The EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, the best known and most famous skyscraper in the world, was constructed
in 1931 at the site of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (1897) and
celebrated its 75th anniversary on May 1, 2006. The newly-built skyscraper, now a prime commercial building, opened after the Great Depression and at first had such difficulty finding tenants that it became known as the "Empty State Building."
The words “New York City” and “skyscraper” are almost synonymous although the first skyscraper (consisting of nine stories and a basement) was built in Chicago in 1885 and the word “skyscraper” was originally a nautical term used to describe “the tallest mast of a sailing ship.”
The Empire State building itself is 1250 feet tall with an overall height of 1454 feet (including its 204 feet broadcasting antenna) and it – along with the Chrysler Building and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building --dominated the Manhattan skyline until the WORLD TRADE CENTER twin towers were completed in the late 70s. On a sunny and clear day, the view encompasses 80 miles. After 9/11, the building once again became the tallest one in Manhattan. On April 30, 2012, the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center reached 1271 feet surpassing the Empire State building as the tallest one in New York City.
A searchlight beacon,
announcing that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected President in November
1932, was the first light on the top of the building. Floodlights and other lighting systems have
been used over the years but the current tradition of color-theme lights was
first introduced to celebrate the American Bicentennial (red/white/blue) on the
Empire State’s towers in 1976. The
lighting effect is accomplished by lighting the 1,336 light fixtures on
the 72 to 102nd floors of the building. The tradition has continued
and the lighting changes
colors frequently to signify occasions ranging from United Nations Day
(blue/white/white), Oscar week (gold), Earth Day (green/blue/blue) to
Stonewall Anniversary/Gay Pride Week (lavender/lavender/white). A new ring of sodium vapor lights was
installed in 1984 to create a golden halo appearance around the mooring mast (first
used for dirigibles) – at the very tip of the building. The lights are turned off during the fall
migration season of birds because they confuse the birds. A more advanced LED system of lighting is being installed. The new technology will allow the colors of LED fixtures to be manipulated by computers and to create various lighting effects of rainbows, ripples, and burst effects using a palette of 16 million different colors.
In 1945, the Empire State
Building survived an
encounter with a B-25 bomber, accidentally lost in heavy rain and fog, that stuck the building between its 78th and 79th floors. Eleven people in the building, as well as the
pilot and two other crew members in the plane, died.
The National Weather Bureau reports that the Empire State Building is struck by lighting approximately 25 times per year.