On May 1, 1931, the Empire State Building officially opened for the first time. There was a big ceremony involved, with President Hoover dedicating the building by pressing a button specially installed in the White House to turn the skyscraper’s lights on for the very first time.
Well, that’s the way they spun it, at any rate. The button didn’t actually do anything; it was just symbolic. At the right moment, a worker in the Empire State Building simply flipped a switch. Still, it was a grand moment, befitting such a grand architectural achievement. The structure was, at the time, the tallest building in the world, reaching a height of 1,454 feet and 102 stories. The art deco style of its design was widely praised and, today, makes it still one of the most distinctive tall buildings in the world, even if it’s no longer the tallest.
The Empire State Building was actually the result of a competition between business rivals who were some of the wealthiest people of the era. On one side was Walter Chrysler, head of the Chrysler Corporation. On the other was John Jacob Raskob, an executive of the General Motors Corporation. They were each striving to build the tallest building in the world. Chrysler actually finished first, and his Chrysler Building was briefly the tallest building in the world at 1,046 feet tall.
For more than half a century, people could see the Empire State Building from almost any place in New York. Today, however, the erection of many taller (and drabber) buildings has obscured the building from sight in most places in the city. You can’t even see it from some parts of the street it’s located on. The view from the Empire State Building, though, is still incredible.