Observation deck on the Empire State Building
Things to do

Guide to the History of the Empire State Building

New York City is home to many world-renowned attractions including the Empire State Building. Before you visit the Big Apple, read this New York Travel Guide article, ‘New York Things to Do: Guide to the History of the Empire State Building,’ to learn about the history of this famous NYC landmark.

November 23, 2020

These are unusual times we find ourselves living in, with restrictions being put in place and lifted with little notice, so please be sure to confirm operating hours before visiting any of the attractions and venues mentioned in this article.

The Empire State Building is one of the top attractions in New York. Since its opening in 1931, the Empire State Building has become an icon in social life, business and cinema. This Guide to the History of the Empire State Building will tell you about the history of one of the most famous landmarks in New York. 

This latest article, ‘New York Things to Do: Guide to the History of the Empire State Building,’ in our New York Travel Guide presents you with tips and interesting facts about the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building
Location: 350 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10118
Website
Distance from Hotel Mela: .9 miles

A Brief History of the Empire State Building:

The plan for the Empire State Building was conceived in 1928, the same year that the original location of the Waldorf Astoria was sold to Bethlehem Engineering Corporation for an estimated $20 million. The hotel on 5th Avenue was demolished to make way for what would be one of the most ambitious building projects in the world - the Empire State Building.

In 1929, former General Motors executive, John Jakob Raskob, along with Pierre S. Du Pont, Coleman du Pont, Ellis P. Earle and Louis G. Kaufman, formed Empire State, Inc. and directed former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith to head the corporation.

Construction on the Empire State Building began in 1930. Occupying a prized central spot on 5th Avenue, the Empire State Building would become the first 100+-story building in the world, designed by architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates in conjunction with builder’s Starrett Bros. & Eken.

The Empire State Building rose 4-½ stories per week, and in a record-breaking year and 45 days, the project was completed. The 192-story Empire State Building was officially opened on May 1, 1931 by President Hoover as the lights went on in the iconic structure for the first time.

The Empire State Building quickly become a top tourist attraction in New York. People from all over the world flocked to the building to pay 10 cents to peer through a telescope and admire an unparalleled view of New York City. Over 6 months, revenue from the Empire State Building topped $3,000 - all collected in nickels and dimes.

Since its opening in 1931, the Empire State Building has become an icon in social life, business and cinema. This Guide to the History of the Empire State Building will tell you about the history of one of the most famous landmarks in New York. 

The World Embraces an Icon:

The world at large, particularly the cinematic world, was in love with the Empire State Building. ‘King Kong’ put the Empire State Building front and center, and this was just one of the famous films that presented the Empire State Building as an important backdrop.

Just 15 years after the Empire State Building opened, it became the headquarters for many large corporations and it housed more than 15,000 employees from various organizations. By 1946, the Empire State Building was one of the most profitable buildings in the world and one of the most cherished pieces of architecture on the planet.

To broaden the use of the Empire State Building, a new 222-foot-tall antenna was added in 1950. This pushed the structure to 1,472 feet above street level. In 1955, The American Society of Civil Engineers selected the Empire State Building as one of the 7 greatest architectural achievements in United States’ history.

The Empire State Building has continued to enjoy many improvements and notable achievements throughout the years, including:

  • The installation of 4 ‘Freedom Lights’ in 1956
  • A record-setting sales price of $65 million in 1961
  • Its 50 millionth visitor inn 1976
  • Colored floodlights to illuminate the building at night in 1976
  • A comprehensive renovation of the 2nd and 80th floor spaces in 2019

This New York Travel Guide article, ‘Guide to the History of the Empire State Building,’ has presented you with just a brief history of this iconic attraction. To learn more about the beloved landmark, visit the Empire State Building yourself on your next trip to NYC.

You may also enjoy this recent article, 'Guide to Free or Cheap Things to do in New York City.'

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If you are looking for other ‘New York City Things to do’, see our New York Visitors Guide for more inspiration!