Among the gems New York City is known for is the iconic Empire State Building, named after the state's nickname. Learn about the early days of this impressive and historical work of architecture that has been inspiring generations of artists, photographers, and musicians in this installment of The Making of a Global Icon.
The month of May is a special one for New Yorkers since one of its iconic landmarks, the majestic and historic Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, was inaugurated on May 1, 1931.
Way back in the late 18th century, the site of the building on Fifth Avenue was developed as the John Thompson Farm. A century later, it was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the hang-out spot of New York’s social elite.
Fast-forward to January 22, 1930, construction of the Empire State Building began after the site, a full city block, was cleared. The design drawings were done by William F. Lamb in just two weeks, patterned after the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio. The project involved 3,400 workers, with European immigrants comprising most of the workforce. It was completed just 1 year and 45 days after construction, and the dedication ceremony capped with US President Herbert Hoover turning on the building’s lights from Washington, D.C. with a button-push.
The Art Deco building, which stands 1,454 feet high (antenna spire included), held the title of the world’s tallest building for 40 years — from its completion in 1931 until the World Trade Center’s North Tower was completed in 1972.
The Empire State Building remains one of the United States’ cultural icon to this day, and has been inspiring creative minds to this day — from musicians like Jay-Z and Alicia Keys to urban sketchers like Patrick Vale who used it as a vantage point for drawing downtown New York City.
Aside from clicking through some of the photos above, you may also want to watch an interesting footage about the Empire State Building’s construction below:
If you liked this article, you might also want to check out other articles on The Making of a Global Icon series!