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Find out more about the Empire State Building

Empire State Building
Empire State Building (aerial view).jpg
Seen from the air, 2012
Record height
Tallest in the world from 1931 to 1970[I]
Preceded byChrysler Building
Surpassed by1 World Trade Center (Twin Towers)
General information
TypeOffice building; observation deck
Architectural styleArt Deco
Location350 Fifth Avenue
Manhattan, New York 10118[note 1]
Construction startedMarch 17, 1930; 87 years ago (1930-03-17)[1]
CompletedApril 11, 1931; 86 years ago (April 11, 1931)[2][3]
OpeningMay 1, 1931; 86 years ago
($645 million in 2016 dollars[5])
OwnerEmpire State Realty Trust
Architectural1,250 ft (381.0 m)[6][7]
Tip1,454 ft (443.2 m)[7]
Roof1,250 ft (381.0 m)
Top floor1,224 ft (373.1 m)[7]
Observatory1,224 ft (373.1 m)[7]
Other dimensionslength (east-west) 424 ft (129.2 m)
width (north-south) 187 ft (57.0 m)[8]
Technical details
Floor count102[7][8][9][note 2]
Floor area2,248,355 sq ft (208,879 m2)[7]
Design and construction
ArchitectShreve, Lamb and Harmon
DeveloperJohn J. Raskob
Structural engineerHomer Gage Balcom[10]
Main contractorStarrett Brothers and Eken
Empire State Building
Empire State Building is located in Manhattan
Empire State Building
Show map of Manhattan
Empire State Building is located in New York
Empire State Building
Show map of New York
Empire State Building is located in the US
Empire State Building
Show map of the US
Location in New York City[11]
Coordinates40°44′54.36″N 73°59′08.36″W / 40.7484333°N 73.9856556°W / 40.7484333; -73.9856556Coordinates: 40°44′54.36″N 73°59′08.36″W / 40.7484333°N 73.9856556°W / 40.7484333; -73.9856556
NRHP reference #82001192
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 17, 1982
Designated NHLJune 24, 1986
Designated NYCLMay 19, 1981
I. ^ Empire State Building at Emporis

The Empire State Building is a 102-story[7][8][9][note 2]skyscraper on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets in Midtown, Manhattan, New York City. It has a roof height of 1,250 feet (381 m), and with its antenna included, it stands a total of 1,454 feet (443.2 m) tall.[7] Its name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State.

The Empire State Building stood as the world's tallest building for nearly 40 years, from its completion in early 1931 until the topping out of the original World Trade Center's North Tower in late 1970.[14] Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York, until One World Trade Center reached a greater height in April 2012.[15] The Empire State Building is currently the fifth-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States and the 35th-tallest in the world. It is also the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas. When measured by pinnacle height, it is the fourth-tallest building in the United States.

The Empire State Building is an American cultural icon. It is designed in the distinctive Art Deco style and has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate.[16] It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.[12][17][18] In 2007, it was ranked number one on the AIA's List of America's Favorite Architecture.


The site of the Empire State Building was first developed as the John Thompson Farm in the late 18th century.[19] At the time, a stream ran across the site, emptying into Sunfish Pond, located a block away. Beginning in the late 19th century, the block was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel,[20] frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York.

The limestone for the Empire State Building came from the Empire Mill in Sanders, Indiana which is an unincorporated town adjacent to Bloomington, Indiana. The Empire Mill Land office is near State Road 37 and Old State Road 37 just south of Bloomington. The Bloomington, Bedford, and Oolitic area is known locally as the limestone capital of the world.[21][22]

Design and construction

A worker bolts beams during construction; the Chrysler Building can be seen in the background.

The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb from the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, which produced the building drawings in just two weeks, using its earlier designs for the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio (designed by the architectural firm W. W. Ahlschlager & Associates) as a basis.[23][24] Every year the staff of the Empire State Building sends a Father's Day card to the staff at the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem to pay homage to its role as predecessor to the Empire State Building.[25] The building was designed from the top down.[26] The general contractors were Starrett Brothers and Eken, headed by William A. Starrett, and the project was financed primarily by John J. Raskob and Pierre S. du Pont. The construction company was chaired by Alfred E. Smith, a former Governor of New York and James Farley's General Builders Supply Corporation supplied the building materials.[1]John W. Bowser was project construction superintendent.[27][28][29]

Excavation of the site began on January 22, 1930, and construction on the building itself started on March 17—St. Patrick's Day—per Al Smith's influence as Empire State, Inc. president. The project involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, along with hundreds of Mohawk iron workers, many from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. According to official accounts, five workers died during the construction.[30] Governor Smith's grandchildren cut the ribbon on May 1, 1931. Lewis Wickes Hine's photography of the construction provides not only invaluable documentation of the construction, but also a glimpse into common day life of workers in that era.[31]

