Lights tonight:
Pastel Fades
In honor of Easter
full schedule

Historical Timeline

1799: The City of New York sold a virgin tract (now bounded by Broadway and Sixth Avenue on the west, Madison Avenue on the east, 33rd Street on the south and 36th Street on the north) to John Thompson for $2,600. He farmed it.

1825: Thompson sold the farm to Charles Lawton for $10,000.

1827: William Backhouse Astor, the second son of John Jacob Astor, bought the farm for $20,500 as an investment.

1859: John Jacob Astor, Jr. erected a mansion on the northwest corner of 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

1862: John Jacob, Jr.'s younger brother, William Backhouse Astor, built his mansion next door at the southwest corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

1893: William Waldorf Astor, son of John Jacob Astor, Jr., razed his inherited mansion and erected the Waldorf Hotel on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street.

1897: Mrs. William Backhouse Astor, sister-in-law of John Jacob, Jr., allowed her mansion at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue to be razed, and the Astoria Hotel was erected on the site. The new complex was known as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

1928: The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was sold to Bethlehem Engineering Corporation for an estimated $20 million.

1929: John Jakob Raskob (creator of General Motors), Coleman Du Pont, Pierre S. Du Pont (president of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours), Louis G. Kaufman and Ellis P. Earle, from Empire State, Inc. and Alfred E. Smith, former Governor of New York and Presidential candidate, were chosen to head the corporation.

1930: Excavation of the site where the Empire State Building would stand began on January 22.

1930: On March 17, construction of the Empire State Building began. Under the direction of architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, and with a peak labor force of 3,000 men, framework rose at a rate of 4 ½ stories per week.

1930: The masonry work for the building, which began in June of the same year, was completed on November 13.

1931: On May 1, President Hoover pressed a button in Washington, DC, which turned on the Empire State Building's lights and officially opened the building.

1931: William Lamb, the Empire State Building architect, was awarded the Architectural League's Medal of Honor “for his masterful treatment of an office building.”

1931: The New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded the Medal of Honor to the building's designers.

1937: The first officially sanctioned climb to the top of the Empire State Building took place by 49-year-old A. W. Aldrich, a Vermont Farmer, who reached the top in 36 minutes.

1950: For its 20 anniversary, the Empire State Building received a new antenna for television, FM radio, and emergency broadcasting. The new antenna made the building 217 feet higher, for a total height of 1,467 feet.

1951: On June 11, WNBT became the first outlet to begin regular broadcasts from the new transmitting tower at the top of the Empire State Building.

1951: The Building was sold by the John J. Raskob estate for $34 million to a group headed by Roger I. Stevens. At the same time, Prudential Insurance Company of America bought the building for $17 million and entered into a long-term ground lease with the owners.

1954: A Chicago group headed by Col. Henry J. Crown bought the building for $51.5 million.

1955: The American Society of Civil Engineers selected the Empire State Building as one of the seven greatest engineering achievements in America's history. Empire State Building was the only wonder on the list conceived, financed, owned and managed by private industry.

1956: Four large beacon lights were installed at the foot of the television tower called “Operation Light Up the Sky,” also known as “The Freedom Lights.”

1961: August 23, the Empire State Building was sold to an investment group headed by Lawrence A. Wien for $65,000,000. The price, which did not include the valuable Fifth Avenue land under the structure, was believed to be the highest ever paid for a single building at that time.

1964: Escalators were installed in the Empire State Building. The same year, the upper setbacks and the tower of the Empire State Building installed floodlights, replacing the beacons, to illuminate the building in honor of the World's Fair.

1966: The manually operated high-speed elevators on the first eighty floors of the building were replaced with automatic elevators.

1974: July 3 was the first time the lights were turned back on after the energy crisis, which began a year earlier, forcing them to “shut off” temporarily.

1976: The 50 millionth visitor came to the Empire State Building.

1976: The Empire State Building began using colored floodlights to illuminate the building at night.

1978: February marked the first Annual ESB Run-Up.

1980: Empire State Building received its own zip code: 10118.

1981: On May 18, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declared the building a landmark.

1982: On December 20, the Empire State Building was listed on the State & National Register of Historic Places.

1986: The Empire State Building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Services, I.S. Department of the Interior and a commemorative plaque was awarded.

1994: The first Valentine's Day wedding events took place at the Empire State Building.

2002: Peter L. Malkin, who already owned the 114-year lease on the building, purchased the actual building, making him both owner and manager of the Empire State Building.

2007: The Empire State Building was named "America's Favorite Architecture" in a poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects.

2009: The Empire State Building announced its sustainability program to reduce the carbon footprint and be more energy-efficient, making it the global model for retrofitting existing buildings.

ESB After Dark

Join us every Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for city views and a live saxophonist on the 86th Floor Observatory.

Visitor Tips

Whether you are going to the top for the first time or if you've made the trip before, we want to make your visit as easy as possible.
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Gift Shop

Empire: The Store features upscale gifts, ESB-branded apparel, crystal glassware, toys and more.
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