New York, the documentary film by Ric Burns, contains a great segment on the Empire State Building that is available on YouTube in three parts.
The first two parts are particularly interesting, especially the construction stuff that starts around the five minute mark of part one. Oh, and don’t miss the steelworkers throwing red hot rivets around to each other…that starts right near the end of part one and continues into part two. Some other highlights:
- The original Waldorf-Astoria hotel was torn down (with no small amount of glee from the ESB’s developers) to make room for the new skyscraper. The hotel was built by William Waldorf Astor, heir to the forture created by his father and grandfather (John Jacob Astor & John Jacob Astor III), on the site of his father’s mansion. WW Astor’s cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, went down on the Titanic and the Senate hearings into the disaster were held at the hotel.
- The steel beams were custom forged in Pittsburgh and shipped immediately to the building site…some arrived still hot to the touch from the furnaces.
- At the peak of construction, the workers were adding 4-5 stories a week. During one 22-day stretch, 22 new floors were erected. From start to finish, the entire building took an astonishing 13 months to build, about the same amount of time recently taken by the MTA to fix the right side of the stairs of the Christopher St subway station entrance.
- The building didn’t become profitable until 1950.