Saturday, May 1st, 2021
Touristenmagnet in Manhattan
The Empire State Building turns 90
When the skyscraper opened in 1931, the police had to hold back thousands of onlookers. Despite the global economic crisis, the Empire State Building is quickly becoming a tourist attraction. But the skyscraper has long had competition in New York as well.
Shortly before a cabinet meeting, then US President Herbert Hoover pressed a button in the White House on May 1, 1931 at 11:30 a.m. – and switched on the lights on the Empire State Building, some 300 kilometers away. The tallest skyscraper in the world at the time was officially opened. Several hundred invited guests streamed in for the opening party, and the police had to hold back thousands of onlookers, as the “New York Times” reported at the time.
This Saturday, the skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan is celebrating its 90th birthday – the tallest building in the world, however, is the Empire State Building, which is now around 443 meters high. It lost its title to the former World Trade Center in 1972; today, around half a dozen towers are higher in New York alone. But the Empire State Building is still one of the most famous and popular skyscrapers in the city, and the operators even call it the “most famous building in the world”.
More than four floors a week
The simple Art Deco tower was built at a rapid pace: after the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street was demolished, the building grew in less than 14 months, an average of more than four floors per week. That worked because many parts were prefabricated and the deployment of the 3,500 construction workers was planned according to the general staff.
The opening of the 102 floors then burst in the middle of the global economic crisis. Nevertheless, the building quickly became a tourist attraction and two years later a Hollywood star in the hit film “King Kong and the White Woman”. In 1976, 50 million visitors had marveled at the building and the panoramic view over Manhattan from its two viewing platforms.
During the corona pandemic, the operators made the lights at the top of the building pulsate red at times like a heartbeat – to signal to people that the city is still alive. The infection rate in the former epicenter of New York has now stabilized, the vaccination campaign is making rapid progress – and so the Empire State Building is also laboriously working its way out of the crisis.
Renovated for $ 165 million
How many of the 16,000 or so people who once commuted to work in the building every day will come back? When will four million tourists a year come to visit again? In addition, even before the pandemic, competition for visitors to the viewing platforms was growing. Most recently, spectacular new visitor terraces were built at the World Trade Center and in the new Hudson Yards district, and a new platform has been announced for this year on the “One Vanderbilt” right next to Grand Central station.
But the “most famous building in the world” sees itself well prepared. The top dog had struck back in 2019 and completely overhauled and renovated its exhibition rooms and two viewing platforms for 165 million dollars – and presented itself fit for the Instagram era. Afterwards the New York Times wrote of a “must-see destination” – “even for jaded locals”.