On May 1st, 1931 President Herbert Hoover officially dedicated New York’s Empire State Building. Amazingly, Hoover was not actually in New York for the dedication. From Washington D.C. he pressed a button to turn on the building’s lights. The button was actually a symbolic one—someone else flicked the switches in New York.
At the time of its completion, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest structure. It is 1,250 feet high and contains 102 stories. It held the title until 1972 when the World Trade Center became the world’s tallest structure at its completion.
The architects of the tower were Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates. Built in the midst of the depression era, Starret Bros. & Eken were contracted to build it. The project employed as many as 3,400 workers on a single day, and took one year and seven million man hours to build. During the building of the tower, the frame went up at an astonishing rate of four and a half stories per week. The project came in at $40 million under budget and was completed ahead of schedule.
In 1945 the building was struck by a B-25 Mitchel bomber. The plane was on a routine flight when the pilot became disoriented by fog and then crashed the plane into the building. The plane hit an area spanning between the 78th and 89th floors and carved out an 18 foot hole into through the building. One engine shot through the building and landed on roof of another building a block away. The accident caused $1,000,000 in damage but did not compromise the structural integrity of the building. To this day, a missing stone on the side of the building signifies where the plane crashed into the building.
In 1964 floodlights were added to the top of the building to illuminate it at night. Colors are chosen to match the seasons, events, and holidays—such as, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, and Independence Day. After the death of actress Fay Wray (King Kong) in 2004, the building stood in complete darkness for 15 minutes. In 2012, the buildings halide lamps were replaced with LED fixtures, which made the number of colors available to over 16 million. This has allowed for numerous light shows—the first being a synchronized show with Alicia Key’s “This Girl is On Fire.”
The most well-known urban legend surrounding the Empire State Building is the tale of a penny being thrown from its observation deck and killing a pedestrian below. While the idea behind this does hold some weight—objects dropped from heights are dangerous—we think this is all hogwash. Don’t take our word for it though!