When the Empire State Building was completed in 1931, it was the tallest building in the world. At 1,250 feet, it superseded the Chrysler Building by more than 200 feet, nabbing its title of less than a year. And although many structures throughout the world have since surpassed its height record, it still stands out as one of the most iconic.
Google “World’s Most Famous Office Building” and dozens of images of the Empire State Building are the first results to appear. A central part of New York iconography, featured in countless films and television scenes, it is also “America’s Favorite Building,” as revealed in a public poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects in 2007.
But you already know it’s tall and famous. Here are a few more Empire State Building facts of which you may not have been aware. And if you haven’t already, going up to the top is something you should at least do once in a lifetime. Save on tickets to the observation deck.
Empire State Building Facts
- Including its spire, which was added in 1950, The Empire State Building stands at a total of 1,452 feet. The skyscraper was the tallest building in New York City for 42 years, until the north tower of the World Trade Center was completed in 1973. The designation now belongs to One World Trade Center.
- It has its own zip code. Although it stands within the boundaries of Manhattan’s 10001 zip code (east of 5th Avenue, between 25th and 35th Streets), in 1980 it claimed its own – 10118. With over 1,000 businesses on 102 floors, it is like its own city.
- It took only one year and 45 days to build. Ground breaking occurred in March of 1930 and, on May 1, 1931, President Herbert Hoover pressed a button in Washington, D.C. to officially open the building. It is the fastest construction for a project of its scale to date.
- Photographer Lewis Hine was commissioned to take pictures of the construction of the building. Also a sociologist, he often focused on people as his subjects and was able to capture breathtaking images of the construction workers in action. To get the shots, he was swung out in a specially designed basket 1,000 feet above Fifth Avenue.
- The exterior of the Empire State Building is composed of 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone and granite, 10 million bricks and 730 tons of aluminum and stainless steel.
- The historic lobby features a celestial ceiling mural made of aluminum leaf and 23-karat gold. It is one of the few interiors to be designated as a landmark in New York.
- The American Society of Civil Engineers named the Empire State Building one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
- The Empire State Building supports all of the major television and FM radio stations in the New York metropolitan market. But even before its antenna spire was installed, it played a large role in broadcasting; in fact, television made its debut when NBC sent its first experimental television signal from the top of the building on December 22, 1931.
- At the very top, there’s a lightning rod for the surrounding area, which is struck an average of 23 times per year. And that’s not the only electricity conducted at the top of the building. Because static electricity gathers at high heights, under the right atmospheric conditions, couples can experience a slight electric shock when they kiss on the observation deck.
- The 86th and 102nd floor observatories are visited by millions every year. Celebrities and other VIPs are also granted exclusive access to its “secret” 103rd. On a clear day, you can see up to 80 miles away from up there, a view which includes five states—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. For a similar view of the city that’s not so high up, visit the Panorama model in Fresh Meadows Corona Park.
- Observatories are open early morning to late night from 8 a.m.-2a.m. And though there is typically a wait to the elevator, the ride to the 86th floor takes less than a minute.
- There are 1,860 steps from street level to the 102nd. If that sounds like a workout, imagine running up. Every year since 1978 the Empire State Building hosts its annual Run-Up event, where hundreds of athletes from around the world race up the stairs from the lobby to the 86th floor.
- The first light to shine atop the Empire State Building was a beacon that announced to the surrounding area that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President in November 1932. Today, the Empire State Building’s lights mark various occasions throughout the year. In 2012, an all new LED light system was installed that can display 16 million colors and changes instantaneously. Click here for the light schedule.
For a bird’s eye view of the city that includes the Empire State Building, go to the Top of the Rock – AAA members save on admission.