The Empire State Building

“Empire State Building Dedicated, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

Opportunity Knocks...

In the 1920s, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel still occupied the Fifth Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Streets in New York City. At one time it was the largest hotel in the world, but by 1928 the building's accoutrements were beginning to look outdated and much of its target audience was shifting to locations farther uptown.

So by May of 1928, the hotel had been sold and closed. After the dust had settled, the Empire State Inc. consortium had paved the way for construction to begin on what was to be the world's tallest skyscraper.

“Empire State Building Dedicated, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

A Flash Design

Once funding was secured, the building was designed in a rush, primarily by William F. Lamb. Lamb's previous work on the Reynolds Building in North Carolina and the work being concurrently done on the Chrysler Building in New York City served as major influences. As a result, the initial designs (the first 80 floors) were submitted within two weeks.

However, new regulations in NYC regarding the visibility of, and provisions for access to, sunlight at street level required a sort of tapering called setbacks. So Lamb and his team devised new plans, closer to the finished building that we know of today. The popular sense at the time is that the new, tapered designs were based upon the shape of a carpenter's pencil.

“Empire State Building Dedicated, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

Nowhere to Go But Up

The Empire State Building was completed well ahead of schedule. Despite the stock market crash in 1929, investors thought they might lose more money by delaying the project than by forging ahead. The project employed nearly 3500 laborers every day for the next 18 months.

Still, even though it was completed ahead of schedule, the building sat mostly empty for the next fifteen years as the Great Depression and then WWII stretched into the mid 1940s.

The tourist attraction that the Empire State Building became in order to sustain itself during the lean years has remained its calling card all of these years later...

The 86th floor and 102nd floor are now the primary sight-seeing locations. Additionally, an internal observation deck is on the 80th floor, and the second floor has periodically hosted attractions related to the building's history and relevance. More than 20,000 square feet in the building are dedicated to hosting and entertaining ticket-holders in queue to the observation decks - an atmosphere similar to today's theme parks.

The Empire State Building no longer holds any structural records, but remains in prominent positions on lists including:

  • Tthe world's tallest structure (1931-1954),
  • The world's tallest freestanding structure on land (1931-1967),
  • The tallest building in the world (1931-1970),
  • The tallest building in the United States (1931-1970),
  • The tallest building in New York City (1931-1972 & 2001-2012).

“Empire State Building Dedicated, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

Nine Empire State Building facts worth sharing

  1. The Empire State Building was built to withstand windspeeds of up to 110 mph. Its stiffness rating is 42 pounds per square inch — it could withstand an impact of 45 tons!
  2. Each year since 1978, the Empire State Building has hosted the Empire State Building Run-Up... participants race against the clock and each other from the ground floor to the 86th-floor observation deck.
    Time to beat? 9 minutes and 33 seconds.
  3. The Empire State Building was the world's tallest building for nearly 40 years (it's height was exceeded during construction of the World Trade Center in 1970). It is still the seventh tallest building in New York, and the ninth tallest building in the United States.
  4. In 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. The crash was caused by low visibility and resulted in the deaths of 14 people.
  5. An elevator operator, Betty Lou Oliver, survived the 1945 incident after having fallen more than 75 stories in an elevator car. Hers is the still the record for the longest elevator fall anyone has survived.
  6. Per the original plans, the top of the Empire State Building was intended to be a docking station for dirigibles and other air balloons. Yes, they actually intended for people to board and disembark from passenger blimps from atop a skyscraper. Fortunately, the first test was enough to discourage and scuttle these plans.
  7. In 1933, the stop-motion feature film King Kong was released. It was the first of more than 250 films and television series to include the Empire State Building in a prominent way.
  8. The Empire State Building was the first skyscraper to exceed 100 floors and for many years it was considered among the Wonders of the World.
  9. The final rivet was shot into the building on April 11, 1931 — it was made of solid gold.

Hungry for more?

Check out the 2-minute video below from The History Channel.

Share Your History With Us!

Send us your pictures of historic memorabilia, American flags, flagpoles, ropes, or other accessories! We would be honored to feature your photography in our blog or on Facebook. Remember, photos of damaged flags and accessories are valuable, too.

Was this information useful to you?

Do you have suggestions for information you'd like to see here? If so, please send them our way!

Please send all of your suggestions or questions to We want to hear from you!

Have a great day, from your friends at LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®.

Back to blog