It’s probably the most iconic skyscraper in New York.
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Empire State Building, one of the most famous buildings in New York City.
Related: Check out these amazing skyscrapers!
1. The first mention of the location was a battle with the British
The Empire State Building is located in an area referred to as “Murray Hill,” in Manhattan, New York City.
During the American Revolutionary War, the British forces on the East River were trying to enter the nearby area of Kip’s Bay. The forces of George Washington that were guarding the area fled towards Murray Hill, allowing the British to land in the area unopposed.
The British were able to take control of the lower part of Manhattan Island on September 15, 1776, in the proximity of the location of the future Empire State Building.
2. A farm was turned into a famous hotel on the location
After the war, the land of the Empire State Building was bought for $2,400 by a man named George Thompson in 1799. This is the equivalent of nearly $50,000 today. The mand was turned into a farm for the next 26 years.
In 1827, the farm was bought by German-American businessman John Jacob Astor. His grandson, William Waldorf Astor would eventually open up the world-famous Waldorf Hotel on the current location of the Empire State Building. The hotel opened on March 13, 1893.
This is nearly 10 years before another famous building was constructed in 1902, the Flatiron Building.
3. The hotel used to have a famous partner in the family
Less than 4.5 years later on November 1, 1897, the cousin of William Waldorf Astor, John Jacob Astor IV, opened up his very own hotel right across the street of the Waldorf Hotel.
As you might have guessed, this 16-story hotel was called the “Astoria Hotel.” The two hotels would later merge into the world-famous “Waldorf-Astoria Hotel” in Midtown Manhattan, which opened in 1931.
4. There was almost a 25-story office building on the location instead
In the 1920s it became clear that the once-famous Waldorf and Astoria hotels became outdated and that the vast majority of their clientele spent time much further north than their location on 34th Street.
The hotel was sold to the Bethlehem Engineering Corporation for $20 million in the year 1928, and their intention was to construct a 25-story office building on the location.
Why wasn’t this building constructed?
The owner of the Bethlehem Engineering Corporation, Floyd De L. Brown, had defaulted on the $900,000 loan he took out for constructing it!
5. This is how the Empire State Building got its name
A group of wealthy businessmen saw the opportunity to bail out the Bethlehem Engineering Corporation by acquiring the land, with the goal of building a huge skyscraper.
The company they formed was called “Empire State Inc,” a reference to the nickname of the State of New York.
6. The design of the building was changed multiple times
The original plan of the Empire State Building was for a tower of 50 stories tall. This was later increased to 60 stories and eventually 80 stories.
If the tower would have built with just 80 stories, it would have been a 1,000-foot-tall (300 meters) skyscraper.
7. There was a “Race into the Sky” going on
With several skyscrapers being constructed simultaneously in New York, the media dubbed this fictional contest the “Race into the Sky” during a period referred to as the “Roaring Twenties.”
The Empire State Building had the benefit that construction didn’t start yet as opposed to the Chrysler Building and the Bank Of Manhattan Building (now 40 Wall Street).
The final plan eventually ensured that the Empire State Building would become the tallest building in the world at that time with a roof height of 1,050 feet (320 m), which is 4 feet (1.2 m) taller than the Chrysler Building.
8. The antenna used to serve a real purpose
In order to ensure that the Empire State Building would be the tallest building in the world at that time, the architects used a trick in order to be 100% sure.
They added a 16-story, 200-foot (61 m) metal “crown” and an additional 222-foot (68 m) mooring mast on top of the tower.
The mooring mast wasn’t just a spire but had a real purpose as well as it was intended to have airships such as zeppelins dock at it.
9. The work started when tragedy struck
The demolition of the old Waldorf Hotel started on October 1, 1929. That was just after the New York Stock Exchange crashed, an event that started in September and was the prelude to the Great Depression that would last a decade.
The huge benefit for the project was that none of the main investors suffered great losses and that the funds for the tower were already secured. For these reasons, construction just continued as planned.