The construction was part of an intense competition in New York for the title of "world's tallest building". Two other projects fighting for the title, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, were still under construction when work began on the Empire State Building. Each held the title for less than a year, as the Empire State Building surpassed them upon its completion, on April 11, 1931, 12 days ahead of schedule, just 410 days after construction commenced.[2] The building was officially opened on May 1, 1931 in dramatic fashion, when United States President Herbert Hoover turned on the building's lights with the push of a button from Washington, D.C. Ironically, the first use of tower lights atop the Empire State Building, the following year, was for the purpose of signaling the victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt over Hoover in the presidential election of November 1932.[32]


View of the building from the north

The building's opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space was initially unrented. The building's vacancy was exacerbated by its poor location on 34th Street, which placed it relatively far from public transportation, as Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station, built decades beforehand, are several blocks away, as is the more recently built Port Authority Bus Terminal. Other more successful skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler Building, did not have this problem. In its first year of operation, the observation deck took in approximately 2 million dollars, as much money as its owners made in rent that year. The lack of renters led New Yorkers to deride the building as the "Empty State Building".[33][34]


The Empire State Building only became profitable in 1950. It was purchased in 1951 for $50 million[35] by Roger L. Stevens and his business partners Henry Crown, Alfred R. Glancy and Ben Tobin.[36][37][38] The sale was brokered by the prominent upper Manhattan real estate firm Charles F. Noyes & Company for $51 million, the highest price paid for a single structure at the time.[39] Crown bought out his partners' ownership stakes in 1954[40] and was the sole owner until 1961. That year, the building was bought by Harry B. Helmsley, Lawrence A. Wien, and Wien's son-in-law Peter L. Malkin. for $65 million,[41][36] which became the new highest price for a single structure.[41] Over 3,000 people paid $10,000 for one share each in a company called Empire State Building Associates, that subletted the building to another company headed by Helmsley and Wein, raising $33 million of the funds used to pay for the change of ownership.[41][36] The land itself was sold to Prudential Insurance for $29 million.[42][36]

Prudential sold the land under the building in 1991 for $42 million to a buyer representing hotelier Hideki Yokoi, who was at the time imprisoned in connection with a deadly fire at the Hotel New Japan hotel in Tokyo.[43] The land was bought jointly by Donald Trump and Hideki Yokoi in 1994.[44] Trump sued Empire State Building Associates in February 1995, claiming that the latter had caused the building to become a "high-rise slum"[36] and a "second-rate, rodent-infested" office tower.[45] His objective was to get Empire State Building Associates evicted by breaking their lease,[45] but that action was denied,[46] and Helmsley's companies sued Trump in May of that year.[47] This sparked a round of lawsuits and countersuits that lasted several years,[36] which partially arose from Trump's desire to obtain the building's master lease by taking it from Empire State Building Associates.[48] Upon Harry Helmsley's death in 1997, the Malkins sued Helmsley's widow Leona Helmsley for ownership of the building.[49] In 2002, Trump and Yokoi sold their claim to the land to the Empire State Building Associates, now headed by Malkin in a $57.5 million sale.[50][36] This action merged the building's title and lease for the first time in a half-century.[50]

Leona Helmsley's remaining share in the building was bought by Peter Malkin's company in 2006.[51][36] In 2008 the building was temporary “stolen” by the New York Daily News (to show how easy it is to transfer the deed on a property, since city clerks were not required to validate the submitted information, and help demonstrate how fraudulent deeds could be used to obtain large mortgages and then have individuals disappear with the money). The paperwork submitted to the city included the names of Fay Wray (the famous star of the 1933 movie King Kong) and Willie Sutton (a notorious New York bank robber). The newspaper then transferred the deed back over to the legitimate owners, who at that time were Empire State Land Associates.[52]

As of 2014[update] the building is owned by the Empire State Realty Trust with Anthony Malkin as Chairman, CEO, and President.[53] In August 2016, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) gained a 10% share in the Empire State Building through a $622 million investment to the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT). ESRT’s president John Kessler called it an “endorsement of the company’s irreplaceable assets”.[54] The investment has been described as “an unusual move for a sovereign wealth fund”, as they typically buy direct stakes in buildings rather than real estate companies.[55] Qatar Airways also has an office located in the Empire State Building.[56][57] Other foreign entities that have a stake in the Empire State Building include investors from Norway, Japan, and Australia.[54]


