Image via Daniel Schwen CC-BY-SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Rattle N Hum is the best restaurant near the Empire State Building. We see a steady flow of tourists from it all year long, coming to enjoy our daily lunch specials for just $9.95, kids’ menu, world class craft beer, as well as all the usual mixed drinks, wine and soft drinks. This piqued our curiosity about the building, so we decided to research and write a post about The Empire State Building being the world’s most iconic structure.
When it opened in 1931, the Empire State Building, standing 1,250 feet tall, and 1,400 feet at its spire, was the world’s tallest. It held this title for forty years, but it has since been passed by at least a dozen taller buildings. However, it will take a lot more than height for a building to assume the Empire State Building’s iconic status.
By way of analogy, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are no longer among the top 20 tallest players to play in the NBA, but together, they scored more points than the 20 tallest combined. How many of the 20 tallest can you name?
There are other, immutable facts that will forever set the Empire State Building apart from all others:
- It was constructed in 1930-31. Yes, right in the heart of the Great Depression, breaking ground just five months after “Black Monday.” In an astounding feat and the likes of which will never be seen again, it was built on time, in just 14 months, and for half its projected cost of $50 million.
- Its creation is rooted in New York City’s legendary competitive spirit and “one-ups manship.” It was financed primarily by John Jakob Raskob of General Motors, who was competing with Walter Chrysler to build the tallest building in New York City.
- The thousands men who built the Empire State Building were known as the “Sky Boys” for their death-defying daily work. Their audacity was captured for posterity by Lewis Wickes Hine. Hine dangled above the men, working from an open steel box attached to a derrick line, to get the best shots.
- The danger didn’t end when the building opened. Window cleaners, protected by two straps attached to the windows, cleaned glass from 1,000 feet in the air.
All of the above undoubtedly factored into the building’s selection, in 1994, as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
However, not even these astounding facts alone can fully account for the Empire State Building’s perpetual iconic image. No, it is something more.
The Empire State Building will forever be the most iconic building in the world because, unlike any other, it occupies an irreplaceable spot in the hearts of New Yorkers and people around the world.
Standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building is an overwhelming experience, conveying a mystical appreciation for the vastness of the universe, and a feeling of being at its center. For some, the overwhelming feelings can be negative; in “My Lost City,” F. Scott Fitzgerald reported on his first visit to the Observation Deck:
“Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed but that it had limits—from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground.”
But for most, the view from the Empire State Building is a never-forgotten love-at-first-sight. You feel the energy of New York City from your quiet spot.
- It is where lovers come to meet, reunite or sadly, miss one another, in Sleepless in Seattle, Love Affair and An Affair to Remember.
- It is where King Kong loses his love as he falls from the top of the building, trying to escape his attackers, to find peace, if only briefly, with his beauty.
- The building does comedy, too. For the 50th anniversary of King Kong in 1983, an inflatable 90-foot King Kong was placed at the top of the Empire State Building, but a mouse chewed through the balloon, so it was never fully inflated.
- In a 1964 episode of I Love Lucy, the most watched show on TV, the Empire State Building was featured as where Lucy and Ethel were hired to act as Martians to scare tourists away. The show continues to have a legion of followers, with over 40 million Americans watching the show annually.
The building is also the source of endless apocryphal tales. Many American children learn that, if you throw a penny off the Empire State Building, it would reach sufficient speed to do massive damage on the ground. However, Lydia Ruth, the building’s spokeswoman, told The New York Times that, due to an updraft from the wind, most things thrown off the building, including pennies, often end up on the setback on the 81st floor, and have next to no chance of ever reaching the street. Were a penny somehow to evade this way station, it would do very little damage when it landed.
Notable Events in the History of the Empire State Building:
- Blimp docking – while it was being built, a blimp dock was set up on the Empire State Building, which was at the time the latest trend in air travel. Unfortunately, only one blimp – delivering newspapers, not passengers – ever docked at the Empire State Building. Many believe the purported airship dock was simply an excuse to increase the height of the building and generate publicity.
- Bomber crash – on July 28, 1945 the city was experiencing a thick morning fog, so thick that B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. Unable to see the New York City skyline, pilot Lt. Col. William Franklin Smith Jr. flew through Manhattan at a dangerously low altitude at 200 miles per hour before impacting the building near the 78th floor. Fourteen people died in crash and from the resulting fire. Despite the loss of life and the 18-foot gaping hole created, the building was open for business two days later.
- Floodlights Added – in 1964, floodlights were added to the top of the Empire State Building allowing the top to change colors for certain events. On St. Patrick’s Day the Empire State Building is green and after the 9/11 attacks, the Empire State Building remained red, white and blue for months. It adds a beautiful color to the skyline New Yorkers and tourists alike have come to love.
- First parachutist- parachutists Michael R. P. McCarthy and Alastair Boyd of London were the first people to ever parachute off the Empire State Building in April 1986. After safely landing, Boyd sped away in a taxi, while McCarthy was arrested after getting caught by a lamppost. When asked why they did it, Boyd replied, “If you’re going to jump in America, the single most historical building … [it] must be the Empire State Building.”
- The Run-Up – The Empire State Building Run-Up race is not for the faint of heart, nor for couch potatoes. Started in 1978, it is a race up 86 flights—1,575 steps—quite possibly the hardest quarter-mile run in the world. Gary Muhrcke, the winner of the first NYC Marathon in 1970, also won the first Run-Up. This led to an investigation into his status as a disabled fireman, which he won. See, just because you can run up stairs doesn’t mean you can carry people down them. Hugh Sweeny told runners who were trying to pass him on the way up, he’d let them pass him if they’d agreed to buy a beer afterward–he earned three beers. The record for the fastest time in the Run-Up was set in 2003 by Australian professional cyclist Paul Crake, who finished in 9 minutes and 33 seconds.
Come visit the Empire State Building and rekindle your love for the world’s most iconic building.
Read the stellar reviews of Rattle N Hum on Yelp, check out our Beer List, and come see why we’re one of the best restaurants near the Empire State Building. Call us today at 212-481-1586 to make a reservation.
Visiting Times Square? Be sure to visit the best restaurant in Times Square, Beer Authority, at 40th and 8th. Like Rattle N Hum, it is family friendly and sells world class craft beer, a full bar, and outstanding pub fare.