Empire State Building 90

May 1, 2021

May 1, 1931

The Grand Opening of the Empire State Building.

"…. a victory of imagination. Instead of crouching close to earth like a beast, the spirit of man soars to higher regions, & from this new point of vantage he looks upon the impossible with fortified courage & dreams yet more magnificent enterprises.”

Helen Keller in a 1932 letter writing about her visit to the Empire State Building. Both blind and deaf, Keller came to this description based on feeling alone – a tribute to the symbolism and size of the building.

"Race To The Sky"

  • 1928: The race was on to build the world’s tallest building.
  • 1930: The Chrysler Building (built by the founder of Chrysler Corporation) claimed the title with 77 floors. As a result, the Empire State Building’s blueprints changed from 80 to 102 floors, ensuring it would be the tallest.
  • 1931: Empire State Building completed (partly thanks to aid from an executive from Chrysler competitor General Motors) and became the first building in the world to reach 100 stories.

May 1, 1931: Opening Day

  • May 1, 1931: Opening Day The Empire State Building opens to the public & is dedicated by Pres. Hoover. He (symbolically) presses a button from D.C., officially opening the building & turning on the lights for the first time.
  • The building is established as the tallest in the world at 102 stories high.
  • It also broke records for how quickly it was built: the entire process took around 13 months or 410 days

Hardships & Victories

  • “Empty State Building”: The Empire State Building earned this nickname after the office building struggled to get tenants. The building weathered the stock market crash of 1929 and provided jobs during the early years of the Depression, but took decades to enlist occupants.
  • King Kong: In 1933, two years after opening, the building experienced increased visitation & popularity when the movie “King Kong” was released. Millions began to flock to the building after its feature on the big screen.

Interesting To Note

  • The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for 40 years & is now ranked as 43rd. The world’s tallest building currently is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at over 160 stories.
  • The Empire State Building’s antenna tower is struck by lightning an average of 25 times a year!
  • On a clear day, six states are visible from the observation deck: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware.

The Empire State Building is one of America’s most well-known attractions. Standing at 1,250 feet tall, it was originally designed to be a docking station for airships. Due to the city’s wind currents and surrounding buildings, it was instead built to be one of the largest office buildings in the world.

Click here for a timeline of the Empire State Building from 1928 to now.

Read Helen Keller’s entire letter about her experience at the top of the Empire State Building

A short history of the world’s tallest buildings

by Jenna Lee,