Saturday, May 01, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Empire State Building Was Opened

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The Empire State Building was officially opened on this day in 1931 when its ribbon was cut by the grandchildren of former New York governor Alfred E. Smith.

Designed by Gregory Johnson of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, site excavation began in January 1930, with construction symbolically beginning (thanks to Al Smith) on St. Patrick's Day. It took just 401 days to erect the 101-storey structure, with only five deaths* among the crew of 3,400.

Filling it, on the other hand, would take much longer. First conceived in the giddy days before the Crash of 1929, the building soon took on the moniker 'The Empty State Building' for the difficulty it had in attracting renters; in its first year of operation the observation deck produced as much revenue as all the rents in the building - $2 million.

*A more typical casualty figure would be one dead worker per floor.

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