Empire State Building - History and Facts | History Hit

Empire State Building

New York, United States

Lily Johnson

02 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Empire State Building

One of the most iconic buildings in the world, the Empire State Building is an Art Deco skyscraper in the centre of New York City that once dominated its skyline as the tallest building on earth.

The Empire State Building history 

Before the Empire State was constructed, the site on which it now sits was owned by the prominent Astor family and had been since the mid-1820s. In the 1890s, rival Astor cousins built two adjacent hotels on the site which, when combined in 1897 to form the Waldorf-Astoria, was then the world’s largest hotel.

By the 1920s however the hotel was outdated, and the Astors sold it off to rebuild elsewhere. It eventually landed in the hands of Empire State Inc., who joined the fierce ‘Race to the Sky’ to build the tallest building in the world. 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building were already under construction for this goal, yet were just beaten when Empire State Inc. redesigned to include a 200ft metal ‘crown’ and 222ft antennae, intended to moor dirigibles for what they believed was the future of air travel. 

Its construction was completed in record time, taking a total of 410 days. More than 3500 workers were involved at its peak, many of whom were Irish and Italian immigrants. Their work at dizzying heights was captured in a collection of breathtaking photographs by Lewis Hine.

The Empire State Building was officially opened on 1 May, 1931 and took the title of the tallest building in the world, which it kept for some 40 years until the construction of the World Trade Centre in 1970.

The Empire State today 

Today the Empire State Building remains one of New York’s most-visited sites and provides a stunning panoramic view over the city. From its famous open-air observation deck on the 86th floor, New York City’s iconic landmarks can be admired, from Central Park, to Brooklyn Bridge, to the Statue of Liberty – but wrap up warm, it’s cold 1000ft up!
The Empire State’s indoor observatory on the 102nd floor also provides floor-to ceiling panoramic views of the city, and on a clear day you can see 80 miles around.

Exhibits on the 2nd and 80th floor give the fascinating history of the site and its construction, as well as the Empire State Building’s most defining moments. You might even have a run-in with King Kong!

Getting to the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is located in the Heart of Manhattan on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, and can be seen from most places in the city. Its nearest subway stations are Penn Station and Herald Square Station, which are both a 5-minute walk away, while Grand Central Station is also just a 10-minute walk.