A night view from the observatory, looking south

1945 plane crash

At 9:40 am on July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted in thick fog by Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr.,[58] crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors, where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located. One engine shot through the side opposite the impact and flew as far as the next block, where it landed on the roof of a nearby building, starting a fire that destroyed a penthouse. The other engine and part of the landing gear plummeted down an elevator shaft. The resulting fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. Fourteen people were killed in the incident.[59][60] Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded.[61]

Despite the damage and loss of life, the building was open for business on many floors on the following Monday. The crash helped spur the passage of the long-pending Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, as well as the insertion of retroactive provisions into the law, allowing people to sue the government for the incident.[62]

A year later, another aircraft narrowly missed striking the building.[63]

Suicide attempts

More than 30 people have attempted suicide over the years by jumping from the upper parts of the building; most have succeeded.[64] The first suicide occurred even before the building's completion by a worker who had been laid off. A fence was put up around the observatory terrace in 1947 after five people tried to jump during a three-week span.[65]

On December 16, 1943, ex-United States Navy gunner's mate William Lloyd Rambo (22) jumped to his death from the 86th floor, landing amidst Christmas shoppers on the street below.[66] In the early morning of September 27, 1946, shell-shocked 27 year-old Marine Douglas W. Brashear, Jr. jumped from the 76th-floor window of the Grant Advertising Agency after phoning a co-worker to tell her, "I know now this is the end." Police found his shoes 50 feet from his body.[67]

On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck and landed on a limousine parked at the curb. Photography student Robert Wiles took a photo of McHale's oddly intact corpse a few minutes after her death. The police found a suicide note among possessions that she left on the observation deck: "He is much better off without me.... I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody". The photo ran in the May 12, 1947 edition of Life magazine[68] and is often referred to as "The Most Beautiful Suicide". It was later used by visual artist Andy Warhol in one of his prints entitled Suicide (Fallen Body).[69]

Only one person has jumped from the upper observatory. Frederick Eckert of Astoria ran past a guard in the enclosed 102nd floor gallery on November 3, 1932 and jumped a gate leading to an outdoor catwalk intended for dirigible passengers. He landed and died on the roof of the 86th floor observation promenade.[70]

Two people have survived jumps by not falling more than a floor. On December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be blown back onto a ledge on the 85th floor by a gust of wind and left with a broken hip.[71][72][73] On April 25, 2013, a man fell from the 86th floor observation deck, presumed to have jumped, but he landed alive on an 85th floor ledge where security guards brought him inside with minor injuries.[74]


Two major shooting incidents have occurred at or in front of the Empire State Building. A gunman shot seven people on the 86th floor observation deck on February 23, 1997, at about 5 p.m. EST. Abu Kamal, a 69-year-old Palestinian teacher, killed one person and wounded six others, supposedly in response to events happening in Palestine and Israel, before committing suicide.[75]

Jeffrey T. Johnson (aged 58) shot and killed a former co-worker on August 24, 2012 at about 9 a.m. EDT on the sidewalk at the Fifth Avenue side of the building. He had been laid off from his job in 2011. Two police officers confronted the gunman, and he aimed his firearm at them. They responded by firing 16 shots, killing him but also wounding nine bystanders, most of whom were hit by fragments, although three took direct hits from bullets.[76]


The Empire State Building as seen across the East River, from Brooklyn
A series of setbacks causes the building to taper with height.


The Empire State Building rises to 1,250 ft (381 m) at the 102nd floor, and including the 203 ft (61.9 m) pinnacle, its full height reaches 1,453 feet 8 916 inches (443.092 m). The building has 85 stories of commercial and office space representing 2,158,000 sq ft (200,500 m2) of rentable space. It has an indoor and outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor. The remaining 16 stories represent the Art Deco tower, which is capped by a 102nd-floor observatory. Atop the tower is the 203 ft (61.9 m) pinnacle, much of which is covered by broadcast antennas, with a lightning rod at the very top.

The Empire State Building was the first building to have more than 100 floors. It has 6,500 windows and 73 elevators, and there are 1,860 steps from street level to the 102nd floor. It has a total floor area of 2,768,591 sq ft (257,211 m2); the base of the Empire State Building is about 2 acres (8,094 m2). The building houses 1,000 businesses and has its own ZIP code, 10118. As of 2007, approximately 21,000 employees work in the building each day, making the Empire State Building the second-largest single office complex in America, after the Pentagon. Its original 64 elevators are located in a central core;[77] today, the Empire State Building has 73 elevators in all, including service elevators. It takes less than one minute by elevator to get to the 80th floor, which contains a gift shop and an exhibit detailing the building's construction. From there, visitors can take another elevator or climb the stairs to the 86th floor, where an outdoor observation deck is located. The building has 70 mi (113 km) of pipe, 2,500,000 ft (762,000 m) of electrical wire,[78] and about 9,000 faucets.[citation needed] It is heated by low-pressure steam; despite its height, the building only requires between 2 and 3 psi (14 and 21 kPa) of steam pressure for heating. It weighs approximately 365,000 short tons (331,000 t). The exterior of the building is clad in Indiana limestone panels.

