Five facts about the Empire State Building

In May 1931, New York City’s Empire State became the tallest building in the world, a position it would hold for over four decades. BBC History Revealed unearths some more facts about this colossal construction.

The Empire State building
1

OPEN DOORS

By the time President Herbert Hoover officially opened the building in 1931 – switching on its lights by pressing a button in Washington 200 miles away – construction of the 102-storey, 381-metre building had lasted just 410 days.

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As well as being 12 days ahead of schedule, the project came in at $40,948,900, almost 20 per cent below the earmarked budget of $50 million.

2

AIRSHIP OF FOOLS

The 60-metre mast that secured the building’s position as the tallest was originally intended as a mooring for airships.

This fanciful notion was deemed too dangerous for passengers, however, so was never tested.

3

AVAILABLE SPACE

In its first year, the Empire State took as much revenue from visitors to its observation deck – in the region of $2 million – as it did from rent-paying commercial tenants.

Only 23 per cent of the Empire State’s available office space was rented out.

The slow take-up led to it being dubbed the ‘Empty State Building’.

4

WHO’S THE DADDY?

The skyscraper’s design was based on that of the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Every year, the Empire State’s staff sends a Father’s Day card to those working in the older building.

5

SURVIVAL SKILLS

When a plane crashed into the building in 1945, the ensuing devastation caused elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver to drop 75 floors inside her elevator.

Remarkably, she survived.


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This article was first published in the May 2016 issue of History Revealed.