88 years ago today: Empire State Building opens

The Empire State Building is a 102 story Art Deco skyscraper in Manhattan, New York City, and the first to ever exceed 100 stories. The building has a height of 1,454 feet tall, including its antenna. As of 2019 the building is the 5th-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States and the 28th-tallest in the world. The Empire State Building stood as the world's tallest building for nearly 40 years until the completion of the World Trade Center's North Tower in Manhattan in late 1970. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, it was again the tallest building in New York until the new One World Trade Center was completed in April 2012.
Thirteen and a half months after the first steel beam was erected, the Empire State Building opened on May 1st, 1931. After demolishing the Waldorf-Astoria hotel (the site’s previous occupant) contractors Starrett Brothers and Eken used an assembly line process to erect the new skyscraper in only 410 days. Using as many as 3,400 men each day, they assembled its skeleton at a record pace of four and a half stories per week—so fast that the first 30 stories were completed before certain details of the ground floor were finalized. The scale of the project was massive, with 200 trucks per day arriving with 16,000 partition tiles, 5,000 bags of cement, 450 cubic yards of sand and 300 bags of lime. Concrete mixers, brick hoppers, and stone hoists inside the building ensured that materials would be able to ascend quickly and without endangering the public. There were refreshments on five of the incomplete floors so workers didn’t have to descend to the ground level to eat lunch. Temporary water taps were also built so workers didn’t waste time buying water from the ground level. The 57,480 short tons of steel ordered for the project was the largest-ever single order of steel at the time, comprising more steel than was ordered for the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street combined. Building materials were sourced from numerous distant sources, with limestone from Indiana, steel girders from Pittsburgh, cement and mortar from upper New York State, marble from Italy, France, and England, wood from northern and Pacific Coast forests, and hardware from New England. The facade, too, used a variety of material, most prominently Indiana limestone but also Swedish black granite, terracotta, and brick.
Although many of the construction workers were Irish and Italian descent, a sizable number were Native American ironworkers from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. Most official accounts concur that five workers died during the construction, although a socialist magazine at the time called “The New Masses” reported as many as 42 deaths.
An incident occurred in 1945 when an Army B-25 bomber pilot became disoriented in heavy fog and drifted over Midtown Manhattan. The World War II combat vet managed to dodge several skyscrapers, but he was unable to avoid plowing into the 78th and 79th floors of the Empire State at 200 miles an hour. Three crewmen were killed, as were 11 people inside the building. During that crash, several pieces of the B-25’s engine pierced the building and entered an elevator shaft. The cables for two cars were severed, including one containing a 19-year-old elevator operator named Betty Lou Oliver. The elevator plummeted from the 75th floor and crashed into the subbasement, but luckily for Oliver, more than a thousand feet of severed elevator cable had gathered at the bottom of the shaft, cushioning the blow. The fall may have also been slowed by a pocket of compressed air generated by the car’s rapid descent. Despite suffering severe injuries including a broken neck and back, Oliver survived.

Vid is a slideshow only, and has no narration. (Note: these brave men earned $15 per day, a good wage at the time).


By: Vyky (4361.10)

Tags: Empire State Building, skyscraper, contruction history, engineering, architecture, Manhattan, New York, tallest structure, tallest building