7. Empire State Building

Aerial view of the Empire State Building.

New York City produced the first supertall, the Empire State Building, following a boom in high-rise office construction in the late 1920s that added over a dozen 40-50-story towers. According to the Skyscraper Museum exhibition website, “The Empire State was not a typical tower of 600 to 800 feet: its 86th floor leveled off at 1,050 feet and the tip of its mooring-mast spire reached the altitude of 1,250 feet/381 meters. Not only was the Empire State 50 to 25 percent taller than its contemporaries, but it was also more than twice as big in its floor area – 2.1 million square feet. (as measured at the time: now 2.6 million), in contrast with the 900,000 square feet of the Chrysler Building.”

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. In 1931, tickets to the observatories cost $1 (or about $17.50 in today’s dollars), the most expensive observation deck in the city at the time. When the Empire State Building was built, it had the fastest elevators in the world moving, at 800 feet per minute up and down seven miles of elevator shafts. The law in New York City at the time stipulated that elevators could not exceed speeds of 600 feet per minute, so the regulation had to be overturned just for the Empire State Building. You can still see the last original elevator, an abandoned bank vault, wind tunnels and a river below the basement, and a steam power plant on site. New renovations on the 102nd floor observation deck, the 80th floor, and lobby, which include museum-style exhibitions, have rejuvenated the Empire State Building experience for the 21st century.

Supertall exhibition

Tour of The Skyscraper Museum

Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the Empire State Building!