Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is cemented in both New York and U.S. History. Built during the Depression, the building was the center of a competition between Walter Chrysler (Chrysler Corp.) and John Jakob Raskob (creator of General Motors) to see who could build the tallest building.

From the time the construction began on March 17, 1930, the building's steel frame rose at an average rate of four and a half floors per week. To speed construction, the building's posts, beams, windows and window frames were made in factories and put together on the site. 60,000 tons of steel was brought in from the steel mills in Pennsylvania, 310 miles away, by train, barges and trucks.

This photograph was taken on July 21, 1930, when work had begun on the 40th floor.

William Lamb, an architect at the firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, was chosen to design the Empire State Building. His design was influenced by the perpendicular style of another architect, Eliel Saarinen. He happened to base most of his design on a simple pencil. The clean, soaring lines inspired him, and he modeled the building after it. He also decided that the columns of stone would be easier to put up if they were separated from the windows with metal strips. The strips covered the stone's edges, which meant the stone could be rough-cut at the quarry and then heaved into place without any final cutting or fitting, thus saving a great amount of time. The stonework began in June of 1930, and was completed in November. The windows were attached with metal brackets between the stone columns, with aluminum panels above and below each level.

By October 3, 1930, there were 88 floors finished and only 14 to go. These top floors took the form of a distinctive tower of glass, steel, and aluminum. The tower is about 200 ft. high and topped with a dome.

In this picture, two men are at the topmost level, working on the dome.

The building's history is full of interesting facts and marvelous accomplishments that still intrigue men, women and children of the world.


1799: The City of New York sells a virgin tract (now bounded by Broadway and Sixth Avenue on the west, Madison Avenue on the east, 33rd Street on the south and 36th Street on the north) to John Thompson for $2,600. He farms it.

1825: Thompson sells the farm to Charles Lawton for $10,000

1827: William Backhouse Astor, the second son of John Jacob Astor, buys the farm for $20,500 as an investment.

1859: John Jacob Astor, Jr. erects a mansion on the northwest corner of 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

1862: John Jacob, Jr.'s younger brother, William Backhouse Astor, builds his mansion next door at the southwest corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

1893: William Waldorf Astor, son of John Jacob Astor, Jr., razes his inherited mansion and erects the Waldorf Hotel on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street.

1897: Mrs. William Backhouse Astor, sister-in-law of John Jacob, Jr., allows her mansion at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue to be razed and the Astoria Hotel is erected on the site. The new complex is known as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

1928: The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is sold to Bethlehem Engineering Corporation for an estimated $20 million.

1929: John Jakob Raskob (creator of General Motors), Coleman du Pont, Pierre S. du Pont (president of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours), Louis G. Kaufman and Ellis P. Earle, form Empire State, Inc. and name Alfred E. Smith, former Governor of New York and Presidential Candidate, to head the corporation.

1930: Excavation of the site where the Empire State Building would stand begins on January 22nd.

1930: On March 17, construction of the Empire State Building began. Under the direction of architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, and a peak labor force of 3,000 men, framework rose at a rate of 4 ½ stories per week.

1930: The masonry work for the building, which began in June of the same year, is completed on November 13.

1931: On May 1st, President Hoover presses a button in Washington, D.C. officially opening and turning on the Empire State Building's lights.

1951: The Building is sold by the John J. Raskob estate for $34 million to a group headed by Roger I. Stevens. At the same time, Prudential Insurance Company of America buys the Building for $17 million and enters into a long-term ground lease with the owners. In 1954, a Chicago group headed by Col. Henry J. Crown buys the Building for $51.5 million.

1981: On May 18, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declares the Building a Landmark.

1986: The Empire State Building is recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Services, I.S. Department of the Interior and a commemorative plaque was awarded.

From 1931 - present, the building acted as an "Ambassador to New York" to many of the world's renowned political and entertainment figures, such as, Fidel Castro, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, The Duchess of York, Nikita Krushchev, King of Siam and others.

No comments: