2. The Empire State Building was one of the Fastest Skyscrapers Built

Empire State Building mooring mast and spire
The mooring mast and spire of the Empire State Building. Photo courtesy Empire State Realty Trust.

Built atop the original Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the Empire State Building opened on March 31, 1931 and took only one year and 45 days to build, rising at 4 1/2 floors per week. According to the Empire State Building team, “This is the fastest construction to date for a project of its scale.” It even came in at a cost $1 million under budget! “Under budget and ahead of schedule, that never happens today,” joked Siobhan. In 1931, tickets to the observatories cost $1 ($17.43 in today’s dollars), the most expensive observation deck in the city at the time.

In the new museum inside the Empire State Building, you can see the original blueprints and sketches of the building, intended from the beginning to be the world’s tallest building. Siobhan says that John Jakob Raskob, a General Motors and DuPont executive who had the idea to build the Empire State Building, only had one directive for his architects, the firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon: to build as high as they could without the building falling over. Shreve, Lamb & Harmon originally modeled the Empire State after a building they had designed for Raleigh, North Carolina, but competition from the Chrysler Building led to the addition of a “hat” (now known as the mast) and spire. Inside the museum, you can also experience interactive historical exhibitions about the Empire State Building’s engineering feats, as well as see some great archival objects including the original survey marker that was used.

Another fun fact Siobhan shared with us is that the skyscraper’s “setbacks were intended to be green spaces back in 1931 when we opened up the building, and because of the economy at the time — we were in the heart of the Depression — they never really utilized that but things always come full circle. You know almost 90 years later and everything is being used as it was intended.”