5 Fascinating Facts About the Empire State Building

On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially dedicated New York City’s Empire State Building, pressing a button from the White House that turned on the building’s lights.  Think you know a lot about this symbol of The Big Apple? We've got five fascinating facts for you!


The Empire State Building Went Up in 13 Months. # The spire of the Empire State Building overlooking downtown Manhattan. Image source: WikiCommons At 102 stories tall, the Empire State Building was meant to rival two other prominent skyscrapers being built at the time: the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street. While its height was certainly awe-inspiring, perhaps even more amazing was the fact that John Jakob Raskob's crew built the entire building in just over a year. At their peak, construction crews were completing 4.5 stories a week. The project completed way ahead of schedule and under-budget.

The Mast at the Top of the Empire State Building Was Originally a Docking Station for Airships. When the building was constructed in the early 1930s, transatlantic airships were gaining steam and appeared to be the future of intercontinental travel. As a result, the building's designers included a 200-foot mast at the top of the building intended as a docking station for arriving airships. Passengers would deboard via a ramp, go through customs, and be on the streets of Manhattan in seven minutes or less. But high winds (and the eventual distaste for airship travel) made the concept a complete flop. Aside from a couple of publicity stunts, the tower was never used for docking purposes.


The Architects Nearly Did Away With the Tower in the Early 1970s. # Lights at the top of the Empire State Building change colors to commemorate events and holidays. Image source: WikiCommons The Empire State Building was the tallest skyscraper in the world from 1931 until 1970 when the north tower of the World Trade Center took over the title. The building's original architecture firm devised a scheme to demolish the 16-story tower at the top of the building and convert it into more office space. The plan would've made the Empire State Building the tallest on the New York skyline once again—above both the World Trade Center and Sears Tower (which was under construction at the time). Luckily, budgetary concerns and public uproar caused the architects to cancel the renovations.

A B-52 Bomber Crashed Into the Side of the Building in 1945. Over 50 years before the tragedy of 9/11, another iconic New York skyscraper was struck by a plane. Though this time, instead of an act of terrorism, the B-52 bomber that plunged into the 78th and 79th floors of the Empire State Building was a sad accident. The pilot and two crew members lost their lives along with 11 people inside the building at the time. One woman—a 19-year-old elevator operator—plunged 75 floors when plane debris severed cables in her elevator. Miraculously, she survived! The coiled-up cables at the bottom of the elevator shaft lessened the blow of the crash and though she broke her neck and back, she lived.

Three People Have (Illegally) Parachuted Off the Building's Observation Deck. If you've ever been to the top of the Empire State Building, you know there is security and fencing up everywhere. And for good reason: In 1986, two daredevils successfully hid parachutes from security and launched themselves from the top of the building. Both survived and were arrested. Fourteen years later, another man followed suit and jumped from the observation deck. He managed to evade capture and later successfully jumped from the Chrysler Building, too. He was finally caught while attempting a jump from the World Trade Center.