Empire State Building picture book

The Great Building

The Story of How the Empire State Building was Constructed

by Matthew Skubas

The Great Building

The Story of How The Empire State Building was Constructed

by Matthew Skubas


I dedicate this book to people who love buildings and to the people who helped construct the Empire State Building 


The Creator of the Empire State Building


      A thick pencil was just the beginning of the Empire State Building. John Jakob Raskob was the builder of the Empire State Building. John met with William F. Lamb and grasped a fat pencil and said,” How high can you make it so it won’t fall down?” Then, as they finished their design, John had to rapidly find builders  for the building. He assembled a group of investors that helped him. Many of them went into interviews with him but none of them got the job. As they were doing this, finally the choice was made. It was the Starrett Brothers and Eken. The Starrett Brothers and Eken got the job with honesty and and a smart idea of saving money.

      The Empire State Building needed to be the tallest. However when it was completed, it would only be a couple of storeys higher from the Chrysler Building which was the tallest building. So then he came up with an idea of a “hat”. The hat would be used as a docking station for zeppelins. Thus making it 1,250 feet and taller than the Chrysler Building. The docking of zeppelins was a hazardous choice. Passengers would have to walk down a ramp that is 1,250 feet high in the air and with winds that were going rapid and unexpectedly.

     The Empire State Building was finally complete and it was constructed very quickly. John wanted it quickly built because it would help them collect money when businesses rented space.   The building also brought John to financial ruin. But it also helped him with his fortune. The Empire State Building was built very fast.



The Designer of the Empire State Building  


       William F. Lamb was an amazing architect. He built many buildings. But, he designed the Empire State Building for revenge. One of his buildings was the Bank of Manhattan. It was the tallest building in the world. When the Chrysler building underwent construction by William Van Alen, he secretly assembled a 185 foot spiral and put it on the Chrysler Building. Thus making it taller than the Bank of Manhattan. William was upset that his building was not soaring over all the buildings in the world.

     William started the design of the Empire State Building. Walking in to meet John Jakob Raskob, he wanted the tallest building. When they met, John took out a pencil and asked William how tall he could create the building without it collapsing. After they met, he had to plan very quickly. Since it was the Great Depression, they had to construct the building very fast so they could get money.

       As the Principal designer of the Empire State Building, William designed a building that could be tall enough so that it could surpass the Chrysler Building. With the help of his architectural firm, they designed it. After, they started to build the Empire State Building. William is well known today for designing this great building. He wanted to build it so that it could be the tallest, and that it would become an icon of New York.



*Trades - jobs


Constructors of the Empire State Building


       When John Jakob Raskob did interviews with construction companies, many of them didn’t make it. Either they wouldn’t have the right tools, or it was too expensive. One company got the job. They were called the Starrett Brothers & Eken. A smart idea and honesty, is how they won the job. At first, they told them that they didn’t have any equipment. But on the other hand, they had a brilliant idea.  They said,” We’ll buy new stuff fitted for the job, and at the end sell it and credit you with the difference.”

       With an extremely tight schedule, they got right to work. They had said that they could finish the building in just 18 months. A minute, hour, or day couldn’t be wasted. It all needed to be minutely planned. Also, it needed over 60 trades* to be hired, and supplies needed to be ordered. They had to hire companies that were dependable and were able to do the work. This, created difficulties for them.

      During construction, it took a lot of workers. To speed up construction, they came up with innovative ideas. For an example, they came up with a shaft that would bring bricks up and down. Each week, a speedy 4 ½ stories were constructed. In addition, it took 7 million man hours to complete the building. Then, when the building was finally complete, it opened on May 1st 1931.  







The President of the Empire State Building Inc.


      Alfred Emanuel Smith was born December 30, 1873 in Manhattan. He was a governor of New York in 1923-1928. Alfred was also part of the democratic party. He was engaged in the group of investors that John Jakob Raskob made. He and John started the creation of the Empire State Building. He was also the most associated with the project.

     Alfred was so into the project that he was elected president of the Empire State Inc.. At the end of the completion, he was the person picked to cut the ribbon to open the Empire State Building. But, when they started opening it to businesses. many of them weren’t moving in. So then, people started to call the Empire State Building, the Empty State Building.

    As the time went by, Alred and John expected to have a lot of business going so they could get money. But, not that many businesses came. Then, businesses started to rent the space from the building. As a governor of New York, Al Smith went for president a couple of years later against Franklin D. Roosevelt and lost to him. Then he died October 4, 1944 of a heart attack at age 70.



Architect of the Empire State Building


     After John and William’s first meeting, William made many designs. The form of the building were made based on Art Deco style. William thought of it simple. A certain amount of space in the center.

     Since they didn’t know the height of the Chrysler Building, they had to design a tall structure. The original design of the Empire State Building was 80 storeys high. They also had to build as quickly as they could. When the Empire State Building Inc. was made, they had to plan a date that the building would open. Furthermore, many businesses lease expiration date would be May 1st, they agreeded to open it on May 1st 1931. This also allowed a year and eight months for the design to be completed.