The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build[4] (equivalent to $644,878,000 in 2016). Long-term forecasting of the life cycle of the structure was implemented at the design phase to ensure that the building's future intended uses were not restricted by the requirements of previous generations. This is particularly evident in the over-design of the building's electrical system.

The building's art deco design is typical of pre–World War II architecture in New York. The modernistic stainless steel canopies of the entrances on 33rd and 34th Streets lead to two story-high corridors around the elevator core, crossed by stainless steel and glass-enclosed bridges at the second-floor level. The elevator core contains 67 elevators.[16]

The lobby is three stories high and features an aluminum relief of the skyscraper without the antenna, which was not added to the spire until 1952. The north corridor contained eight illuminated panels, created by Roy Sparkia and Renée Nemorov in 1963 in time for the 1964 World's Fair, which depicts the building as the Eighth Wonder of the World, alongside the traditional seven. These panels were eventually moved near a ticketing line for the observation deck.

Until the 1960s, the ceilings in the lobby had a shiny art deco mural inspired by both the sky and the Machine Age, until it was covered with ceiling tiles and fluorescent lighting. Because the original murals, designed by an artist named Leif Neandross, were damaged, reproductions were installed. Over 50 artists and workers used 15,000 square feet of aluminum and 1,300 square feet of 23-carat gold leaf to re-create the mural. Renovations to the lobby alluded to original plans for the building; replacing the clock over the information desk in the Fifth Avenue lobby with an anemometer, as well as installing two chandeliers originally intended to be part of the building when it first opened.[79] In 2000, the building's owners installed a series of paintings by the New York artist Kysa Johnson in the concourse level. In January 2014 the artist filed suit in federal court in New York under the Visual Artists Rights Act, alleging the negligent destruction of the paintings and damage to her reputation as an artist.[80]

Capital improvements were made to the Empire State Building from 1989 to the mid-1990s. These improvements entailed replacing alarm systems, elevators, windows, and air conditioning; making the observation deck compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; and refurbishing the limestone facade.[48] The building's lobbies and common areas received a $550 million renovation in 2009, with improvements including new air conditioning, waterproofing, and renovating the observation deck, and moving the gift shop to the 80th floor.[81][82] Of this, $120 million was spent in an effort to transform the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure.[82] For example, the 6,500 windows were remanufactured onsite into superwindows which block heat but pass light. Air conditioning operating costs on hot days were reduced and this saved $17 million of the project's capital cost immediately, partly funding other retrofitting.[83] After receiving a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011, the Empire State Building became the tallest LEED certified building in the United States.[84]

Lighting at the top of the Empire State Building


Above the 102nd floor

On the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building there is a door with stairs ascending to the 103rd floor.[85] This was built as a disembarkation floor for airships tethered to the building's spire, and has a circular balcony outside.[86] It is now a hot spot for celebrities,[citation needed] and an access point to reach the spire for maintenance. The room now contains electrical equipment. Above the 103rd floor, there is a set of stairs and a ladder to reach the spire for maintenance work.

The building's Art Deco spire was designed to be a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles.[87] An elevator between the 86th and 102nd floors would carry passengers after they checked in on the 86th floor.[88] The idea proved impractical and dangerous, due to the powerful updrafts caused by the building itself,[89] as well as the lack of mooring lines tying the other end of the craft to the ground.[90] The building's design was expanded to include the mooring mast as part of a competition for the world's tallest building.[citation needed]

A large broadcast tower was added atop the spire in the early 1950s, to support the transmission antennas of several television and FM stations. Until then, NBC had exclusive rights to the site, and – beginning in 1931 – built various, smaller antennas for their television transmissions.[87]

Broadcast stations

New York City is the largest media market in the United States. Since the September 11 attacks, nearly all of the city's commercial broadcast stations (both television and FM radio) have transmitted from the top of the Empire State Building, although a few FM stations are located at the nearby Condé Nast Building. Most New York City AM stations broadcast from sites across the Hudson River in New Jersey or from other surrounding areas.

Antennae for broadcast stations are located at the top of the Empire State Building.

