A Great Big City

May 1 in History: Empire State Building Officially Opens

Looking north from Wall St., ESB under construction
Looking north from Wall St., ESB under construction via cobravictor on Flickr

One of the top New York attractions and former tallest building in the world officially opened on May 1, 1931.

The Empire State Building has become an internationally-recognized symbol of NYC, and 85 years ago today, the ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the building for business.

Led by former New York state governor Alfred E. Smith, construction began on March 17, 1930 on the site where the grand Waldorf and Astoria hotels once stood. Only 410 days later, the 102-story building was finished. Compare this to the 615 day construction time for the Chrysler Building, which had opened the previous year.

At the ribbon-cutting, a ceremonial lighting of the lobby lights was performed by President Hoover in the White House telegraph room, with the President stating that the building "must long remain one of the outstanding glories of a great city." And so it has.

Tonight, in celebration of its 85th anniversary, the ESB will be lit like a birthday candle using the new LED lights that were installed in 2012.

Did you know?

On a clear day, you can see New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts from the ESB Observatory.

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