Empire State Building
In the 1920's the economy of New York City was growing exceedingly fast. Builders in the city became involved in an unwritten competition to put up the tallest building. Wall Street's Bank of Manhattan and the Chrysler Building were the two main competitors. The builders kept adding floors to their building designs. In August 1929, a team composed of the Governor of New York, AL Smith, and the head of General Motors made public their design for the Empire State Building.
The Empire State Building was going to be 1000 feet tall, so Chrysler made a change to its design and added a spire to bring the height to 1048 feet. Then the designers for the Empire State Building made the building even taller. When it was finished in 1931 it was 1250 feet tall. It was the world's tallest structure until 1970. President Herbert Hoover dedicated the building symbolically as he pushed a button in Washington while the lights were turned on in New York City.
William Lamb designed the Empire State Building and modeled it after two buildings he had designed previously, the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio. A Waldorf -Astoria hotel in New York City was demolished to put up the Empire State Building. By using assembly line methods, the building was finished in only 20 months. As many as 3400 workers were used per day in its construction. However, in the rush to complete the building, five workers were killed.
The most unusual fact about the Empire State Building is that the 200-foot tower was originally designed to be a dock for blimps or dirigibles. The owners of the building thought that transatlantic flight would be coming soon. The dirigible would ease up to the tower of the building and be attached to it by a tether. Passengers would get off on a gangplank and then be taken within seven minutes down to the base of the building.
People were very interested in the project at the beginning, but the high winds made it almost impossible for the dirigibles to maneuver themselves up close to the tower. A small blimp could attach itself for a short time to the tower in September 1931. Several weeks later, several stacks of newspapers were dropped on the roof just for publicity. The docking plan was then abandoned.
The Empire State Building was built to house offices, but due to the stock market crash in 1929, people couldn't afford to rent offices there. When it opened in 1931, only 25% of the space was rented. It was called the 'Empty State Building.' The owners tried some publicity stunts to create interest in the building. In 1932, they tried a sÃ©ance on the 82nd floor to try to contact the ghost of Thomas Edison. However, the building was only half full for most of the 1930's. After World War II, it began to be profitable.
On a Saturday in July 1945, an American bomber was lost in the fog over Manhattan and crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building at 200 mph. 14 people were killed and many were injured. Parts of the engine sliced into the building cutting the cables which held the elevators. Betty Lou Oliver, a 19-year old elevator operator, plunged down to the subbasement in the elevator. She survived with only a broken back and neck due to the large pile of cables which had fallen below her.
In the 1970's, an architect proposed an idea to remove the 16-story tower and replace it with a taller structure to make it taller than the World Trade Center and Sears Tower, but the idea failed due to the cost.
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