     When the Building was completed, The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. But it didn’t hold the title of the tallest building. When the Sears tower and the World Trade Center buildings were complete, they were taller than the Empire State Building.



The Constructors


     The Starrett Brothers & Eken got the job done in under  13 months. At the interview, John asked them what tools they had. They told him that they didn’t have a single tool.  But they still won the job. When they got started, they had 300 day and night shift for the workers. They had to dig through hard rock to make a foundation.

     The Empire State Building needed to be built in 18 months. It took more than 1,000 workers to build it day and night. Also, they didn’t get breaks on holidays. The maximum workers that could work at the same time was 3,500. To save time and money, they allowed plumbers and electricians install materials while the constructors were working on the building.

     When the Empire State Building was completed, the Starrett Brothers & Eken said that they would construct it under 18 months. Instead it was completed in 13 months. In addition, the Empire State Building was built on time and under budget. Since it took them so quick to build the building, it was it was considered as one of the seven greatest American engineering achievements.


Herbert Hoover

The President


     Herbert Hoover was born August 10, 1874. He was a president from March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933. Herbert Hoover was the first person ever to turn on the Building lights. He sat in the White House and pressed the button to turn on the lights.  He wasn’t actually in New York. Instead he was in the White House.When he pushed the button, someone else in New York turned them on.

     He dedicated the building on May 1st 1931 when the Building was complete. Thus making it officially open to the public and businesses. It was a very important moment for the workers and people.

     Herbert Hoover dedicated it during the lowest point of the Great Depression. This made the Empire State Building have not a lot of businesses move in. Now the building stands tall and is a business building.



Mayor of New York


     James Walker was the mayor of New York during the construction of the Empire State Building. He was mayor from 1926 to 1932. Alfred E. Smith helped him during his run for mayor of New York. In addition, he was elected and became one of New York’s most colorful mayors.

     He was also a talented musician. In 1932 right after the completion of the Empire State Building, James walker was charged of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from people that businesses tied to the government.

     During his mayor years, He created the Department of Sanitation during his first term as mayor. Then he was re elected as mayor. In his second term, he revealed  extensive corruption.   




Benefactor of the Empire State Building


      John Jakob Raskob was the commissioner of the Empire State Building. He hired the construction companies, the architectural firm and created the building. He thought of a building that he wanted to create. So then he hired the architectural firm called Shreve, Lamb & Harmon.

      He also wanted the building to be built quickly so that he could get the money to pay all the companies he hired. It was during the Great Depression that the construction of the Empire State Building was going on. Many people didn’t have  jobs. While construction workers were working, they could lose their job if they did one mistake.

      At the end of construction, the Empire State Building was mainly open for businesses. This is where John would get the money. Then, he could pay all the companies he had hired.




     As my family and I drive to the city, I always look for the Empire State Building. I always love seeing this structure because it is so tall and it looks so interesting to me. Now that I learned so many things about it; it turns out it wasn’t there just for business, for it was there as a symbol of New York.

     I learned many things. One of them was why it was built and for what purpose it was built. I also learned that it was once a great structure and it had a meaning to it that it was the tallest of all buildings. But even today it stands there tall. It will always be an icon of New York.

    Throughout the research I did, there were new things I never knew before. For an example, I learned that it was in a race for it to be built. It was also built during the Great Depression and it only took about 13 months to complete. It is amazing of how this building came to become the tallest in the world.


Statistics of the Empire State Building

  • It is 1,250 ft tall without antenna, with it, it's 1,454 ft tall.

  • Its lightning rod is 204 ft tall.

  • Has 102 floors.

  • Has 1,860 steps.

  • Contains 2.7 million office space.

  • Weighs 365,000 tons.

  • The volume is 37 million cubic ft.

  • It has 10 million bricks.

  • The exterior has 200,000 cubic ft of Indiana limestone and granite.

  • It is currently undergoing one of the world’s largest elevators.

  • 187 ft wide and is 424 ft long.

  • The foundation is 55 ft below ground.

  • The lobby is 47 ft above sea level.

Fun Facts for the Empire State Building

  • The Static electricity is so strong on the top of the building that people can see sparks when they kiss.

  • People can see 80 miles of New York.

  • Every year on Valentines Day people get married on the 80th floor and become members of the Empire State wedding club.

  • Every year there is a competition called the Run-up. People need to run all the way up the stairs. (86 floors and 1,576 steps).

  • It costs $ 40,948,900 including the land.

  • There are 1,614 windows on it.

  • There are 73 elevators.

  • Since there are so many businesses that work there, it has its own zip code: 10118.

  • The lightning rod is struck about 23 times a year.

  • 4 million people visit the observatory deck annually.

  • The Empire State Building attracts the most celebreties.

