It’s hard to imagine the New York City skyline without the Empire State Building. The 1,200 foot-tall building is visited by nearly 4 million people each year and dons a variety of NYC merchandise. Even if you haven’t had a chance to see the 5th tallest skyscraper in the USA in its steel-and-glass glory, you probably recognize it; The Empire State Building has been in over 250 movies and TV shows.
Breaking ground on March 17, 1930, it only took a little over a year to complete, opening its doors on April 11, 1931, and being officially christened—complete with president Hoover being the first to flip on the now-infamous lights—on May 1, 1931.
In honor of its opening 87 years ago, here are 10 amazing facts about the Empire State Building.
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- The first movie the Empire State Building was featured was King Kong in 1933.
- The skyscraper became a New York City Historical Landmark in 1981 and a National Historic Landmark 5 years later.
- The stepped sides of the Empire State Building and other early 20th century skyscrapers were the inspiration for the sunburst motif that was popular during the Art Deco era.
- As many as 3,400 men worked on the project each day during construction.
- In 1932 a séance was held in the building as a publicity stunt. A medium lead the group in trying to contact the ghost of Thomas Edison.
- On a clear day, visitors can see 80 miles over New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
- The Empire State Building was the tallest LEED-certified building from 2011 when it was accredited until 2014. It was surpassed by the new One World Trade Center.
- The Art Deco ceiling mural celebrating the Machine Age was covered in the 1960s. Beginning in 2007, a restoration team used photographs of the original ceiling to recreate the mural using the same techniques as the original artists from Rambusch Studios. The ceiling mural as it is seen today took nearly two years to complete and was installed in 2009.
- Since 2012 when a computer-connected LED lighting system was installed, the Empire State Building has been able to display over 16 million different colors. The display often changes hues to honor a variety of events, from mono-chromatic lighting to celebrate heart-health awareness to a full lightshow on the 4th of July. A calendar of colors and their reasonings can be found here.
- Beginning in 2012, the Empire State Realty Trust joined with CNN to display presidential election results. After Barak Obama’s win that November, the building lit up blue. In 2016, CA Technologies partnered with the two organizations. As many as 40 projectors were used to display the image of the winner, Donald Trump, on the building’s envelope.