All About the Empire State Building

The 411 on Its Height, Its Lights, Its Observation Decks

The Empire State Building is one of the most famous buildings in the world.  It was the tallest building in the world when it was built in 1931 and kept that title for nearly 40 years. In 2017, it was ranked as the fifth tallest building in the United States, topping out at 1,250 feet. The total height, including the lightning rod, is 1,454 feet, but this number is not used for ranking. It is located at 350 Fifth Avenue (between 33rd and 34th streets) in New York City.

The Empire State Building is open every day from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., making romantic late-night visits to the observation decks a real possibility.

The Building of the Empire State Building

Construction began in March 1930, and it was officially opened on May 1, 1931, when then-President Herbert Hoover pushed a button in Washington and turned on the lights.

The ESB was designed by the architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates and built by Starrett Bros. & Eken. The building cost $24,718,000 to build, which was nearly half the expected cost because of the effects of the Great Depression

Though rumors of hundreds of people dying on the work site circulated during the time of its construction, official records say that only five workers died. One worker was struck by a truck; a second fell down an elevator shaft; a third was hit by a hoist; a fourth was in a blast area; a fifth fell off a scaffold.

Inside the Empire State Building

The first thing you encounter as you enter the Empire State Building is the lobby. And what a lobby this is. It was restored in 2009 to its authentic art deco design that includes ceiling murals in 24-karat gold and aluminum leaf. On the wall is an iconic image of the building with light flowing from its mast.

The ESB has two observation decks. The one on the 86th floor, the main deck, is the highest open-air deck in New York. This is the deck that's been made famous in countless movies; two iconic ones are "An Affair to Remember" and "Sleepless in Seattle." From this deck, which wraps around the spire of the ESB, you get a 360-degree view of New York that includes the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Times Square and the Hudson and East rivers. The top deck of the building, on the 102nd floor, gives you the most stunning view possible of New York and a birds-eye view of the street grid, impossible to see from a lower level. On a clear day you can see for 80 miles, says the ESB website.

The Empire State Building also houses shops and restaurants that include the State Bar and Grill, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in an art deco setting. It's off the 33rd Street lobby.

Besides all these touristy attractions, the Empire State Building is home to rentable space for businesses. The ESB has 102 floors and if you're in good shape and want to walk from street level to the 102nd floor, you will climb 1,860 steps. Natural light shines through 6,500 windows, which also afford spectacular views of Midtown Manhattan.

Empire State Building Lights

Since 1976 the ESB has been lit up to mark celebrations and events. In 2012, LED lights were installed -- they can display 16 million colors that can be changed in an instant. To find out the lights schedule, check the Empire State Building website, linked above.