The Empire State Building (New York, New York)

The Empire State building, located on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets in Manhattan, New York City was once the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years.  With a roof height of 1,250 feet (381 m), the building stands a total of 1,454 feet (443.2 m) tall including the antenna.  Completed in early 1931, the Empire State Building replaced the Chrysler Building, also of New York as the world’s tallest.

The distinctive art deco design of the building has helped it maintain its status as an American cultural icon and it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  The building and the interior of the street floor and designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the building was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1986.

The site of the Empire State Building has long been a site for the social elite of New York City.  In the late 19th century the block was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria hotel which was razed for the construction of the Empire State Building.  Before its run as the Waldorf-Astoria, the site was home the Joh Thompson Farm.  At this time a small stream crossed the site and emptied into Sunfish Pond just a block away.

The building was designed by William F. Lamb of the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon. Using designs for the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio as a basic design framework, lamb was able to produce building drawings in just two weeks.  This breakneck speed was not just in the design of the building but in its construction as well. From beginning to end the construction took just 20 months with an average of more than 5 floors a month. Part of a race to be the tallest building in the World, the Empire State Building took the title from the Chrysler Building which only held the title for 11 months. The Chrysler Building took the title of the world’s tallest building from another New York City landmark, the 40 Wall Street Building, that unfortunately was only able to hold the title for a single month of 1930.

Since the construction took place during the great depression, the cost of construction was a great deal less than it otherwise would have been. The untimely and unfortunate depression was very hard on the Empire State Building and it remained largely empty for several years. In the first few years the owners were making as much money with the observation deck as they were with rent.  Because of its status as a largely unfilled building it was referred to jokingly as “The Empty State Building” and was not profitable for its owners till 1950.

Visited by more than 110 million people since its construction, The Empire States Building has one of the most popular outdoor observation decks in the world. Located on the 86th floor, the observation deck has 360-degree views of New York City. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd but it is completely enclosed and is much smaller.

Empire State Building Facts

  • Empire State Building took just 20 months (410 days) from start to finish.
  • The building has 103 floors and including the antenna spire is 1454 ft (443.2 m).
  • The building was officially opened on May 1, 1931 when President Herbert Hoover turned the lights on with a push of a button from Washington, D.C.
  • The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the United States for almost 40 years between 1931 and 1970.
  • The Empire State Building was the tallest man-made structure for 36 years.
  • Five workmen died during the construction.
  • There are 73 elevators in the building, including the 6 freight elevators
  • The Empire State Building has its own zip code, 10118.
  • The lightning rod on the top of the building is struck an average of 23 times each year.
  • The Empire State Building was designed by William Lamb of the architect firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates.
  • Since 1986 The National Park Services has recognized the Empire State Building as a National Historic Landmark.
  • The spire and platform at the top were designed for docking of dirigible airships.

Travel Tips

  • Buy your tickets online. There are a series of lines that you may have to wait in to go to the observation deck on the 86th floor (Sometimes as many as five lines), and having your tickets in advance will help you skip at least one line.
  • There is strict security at the Empire State Building. Every person that goes for a visit will have to be screened by security and no glass bottles are allowed.
  • There is no coat check. Everything you have been carrying all day will have to be carried a little longer.
  • Visit in the morning or evening. Because the lines can be so long and the wait can be well over an hour, try visiting in the morning before others are awake or in the evening after they have gone to bed.  The observation decks are open from 08:00 to 02:00 (last elevator at 01:15).
  • Cameras and camcorders are of course allowed but leave the tripod at home. Tripods are not allowed and there is nowhere to store them.
  • Take your pictures from the 86th floor observation deck. The 102nd floor observation deck in fully enclosed so while the view may be a little better the photos will not.
  • It’s colder at the top than at the bottom. If there is a chill in the air while you are on the ground, it will be downright cold once you get to the windy observation deck.
  • Allow for lots of time. Even if you have purchased tickets beforehand plan on spending no less than two hours at the Empire State Building.  The lines for security are long and there is a maze to walk through on the way to the elevators, so make sure your phone is charged or you have someone to talk with.
  • Visiting at sunset is nice if you can plan it properly. You will see the city basked in light with great detail and you will see the city that never sleeps preparing for a night out when the lights come on.
  • There are weddings on Valentine’s Day and it is near impossible to get a regular ticket. Skip Valentine’s Day unless you are proposing or getting hitched.