13 Amazing Photos of the Construction of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is a 1,454 feet tall 102-story skyscraper sitting between 33rd and 34th streets on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhatten.

For almost four decades, from its completion in 1931 until the World Trade Center’s North Tower was completed in 1970, it was the tallest building in the world. At one point, the American Society of Civil Engineers named it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

On January 22, 1930, excavation of the site began, and by March 17, construction began in earnest. It took 3,400 workers, most of who were European immigrants, and hundreds of Mohawk ironworkers to finish the project.

Construction required a massive amount of material. In the end, it took 200,000 cubic feet of limestone, 10 million bricks, and 60,000 tons of steel.

If you’ve seen the photos, you’ll also know that it’s well known for the lack of safety regulations. Yet, despite that, only five workers died during the construction.

The Empire State Building’s construction was also part of a larger competition for the world’s tallest building in New York City. Eventually, it would beat out 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler building.

On April 11, 1931, barely a year after it began, work on the Empire State Building was finished. Below are some fantastic photos of the process.

sitting in a a steel beam while building the Empire State building
Carl Russell casually sits on a steel beam 1,222 feet in the air.
The Empire State Building was under construction from 1929-1931.
A worker hangs from a crane while working on the Empire State Building. October 29, 1930
Workers at the Empire State Building raise a flag on the 88th story. Symbolically, it is higher than the Chrysler building. September 19, 1930.
When completed, the Empire State Building would be 1,284 feet tall and include a zeppelin mooring mast at the top.
September 29, 1930. The danger is routine for the steelworkers building the frame of the Empire State Building, which was the tallest building in the world when it was completed.
A couple of workers take a quick break.
A worker stands on a steel girder, 1930.
Working on the spire of the Empire State Building.
A worker waiting for some scaffolding.
Laying down for a quick break.
Photographer Lewis Hine documented a lot of the building process. His photos are known for capturing the character of the workers, rather than just the architecture and construction.
A worker putting his finger on the top of the Chrysler building.
Alan Behrens

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