Towering glory of the Big Apple

Photo of William Yeoman

It was 90 years on May 1, 1931, that the Empire State Building was officially opened by president Herbert Hoover. It was a scene far removed from the formative year he spent in the West Australian Goldfields. STEPHEN SCOURFIELD investigates.

Up in the rooftop Magic Bar at night in New York, in “other times”, a carousel spins, full of pretty women drinking champagne and seat-dancing to the music which comes contemporary and curated from a grooving music mixer with a laptop.

But this dazzling little scene is overshadowed by the diva behind them.

For, as night falls, the Empire State Building is lit in the sky behind. True magic, indeed.

The 103-storey Empire State Building, on Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th streets in Manhattan, is slender, elegant, stylish and understated. It wears its age well.

For it was 90 years on May 1, 1931, that the building was officially opened by president Herbert Hoover. It was a scene far removed from the formative year he spent in the West Australian Goldfields.

But Hoover was a single-minded, competitive man, and would have appreciated the fact that the Empire State was constructed in a race to build the world’s biggest skyscraper.

In the late 1920s, New York’s economy was going gangbusters, and the race, in New York alone, was with the Bank of Manhattan and Chrysler buildings.

The architects had announced the Empire State would be 1000 feet (304m) tall, Chrysler architects added a bit to their plans, the Empire State Building designers went back to the drawing board and topped it out at 1250 feet (381m). Despite that enormous size, the building was completed in record time, taking just 20 months from start to finish, with up to 3400 people a day working on it.

Read the full story here.

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