The Empire State Building: A City Icon Turns 82 Amid Battle to Go Public

How do you know that you're in New York City? Yellow cabs, pushcarts, the electric pulse in the air might all tip you off - but catch sight of the Empire State building and you have, unmistakably, stepped into The Big Apple. Today we celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the iconic building's dedication.

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How do you know that you’re in New York City? Yellow cabs, pushcarts, the electric pulse in the air might all tip you off – but catch sight of the Empire State building and you have, unmistakably, stepped into The Big Apple. The soaring skyscraper, which was dedicated 82 years ago Wednesday, is mythical and majestic, and seems to completely embody the city it has become synonymous with.

New Yorkers may soon be able to own part of the landmark building. A judge on Tuesday removed a major obstacle to real estate mogul Peter L. Malkin’s plan to let the public buy shares in 19 New York City properties, including the Empire State Building. The decision, which overruled objections by a group of current shareholders, moves the city’s architectural crown jewel one step closer to a historic IPO.

The construction of the Empire State building reads like a tall tale. Designed by William F. Lamb, his firm produced drawings of the building in two weeks. From its groundbreaking on January 22, 1930, the skyscraper was built in just 401 days and was simultaneously entered into a competition for “World’s Tallest Building”, along with the Chrysler building and 40 Wall Street. Even as it was being built, the Empire State building was hailed as a feat of American engineering, with 102 floors, 73 elevators, 9,000 faucets, and, with the addition of the spire in 1952, a height of 1,453 feet. The building was so big that it was given its own zip code: 10118. Upon its dedication on May 1, 1931, it was indeed the tallest building in the world, a title it held for 42 years until the dedication of the World Trade Center towers in 1972.

It’s story, since then, has become interwoven with New York’s history. As the city has grown taller, the streets busier, the population denser, the Empire State building has remained a watchful, yet spectacular, presence. It has become not only a symbol, but a witness to the life of a city.

More Photography from Time

3 comments
BrendanC
BrendanC

You need only the most basic, cursory knowledge of New York City geography to know that the Brooklyn Bridge is miles away from the Empire State Building, and that the last photo in this slideshow is of the downtown, not midtown, skyline. The building in the center is 70 Pine Street, aka the AIG Building.

walstir
walstir

The Chrysler building may have only been the world's tallest building for a year before it was surpassed by the Empire State building; but it a much more interesting structure.

StevenTramz
StevenTramz

Two buildings symbolize New York to the world: The Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty. Only one of them is in New York, and its presence is felt in every corner of the Island of Manhattan. The woman who wrote the article is  transplant who fell in love with the city New York and won't leave.  It seems appropriate that her first photojournalistic article for the Time home page showcases the icon the city is known for. Good job.