Broadcasting began at the Empire State Building on December 22, 1931, when RCA began transmitting experimental television broadcasts from a small antenna erected atop the spire. They leased the 85th floor and built a laboratory there, and—in 1934—RCA was joined by Edwin Howard Armstrong in a cooperative venture to test his FM system from the building's antenna. When Armstrong and RCA fell out in 1935 and his FM equipment was removed, the 85th floor became the home of RCA's New York television operations, first as experimental station W2XBS channel 1, which eventually became (on July 1, 1941) commercial station WNBT, channel 1 (now WNBC-TV channel 4). NBC's FM station (WEAF-FM, now WQHT) began transmitting from the antenna in 1940. NBC retained exclusive use of the top of the building until 1950, when the FCC ordered the exclusive deal broken, based on consumer complaints that a common location was necessary for the (now) seven New York-area television stations (five licensed to New York City, NY, one licensed to Newark, NJ, and one licensed to Secaucus, NJ) to transmit from so that receiving antennas would not have to be constantly adjusted. Construction on a giant tower began. Other television broadcasters then joined RCA at the building, on the 83rd, 82nd, and 81st floors, frequently bringing sister FM stations along for the ride. Multiple transmissions of TV and FM began from the new tower in 1951. In 1965, a separate set of FM antennas was constructed ringing the 103rd floor observation area to act as a master antenna. When the World Trade Center was being constructed, it caused serious reception problems for the television stations, most of which then moved to the World Trade Center as soon as it was completed. This made it possible to renovate the antenna structure and the transmitter facilities for the benefit of the FM stations remaining there, which were soon joined by other FMs and UHF TVs moving in from elsewhere in the metropolitan area. The destruction of the World Trade Center necessitated a great deal of shuffling of antennas and transmitter rooms to accommodate the stations moving back uptown.

As of 2012, the Empire State Building is home to the following stations:

Observation decks

The Empire State Building has one of the most popular outdoor observatories in the world, having been visited by over 110 million people. The 86th-floor observation deck offers impressive 360-degree views of the city. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd floor that is open to the public. It was closed in 1999, but reopened in November 2005. It is completely enclosed and much smaller than the first one; it may be closed on high-traffic days. Tourists may pay to visit the observation deck on the 86th floor and an additional amount for the 102nd floor.[91] The lines to enter the observation decks, according to, are "as legendary as the building itself:" there are five of them: the sidewalk line, the lobby elevator line, the ticket purchase line, the second elevator line, and the line to get off the elevator and onto the observation deck.[92] For an extra fee tourists can skip to the front of the line.[91] The Empire State Building makes more money from tickets sales for its observation decks than it does from renting office space.[93]

The skyscraper's observation deck plays host to several cinematic, television, and literary classics including, An Affair To Remember, On the Town, Love Affair and Sleepless in Seattle. In the Latin American literary classic, Giannina Braschi's Empire of Dreams the observation deck is the site of a pastoral revolution; shepherds take over the City of New York.[94] The deck was also the site of a publicity-stunt Martian invasion in an episode of I Love Lucy ("Lucy Is Envious", season 3, episode 25).

A 360° panoramic view of New York City from the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, spring 2005. East River is to the left, Hudson River to the right, south is near center.

New York Skyride

The Empire State Building also has a motion simulator attraction located on the 2nd floor. Opened in 1994 as a complement to the observation deck, the New York Sky ride (or NY Sky ride) is a simulated aerial tour over the city. The cinematic presentation lasts approximately 25 minutes. As of May 2013, tickets are Adults $57, Children $42, Seniors $49.

View from Macy's
Night view from the same street-corner

Since its opening, the ride has gone through two incarnations. The original version, which ran from 1994 until around 2002, featured James Doohan, Star Trek's Scotty, as the airplane's pilot, who humorously tried to keep the flight under control during a storm, with the tour taking an unexpected route through the subway, Coney Island, and FAO Schwartz, among other places. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, however, the ride was closed, and an updated version debuted in mid-2002 with actor Kevin Bacon as the pilot. The new version of the narration attempted to make the attraction more educational, and included some minor post-9/11 patriotic undertones with retrospective footage of the World Trade Center. The new flight also goes haywire, but this segment is much shorter than in the original.


