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Empire State Building – Intriguing and surprising facts about the iconic skyscraper

Ian Harvey

Most of the 20th century the Empire State Building stood tall as a symbol of American booming economy and resilience in the time of wars and chaotic economic upheavals. Inaugurated by the President Herbert Hoover on May 1, 1931 the skyscraper withstood the test of time and is still attracting millions every year to its deck to witness the historic grandeur of the Empire State Building. Following are some of the most interesting facts about the Manhattan icon.

  • Years after the FED took the reins of US economy, the journey of American boom began and with it the race of building the highest skyscraper also started in all major US cities especially in New York. The fiercest contenders were the 40 Wall Street Bank and Chrysler building, they battled each other by adding more floors and manipulating design structure to beat each other. However the scuffle took an interesting turn in 1929 when Al Smith the former governor of New York made the announcement for the construction of Empire State Building. Upon learning that the new Empire State Building will tower 1,000 feet, Chrysler designers went back to drawing board and added a tall spire to the original design bringing the total height to 1048 feet. However when the Empire State Building finished in 1930, it touched the heights of 1250 feet beating the Chrysler by a significant margin.
  • The observation deck of the building which is 1250 feet above ground was originally open (now enclosed for safety) and was supposed to be used as an anchor for dirigibles. The idea was to use the 17-story spire as the loading bay for passengers travelling on trans-Atlantic dirigibles. The plan was scrapped soon after it was put in practice when it almost caused a catastrophe due to strong winds, risking passengers’ lives.
  • A total of five workers lost their lives during the construction of the Empire State building. This is due to the fact that it was relatively an early era of building tall skyscrapers and some engineers were not skilled enough to meet the requirement of modern skyscraper construction. However no charges were ever pressed against the owners or construction companies, as these were all considered as accidents causing unfortunate loss of life.
  • On the foggy morning of July 28, 1945, weeks after the end of the Second World War, a B25 bomber came crashing into the 78th and 79th floor of the Empire State building. The pilot had lost the direction and got disoriented in the thick fog, missing some other tall buildings by mere inches; he was unable to dodge the massive Empire State and crashed into it. The crash killed 14 people working in the offices, despite the fact there were very few people working in the offices at that time. A lift operator Betty Lou Oliver’s lift dropped from the 75th floor and landed on a pile of cables gathered under the lift at the ground level, she miraculously survived and held the Guinness World record for longest elevator fall survival in history.
  • A dark chapter of the Empire State is the number of people who committed suicide jumping off the observation deck. Since the inauguration a total of 30 people have lost their lives after jumping from the deck. In 1947 a strong fence was put up around the deck in order to keep people away, as five people committed suicide in the previous three years.
  • The Empire State has mostly left memorable and appealing memories for Americans and the rest of world alike, most notably its contribution in some classic Hollywood blockbusters. Apart from featuring in ‘An Affair to Remember’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ it has been the centre stage of many great films over the years. But one movie that introduced the Empire State to the wider audience of the World was the King Kong (1933) which was remade with modern technology in 2005.
    Photo of a B-25 bomber that crashed into the Empire States Building at the 78th floor in 1945.Source

    Photo of a B-25 bomber that crashed into the Empire States Building at the 78th floor in 1945.Source


  • The building attracts more than 4 million visitors every year to observe the city from its towering observation deck. The tourism generated a colossal sum of $60 million in 2010, while there is almost no income from the offices since most of the building is empty. In the early years of its construction the Empire State Building earned the less exciting title of ‘Empty State Building’ due to very few offices occupied by the companies.
  • Every year the organizers hold a foot race from the first to the 86th floor of the building attracting a fair number of spectators and runners. Started in 1978, the race puts the challenge to the runners to run up 1576 steps reaching the height of 1050 feet. In 2003 an Aussie cyclist Paul crake recorded the best time to reach the end height in 9 minutes and 33 seconds; pretty amazing feat.
  • The Building is the magnet for the photographers, amateur and professionals alike, from all over the world especially in the season of lighting as the building gets hit by the bolt at least 100 times a year. Another interesting event held at the observation deck is the annual wedding of 14 couples who are selected and given the permission to tie the knot at the observation deck of the Empire State Building, a truly high start.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News