10. It took a while before investors could make profits
One of the most remarkable facts about the Empire State Building is that it’s one of the few projects that got completed during the initial years of the Great Depression. Another project that got completed in this shaky period was Rockefeller Center.
The huge problem that the investors faced though is that the office space wasn’t in high demand at this time. Only 25% of the office space was occupied the moment the tower opened, and it took until the 1950s before investors started making profits from the project.
11. It was completed in record time
The actual construction of the tower started on March 17, 1930, and just 4 months later, half of the steel structure had been completed. It involved almost 3,500 daily workers with the record being 3,439 on a single day, August 14, 1930.
The goal was to build one floor a day, and they almost reached that with their pace of 4.5 floors per week.
This ensured that the Empire State Building was completed in record time, because just 1 year and 25 days later, the tower was completed!
Unfortunately, at least 5 people were killed as well during this enormous and dangerous endeavor.
12. The building opened 18 months after construction started
On May 1, 1931, the Empire State Building was officially opened. This was just 18 months after construction on the tower started. The start involved the demolition of the Waldorf Hotel and laying the foundations.
The official opening day was 45 days ahead of the projected opening date. It featured American President Herbert Hoover who turned on the ceremonial lights with the push of a button from Washington D.C.
13. The building became world-famous because of a giant ape
The Empire State Building has been featured in over 250 television programs and movies, and it all started with a giant ape climbing the tower in 1933, just 2 years after the tower was completed.
Kong is the giant ape that made his movie debut in the movie “King Kong,” which has since been remade several times. It’s a movie that made the Empire State Building world-famous.
14. A plane once crashed into it
On Saturday, July 28, 1945, a B-25 bomber was doing a routine job and got caught in a thick fog above New York City. Unaware that the plane was flying way too low, it crashed into the north side of the tower between the 78th and 80th floors.
The result was terrible, 3 people inside the plane and 11 people inside the building died. The damage exceeded $1 million USD.
The structural integrity of the building wasn’t compromised so there was never a real danger of collapse. Multiple floors of the tower were re-opened just a few days later.
15. This woman survived a fall of 75 stories
Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver was in working inside the building when the B-25 bomber crashed into it. Because of the B-25 Bomber crashing into the plane, she was badly burned.
First aid helpers put her into an elevator so she could be taken to the hospital in an ambulance waiting just outside the tower.
They weren’t aware, however, that the elevator was badly damaged as well and she plunged down, 75 stories deep. She miraculously survived the drop because the lift cables softened the crash in the basement, as well as the air pressure from the tight elevator shaft that cushioned the landing.
Her ordeal is still considered to be the longest fall survived in a lift (elevator) by the Guinness Book of World Records.
16. Do you want to visit the observation deck for free once a year?
If you’re married or don’t have plans to marry any time soon, we’re going to have to disappoint you, as you will need to pay.
The only way to achieve this is to get married on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day!
This way, you become part of the “Empire State Building Wedding Club,” which allows you to get free admission to the observatory on your wedding anniversary.
More interesting facts about the Empire State Building
17. The value of property in Manhattan grew exponentially in the 19th and 20th centuries. The original plot was bought for $2,400 in 1799. The land was then sold for $20,500 in 1827, to eventually sell just over 100 years later for $20 million in 1928.
18. When both the Waldorf and Astoria hotels were open on the location of the Empire State Building, they had 1,300 bedrooms combined. This made them, together, the biggest hotel in the world at that time.
19. The Empire State Building almost wasn’t built. If the Bethlehem Engineering Corporation hadn’t defaulted on their loan, of which they already paid $100,000 in advance, a 25-story office building would have been built instead.
20. It’s unclear where the name “Empire State” comes from. The two most prominent theories are that either George Washington referred to the State of New York as “the seat of an Empire,” or that it refers to the State’s wealth and resources.
