Empire State Building dedicated 1931
On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially dedicates New York City’s Empire State Building, pressing a button from the White House that turns on the building’s lights. Hoover’s gesture, of course, was symbolic; while the president remained in Washington, D.C., someone else flicked the switches in New York.
The idea for the Empire State Building is said to have been born of a competition between Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation and John Jakob Raskob of General Motors, to see who could erect the taller building. Chrysler had already begun work on the famous Chrysler Building, the gleaming 1,046-foot skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Not to be bested, Raskob assembled a group of well-known investors, including former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith. The group chose the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates to design the building. The Art-Deco plans, said to have been based in large part on the look of a pencil, were also builder-friendly: The entire building went up in just over a year, under budget (at $40 million) and well ahead of schedule. During certain periods of building, the frame grew an astonishing four-and-a-half stories a week.
At the time of its completion, the Empire State Building, at 102 stories and 1,250 feet high (1,454 feet to the top of the lightning rod), was the world’s tallest skyscraper. The Depression-era construction employed as many as 3,400 workers on any single day, most of whom received an excellent pay rate, especially given the economic conditions of the time. The new building imbued New York City with a deep sense of pride, desperately needed in the depths of the Great Depression, when many city residents were unemployed and prospects looked bleak. The grip of the Depression on New York’s economy was still evident a year later, however, when only 25 percent of the Empire State’s offices had been rented.
In 1972, the Empire State Building lost its title as world’s tallest building to New York’s World Trade Center, which itself was the tallest skyscraper for but a year. Today the honor belongs to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, which soars 2,717 feet into the sky.
(More Events on This Day in History)
- 1958 President Eisenhower proclaims Law Day
- 1926 Ford factory workers get 40-hour week
- 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville begins
- 1960 American U-2 spy plane shot down
- 2002 Former NBA All-Star indicted
- 2003 Record-breaking tornado wave begins
- 1851 Great Exhibition opens
- 1898 The Battle of Manila Bay
- 1963 An American tops Everest
- 1997 Labour party returns to power in Britain
- 1941 Citizen Kane released
- 1923 Joseph Heller is born
- 1786 Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro premieres in Vienna
- 1852 Calamity Jane is born
- 1931 Herbert Hoover dedicates Empire State Building
- 1991 Rickey Henderson breaks stolen base record
- 1969 Senator criticizes Nixon’s handling of the war
- 1972 North Vietnamese troops capture Quang Tri
World War I
- 1915 International Congress of Women adopts resolutions
World War II
- 1887 Alan G. Cunningham, British liberator of Ethiopia, is born