In 1964, floodlights were added to illuminate the top of the building at night.[95] Since 1976 the spire has been lit in colors chosen to match seasonal and other events, such as St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, Independence Day and Bastille Day. After the eightieth birthday and subsequent death of Frank Sinatra, for example, the building was bathed in blue light to represent the singer's nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes". After the death of actress Fay Wray (King Kong) in late 2004, the building stood in complete darkness for 15 minutes.[96]

The floodlights bathed the building in red, white, and blue for several months after the destruction of the World Trade Center, then reverted to the standard schedule.[97] On June 4, 2002, the Empire State Building donned purple and gold (the royal colors of Elizabeth II), in thanks for the United Kingdom playing the Star Spangled Banner during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace on September 12, 2001 (a show of support after the September 11 attacks).[98] This would also be shown after the Westminster Dog Show. Traditionally, in addition to the standard schedule, the building will be lit in the colors of New York's sports teams on the nights they have home games (orange, blue and white for the New York Knicks, red, white and blue for the New York Rangers, and so on). The first weekend in June finds the building bathed in green light for the Belmont Stakes held in nearby Belmont Park. The building is illuminated in tennis-ball yellow during the US Open tennis tournament in late August and early September. It was twice lit in scarlet to support nearby Rutgers University: once for a football game against the University of Louisville on November 9, 2006, and again on April 3, 2007 when the women's basketball team played in the national championship game.[99] On January 13, 2012, the building was lit in red, orange, and yellow to honor the 60th anniversary of NBC's The Today Show making it the first time the building was illuminated to honor a television program. From June 1 to 3, 2012, the building was lit in blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag, in honor of the 49th annual Celebrate Israel Parade.[100]

During 2012, the building's metal halide lamps and floodlights were replaced with LED fixtures, increasing the available colors from nine to over 16 million. The computer-controlled system allows the building to be illuminated in ways that were unable to be done previously with plastic gels. For instance, on November 6, 2012, CNN used the top of the Empire State Building as a scoreboard for the 2012 United States presidential election. When incumbent president Barack Obama had reached the 270 electoral votes necessary to win re-election, the lights turned blue. Had Republican challenger Mitt Romney won, the building would have been lit red.[101] Also, on November 26, 2012, the building had its first ever synchronized light show, using music from recording artist Alicia Keys.[102][103] Those wishing to hear the music could tune to certain radio stations in the New York area. A video of the performance was posted online the next day.[104] In 2013 the lights were changed to Financial Times pink.[105] In the run-up week to Super Bowl XLVIII held at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014, the building was lit in a contest sponsored by the National Football League's wireless partner, Verizon Wireless to determine both the winner and fan support for the two teams via their team colors in the game through the #WhosGonnaWin Twitter hashtag, either the "action green" and navy blue of the Seattle Seahawks or orange and blue of the Denver Broncos, along with a light show during the game's halftime.[106]

Height records and comparisons

Height comparison of New York City buildings, with Empire State second from left
Empire State Building (gray) compared to large ships and buildings:
  The Pentagon, 1,414 feet, 431 m
  RMS Queen Mary 2, 1,132 feet, 345 m
  USS Enterprise, 1,123 feet, 342 m
  Hindenburg, 804 feet, 245 m
  Yamato, 863 feet, 263 m
  Empire State Building, 1,454 feet, 443 m
  Knock Nevis, ex-Seawise Giant, 1,503 feet, 458 m
  Apple Park, 1,522 feet, 464 m

The Empire State Building remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for 23 years before it was surpassed by the Griffin Television Tower Oklahoma (KWTV Mast) in 1954. It was also the tallest free-standing structure in the world for 36 years before it was surpassed by the Ostankino Tower in 1967.

The longest world record held by the Empire State Building was for the tallest skyscraper (to structural height), which it held for 42 years until it was surpassed by the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 1972. An early-1970s proposal to dismantle the spire and replace it with an additional 11 floors, which would have brought the building's height to 1,494 feet (455 m) and made it once again the world's tallest at the time, was considered but ultimately rejected.[107]

With the destruction of the World Trade Center in the September 11 attacks, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City, and the second-tallest building in the Americas, surpassed only by the Willis Tower in Chicago. As of December 2016[update], it is the fifth-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States, after the One World Trade Center, 432 Park Avenue in New York City, the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower, both in Chicago. The Empire State Building is the 25th-tallest in the world, the tallest being Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai. It is also the sixth-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas.

On clear days, the building can be seen from much of the New York Metropolitan Area, and as far away as New Haven, Connecticut and Morristown, New Jersey.[citation needed]

Neighboring Midtown Manhattan landmarks

The Empire State Building anchors an area of Midtown which features other major Manhattan landmarks as well, including Macy's Herald Square, Koreatown,[108]Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and the Flower District.[109] Collectively, these sites contribute to a significant volume of commuter and tourist pedestrian traffic traversing the southern portion of Midtown Manhattan.