Helen Keller's letter on the Empire State Building

January 13, 1932


Dear Dr. Finley:


After many days and many tribulations which are inseparable from existence here below, I sit down to the pleasure of writing to you and answering your delightful question, "What Did You Think 'of the Sight' When You Were on the Top of the Empire Building?"


Frankly, I was so entranced "seeing" that I did not think about the sight. If there was a subconscious thought of it, it was in the nature of gratitude to God for having given the blind seeing minds. As I now recall the view I had from the Empire Tower, I am convinced that, until we have looked into darkness, we cannot know what a divine thing vision is.


Perhaps I beheld a brighter prospect than my companions with two good eyes. Anyway, a blind friend gave me the best description I had of the Empire Building until I saw it myself.


Do I hear you reply, "I suppose to you it is a reasonable thesis that the universe is all a dream, and that the blind only are awake?" Yes – no doubt I shall be left at the Last Day on the other bank defending the incredible prodigies of the unseen world, and, more incredible still, the strange grass and skies the blind behold are greener grass and bluer skies than ordinary eyes see. I will concede that my guides saw a thousand things that escaped me from the top of the Empire Building, but I am not envious. For imagination creates distances and horizons that reach to the end of the world. It is as easy for the mind to think in stars as in cobble-stones. Sightless Milton dreamed visions no one else could see. Radiant with an inward light, he send forth rays by which mankind beholds the realms of Paradise.


But what of the Empire Building? It was a thrilling experience to be whizzed in a "lift" a quarter of a mile heavenward, and to see New York spread out like a marvellous tapestry beneath us.


There was the Hudson – more like the flash of a sword-blade than a noble river. The little island of Manhattan, set like a jewel in its nest of rainbow waters, stared up into my face, and the solar system circled about my head! Why, I thought, the sun and the stars are suburbs of New York, and I never knew it! I had a sort of wild desire to invest in a bit of real estate on one of the planets. All sense of depression and hard times vanished, I felt like being frivolous with the stars. But that was only for a moment. I am too static to feel quite natural in a Star View cottage on the Milky Way, which must be something of a merry-go-round even on quiet days.


I was pleasantly surprised to find the Empire Building so poetical. From every one except my blind friend I had received an impression of sordid materialism – the piling up of one steel honeycomb upon another with no real purpose but to satisfy the American craving for the superlative in everything. A Frenchman has said, in his exalted moments the American fancies himself a demigod, nay, a god; for only gods never tire of the prodigious. The highest, the largest, the most costly is the breath of his vanity.


Well, I see in the Empire Building something else – passionate skill, arduous and fearless idealism. The tallest building is a victory of imagination. Instead of crouching close to earth like a beast, the spirit of man soars to higher regions, and from this new point of vantage he looks upon the impossible with fortified courage and dreams yet more magnificent enterprises.


What did I "see and hear" from the Empire Tower? As I stood there 'twixt earth and sky, I saw a romantic structure wrought by human brains and hands that is to the burning eye of the sun a rival luminary. I saw it stand erect and serene in the midst of storm and the tumult of elemental commotion. I heard the hammer of Thor ring when the shaft began to rise upward. I saw the unconquerable steel, the flash of testing flames, the sword-like rivets. I heard the steam drills in pandemonium. I saw countless skilled workers welding together that mighty symmetry. I looked upon the marvel of frail, yet indomitable hands that lifted the tower to its dominating height.


Let cynics and supersensitive souls say what they will about American materialism and machine civilization. Beneath the surface are poetry, mysticism and inspiration that the Empire Building somehow symbolizes. In that giant shaft I see a groping toward beauty and spiritual vision. I am one of those who see and yet believe.


I hope I have not wearied you with my "screed" about sight and seeing. The length of this letter is a sign of long, long thoughts that bring me happiness. I am, with every good wish for the New Year,


Sincerely yours,

Helen Keller




         This letter is about a time when a professer named John Finley saw Hellen Keller at the top of the Empire State Building. Since Helen was blind and deaf, at a early age, he wrote a letter to her to ask her a question. He asked what she really saw at the top of the Empire State Building.

"The Tallest building is a victory of imagination."

Hellen Keller

“The Empire State, a lonely dinosaur, rose sadly at midtown, highest tower, tallest mountain, longest road, King Kong's eyrie, meant to moor airships, alas.” 
―Vencent Scully

“In other words, the height, the beauty of the Empire State Building, rose out of strictly practical considerations.”

Paul Starrett 


" It was the gift of Alfred Smith to the citizens of New York."

F. Scott Fitzgerald - My Lost City : Personal Essays

   The Facinating building everybody knows in New York. The Empire State Building. This book tells the amazing story of how this building became a famous structure.

About The Author

     I'm a sixth grade student in a small town in New York. I wrote about the Empire State Building because I thought that the Empire State Building was a very cool thing to write about once I learned a little about the structure.