21. One of the founders of Empire State Inc., the company that built the Empire State Building, was a candidate for the 1928 presidential election named Alfred Emanuel Smith. The former New York State governor was later appointed as head of the company.
22. Empire State Inc. bought several other plots to have enough space for the base of the tower. The total lot they acquired was 425 feet (130 m) wide by 200 feet (61 m) long.
23. before construction even began, height limits were being put on surrounding buildings, to ensure that the top 50 floors of the Empire State Building would have an amazing view.
24. One of the most interesting facts about the Empire State Building is that the “race into the Sky” was being fueled by the great opportunism of the 1920s. Unfortunately, we all know what happened after this period during the Great Depression.
25. Because of this race into the sky, the Chrysler Building was increased in height to 1,046 feet (319 m). To achieve this, Walter Chrysler, the creator of the skyscraper actually had his architect change plans so his skyscraper would have a narrow steel spire instead of a Romanesque dome.
To no avail, the Chrysler building was only the tallest building in the world for 11 months as it was surpassed by the Empire State Building.
26. Because the demand for office space wasn’t high and only 1/4 of the space was occupied the moment the tower opened its doors, it earned the nickname “Empty State Building.”
27. The design of the building isn’t original, as it was based on the “Reynolds Building” in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This building is now seen as the “Dad” and one of the funniest facts about the Empire State Building is that the “Dad Building” receives a “Happy Fathersday” card from its son every year!
28. The opening of the Empire State Building wasn’t a big success. There was a reception with over 350 guests on the 86th floor, but the city of New York was covered in a thick mist that day. According to newspapers of that day, the Statue of Liberty wasn’t even visible.
29. The Empire State Building was not only the tallest building in the world at that time, but it also became the first building in the world with over 100 floors.
30. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) added the Empire State Building to their list of 7 wonders of the Modern World, a list that was created in 1994.
31. The lightning rod on top of the Empire State Building’s antenna that gets hit by lightning over 100 times a year!
32. On a clear day, you can see over 80 miles far from the observatory and into 5 States including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
33. There a huge number of companies renting office space in the Empire State Building. some of the most notable are Air China, Air Qatar, Expedia Group, LinkedIn, and Shutterstock. Because of this, the building has its own ZIP code, namely: 10118.
34. The top of the Empire State Building has a secret 103rd floor which is only open to VIP’s (only God knows how to get in). But who would want to go there? There is hardly any safety and you are looking over a knee-high balustrade directly down the highest floor of the building!
35. The Midtown Manhattan skyline looks amazing from the Empire State Building observatory at night! Just take a look below and you’ll know what we mean:
Quick facts about the Empire State Building
- 36. The architectural height of the building is 1,250 feet (381 meters), while the height of the tip is 1,454 ft (443.2 meters).
- 37. There are a total of 102 floors (and a secret 103rd), and it was the world’s first building with over 100 floors.
- 38. The total floor area is 2,248,355 sq ft (208,879 square meters) and there are a total of 73 elevators.
- 39. The developer of the building was Empire State Inc. and the architects were Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon.
- 40. The current owner of the Empire State Building is the Empire State Realty Trust.
- 41. The building was designed in the Art Deco style which was first seen in France just before World War I.
- 42. The total construction cost was $40,948,900 USD, which is the equivalent of over $555 million USD today!
- 43. The 4 enormous columns in the middle of the building can support a weight of 10,000,000 pounds (4,500,000 kg) combined.
- 44. 16,000 partition tiles, 5,000 bags of cement, 450 cubic yards (340 cubic meters) of sand, and 300 bags of lime, arrived at the construction site every day.
- 45. It was the tallest building in the world from 1931 until 1970 when it was surpassed by the north tower of the World Trade Center.
- 46. The building is located in Midtown South on the west side of Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets.
- 47. The Empire State Building and its ground-floor interior were designated as city landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1980.
- 48. They were also added to the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.