In popular culture


The Midtown skyline, as viewed from the observation deck at night in January 2006
1933 Movie poster for King Kong
  • Perhaps the most famous popular culture representation of the building is in King Kong (1933), in which the title character, a giant ape, climbs to the top to escape his captors but falls to his death after being attacked by airplanes. In 1983, for the film's fiftieth anniversary, a huge 90-foot (27 m) tall inflatable Kong was placed on the building mast above the observation deck by artist Robert Vicino.[110] In 2005, Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong was released, set in 1930s New York City, including a final showdown between Kong and biplanes atop a greatly detailed Empire State Building. (The 1976 remake of King Kong was set in a contemporary New York City and held its climactic scene on the towers of the World Trade Center.)
  • Love Affair (1939) involves a couple who plan to meet atop the Empire State Building, a rendezvous that is prevented by an automobile accident. The film was remade in 1957 (as An Affair to Remember) and in 1994 (again as Love Affair). Sleepless in Seattle (1993), a romantic comedy partially inspired by An Affair to Remember, climaxes with scenes in the Empire State Building's lobby and observatory.
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon "Much Ado About Nutting", a squirrel has so much difficulty opening a coconut he carries it to the Empire State Building's observation deck and tosses it over the edge. While the street is damaged by the impact, the coconut remains intact.
  • In the 1946 Looney Tunes cartoon Baseball Bugs, Bugs Bunny is pitching in the Polo Grounds against the Gashouse Gorillas. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and Bugs protecting a one run lead, the opposition hits the ball out of the park for an apparent game-winning two-run homer. Bugs pursues the ball through New York City. The chase culminates at the "Umpire State Building". Bugs ascends to the top of the building by elevator and catches the ball for the third out, winning the game.
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon "Mouse in Manhattan", Jerry walks by and views the Empire State Building, along with other landmarks, including the Statue of Atlas at Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Terminal.
  • Andy Warhol's 1964 silent film Empire is one continuous, eight-hour black-and-white shot of the Empire State Building at night. In 2004, the National Film Registry deemed its cultural significance worthy of preservation in the Library of Congress.
  • In Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), Mount Olympus is located over the Empire State Building, and there is a special elevator in the building to the "600th floor", which is supposed to be Olympus, just like in the book series.
  • The building is chosen as Ground Zero for the target of a nuclear bomb that is dropped on New York in Fail-Safe (1964).
  • Both Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder go to the Observation Deck of the building in the original Mel Brooks film The Producers.
  • In The Time Machine (2002), the Empire State Building is still standing in the year 2030, but dwarfed by several larger skyscrapers around it. It is not visible in later scenes set in a post-apocalyptic New York.
  • In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), in an alternate 1939, the top of the building serves its original purpose of being a docking station for dirigibles, and the Hindenburg III docks at it on its maiden voyage.
  • The building starred in Enchanted (2007) which Giselle tried to rescue Robert from Queen Narissa in her dragon form.
  • Many films have opened with the Empire State Building, such as West Side Story (1961), Step Up 3D and The Other Guys (both 2010).
  • The building has been destroyed in some disaster films, such as Independence Day (1996) and Knowing (2009).
  • In The Divide (2011), the building is destroyed by a nuclear bomb detonated on New York. It was heavily featured on posters promoting the film.
  • In Superman II (1980), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) uses a flagpole to knock Superman (Christopher Reeve) into the tower of the building, knocking off its radio antenna, which falls into the street below. Superman manages to catch it before it hits the ground and re-attaches it to the building.
  • In The 5th Wave, the building happens to survive a massive tsunami that hits Manhattan during an alien invasion.
  • Many other films that feature the Empire State Building are listed on the building's own website.[111]


