 102-story structure known as the Empire State Building—and some stellar shots of NYC from atop it, too—by clicking through our slide show.
The Empire State Building stands (spire included) 1,454 feet tall. It surpassed the Chrysler Building to become the tallest building in the world in 1931, a title it held until the World Trade Center’s North Tower was completed in the early ’70s.
In 1930, photographer Lewis Hine snapped this shot of a laborer fastening the building’s steel beams. Construction lasted a mere 11 months and employed more than 3,000 workers.
When this photo was taken in 1930, workers had constructed the first 40 floors of the building.
In 1945, an airplane crashed into the building’s north side during heavy fog, killing 14 people. In this photo, workers cover a hole from the accident on the south side of the building.
Here is a view facing north from atop the 86th-floor observatory.
This is a view facing the East River from the 86th-floor observatory.
This view from the 86th-floor observatory that overlooks the Hudson River.
In our roundup of the top 50 New York City photographs, Art editor Howard Halle described William Klein’s Atom Bomb Sky, New York, which prominently features a towering Empire State Building, as follows: “At the height of the Cold War , Klein rather cheekily bestowed an apocalyptic title to this image of the sun peeking through the haze as it crests over midtown; but it endures as a representation of New York’s splendor.”
Here’s Halle again, writing about Berenice Abbott’s photograph New York at Night: “Taken from an upper floor of the Empire State Building at dusk just before Christmas, 1932, this image imparts a magical twinkle suitable for the season, thanks to a special developer Abbott used to render the contrasts between light and dark.”
Red, white and blue lights illuminate the top of the Empire State Building to mark the Fourth of July.
All three tiers of lights turn green for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Empire State Building has been referenced in pop culture far too many times to mention here. But we’d be remiss not to include the ending of 1933’s King Kong, a film that nabbed the seventh spot on our 100 best NYC movies feature. In it, writer Alison Willmore notes, “Any list of New York films has to include one of the most famous images of the city ever committed to celluloid: the giant stop-motion ape beating his chest atop the Empire State Building and swiping at the biplanes that have come to take him down.”
In 1964, Andy Warhol released the eight-hour film Empire, which consists solely of an uninterrupted shot of the Empire State Building.
The cover of Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, depicts an exaggerated, towering image of the Empire State Building.
In our Secrets of classic New York issue, writer Rebecca Dalzell notes that “an unmarked door on the 102nd-floor observation deck conceals one of the most impractical secrets of [the Empire State Building]. Although visitors can't access it, a set of steps leads to a narrow terrace that was once intended to be a docking station. Airships were supposed to moor at the tip of the mast, and passengers would be able to alight there. (But don't be fooled—though this image illustrates what such an event might have looked like, it's a fake.)”
A full renovation of the Empire State Building’s lobby, which re-created its original Art Deco design, was completed in 2009.
Here is a close-up of the lobby’s anemometer, which took the place of the clock above the Empire State Building’s information desk during the restoration.
Check out the lobby’s original 1931 ceiling mural.
The Empire State Building’s elevator bank is to the left. It takes less than a minute for express elevators to shoot up from the lobby to the 86th-floor observatory.
Just try imagining New York City’s skyline without the Empire State Building. Pretty tough, huh? Since its completion in 1931, this marvel of engineering has remained one of the city’s most iconic sites and a visible reminder to Gothamites that they’re home. Click through the slide show above for photos of the Empire State Building’s construction, the aftermath of the 1945 plane crash and other historical moments, as well as sweeping views of the city from atop one of our favorite New York attraction’s observation decks.
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