  • In the 1965 four-part Underdog cartoon serial "The Phoney Booths" (episodes 49-52), Underdog falls under the mental control of mad scientist Simon Bar Sinister. Simon orders Underdog to use his super powers to bring him valuable objects - including the Empire State Building, which Underdog lifts whole to bring it to Simon. In the end, circumstances release Underdog from Simon’s control. He defeats the evil scientist and puts back the Empire State Building.
  • The Empire State Building featured in the 1966 Doctor Who serial The Chase, in which the TARDIS lands on the roof of the building; The Doctor and his companions leave quite quickly, however, because the Daleks are close behind them. A Dalek is also seen on the roof of the building while it interrogates a human. In 2007, Doctor Who episodes "Daleks in Manhattan" and "Evolution of the Daleks" also featured the building, which the Daleks are constructing to use as a lightning conductor. Russell T Davies said in an article that "in his mind", the Daleks remembered the building from their last visit.
  • In the science fiction drama series Fringe, the observation deck of the Empire State Building serves its primary purpose as a docking station for zeppelins in the parallel universe shown in the second-season episode Peter. It is also featured in the third-season episode Immortality.
  • The Discovery Channel show MythBusters tested the urban myth which claims that if one drops a penny off the top of the Empire State Building, it could kill someone or put a crater in the pavement. The outcome was that, by the time the penny hits the ground, it is going roughly 65 mph (105 km/h) (terminal velocity for an object of its mass and shape), which is not fast enough to inflict lethal injury or put a crater into the pavement. The urban legend is a joke in the 2003 musical Avenue Q, where a character waiting atop the building for a rendezvous tosses a penny over the side—only to hit her rival.
  • In Gerry Anderson's popular puppet series Thunderbirds, the episode Terror in New York City, the Empire State Building is being moved to a new location as the site around it is set for redevelopment. However, something goes wrong and the building collapses, trapping a reporter and his cameraman underneath the rubble. Their rescue is the focus of the rest of the episode.
  • The music video of the song "Everything is Everything" (by singer Lauryn Hill) prominently features the Empire State Building as the center of a city (record) turntable.
  • In the episode "First Time in New York" of the television series How I Met Your Mother (originally aired on January 8, 2007), the gang takes Robin's sister Katie to the Empire State Building. On the first day, they only got to the lobby, but they eventually went to the top the next day.


  • H.G. Wells' 1933 science fiction novel The Shape of Things to Come, written in the form of a history book published in the far future, includes the following passage: "Up to quite recently Lower New York has been the most old-fashioned city in the world, unique in its gloomy antiquity. The last of the ancient skyscrapers, the Empire State Building, is even now under demolition in C.E. 2106!".[112]
  • David Macaulay's 1980 illustrated book Unbuilding depicts the Empire State Building being purchased by a Middle Eastern billionaire and disassembled piece by piece, to be transported to Saudi Arabia and rebuilt there. The mooring mast is rebuilt in New York, while the remainder of the building is lost at sea.
  • Giannina Braschi's Empire of Dreams, a Latin American poetry epic published in 1988, featured a pastoral revolution on the top floor of the Empire State Building, where shepherds danced and sang songs of revolution.[94][113]
  • The Empire State Building is featured prominently as both a setting and integral plot device throughout much of Michael Chabon's 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
  • In his "biography", Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Philip Jose Farmer theorizes that the skyscraper in which Doc Savage lived and where he met with his comrades, had his laboratories, etc., was the Empire State Building. Since the 86th Floor (mentioned in the Savage stories as his floor) was the Observatory, one may presume that Doc "actually" lived on another floor.
  • In the series, "Percy Jackson & the Olympians", Rick Riordan shows the Empire State Building as the headquarters of the Olympian Gods, where the Greek Gods live and also hold their meetings.
  • In the 1961 children's novel James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, the giant peach is dropped onto the lightning rod of the Empire State Building at the end. This novel was later adapted in a film under the same name in 1996, which features the same part where the peach falls onto the Building's antenna.
  • In the sci-fi/alternate history series of novels Wild Cards, the 86th floor is the location of New York's premier chic restaurant, Aces High, a very popular hangout for the superpowered aces.


  • A 7.6 feet (2.3 m) scale model built from 12,000 LEGO bricks over 250 hours is featured along with other notable buildings in the LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.[114]
  • The Empire State Building Run-Up is a foot race from ground level to the 86th-floor observation deck that has been held annually since 1978. Its participants are referred to both as runners and as climbers, and are often tower running enthusiasts. The race covers a vertical distance of 1,050 feet (320 m) and takes in 1,576 steps. The record time is 9 minutes and 33 seconds, achieved by Australian professional cyclist Paul Crake in 2003,[115][116] at a climbing rate of 6,593 ft (2,010 m) per hour.

ESRT began trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange on October 2, 2013.[117]




  1. ^ The Empire State Building is located within the 10001 zip code area, but 10118 is assigned as the building's own zip code, according to the United States Postal Service.
  2. ^ a b Depending on the source, the floor count of the Empire State Building is variously cited as 102 or 103. The sources cited here all state 102. See here for a detailed explanation.


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  138. ^ "Contact us." National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved September 4, 2008.
  139. ^ In Answer to Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden at his ex-wife's website


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Preceded by
Chrysler Building
World's tallest structure
Succeeded by
World's tallest freestanding structure on land
Succeeded by
Ostankino Tower
Tallest building in the world
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World Trade Center (1973–2001) (North Tower)
Tallest building in the United States
Tallest building in New York City
Preceded by
World Trade Center (1973–2001) (North Tower)
Tallest building in New York City
Succeeded by
One World Trade Center (current)

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