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Interpreting the Evidence

Eastern Side of Manhattan Island, New York City, 1946

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Postwar United States (1945 - 1970)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Eastern Side of Manhattan Island, New York City, 1946 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The Empire State Building and environs in Manhattan, seen from the Lower East Side in New York City, May 13, 1946.
Historical Context
The 102-story Empire State Building in New York City was the product of a competition between Walter Chrysler, of the Chrysler Corporation, and John Jakob Raskob, of General Motors, to see who could build the tallest skyscraper.  The Chrysler Building was completed first in 1930.  It stood 1,046 feet high, topping a skyscraper located at 40 Wall Street to become the tallest building in the world.  

Chrysler's claim to the tallest building was short-lived, however.  Before the Chrysler Building opened, Raskob broke ground for the Empire State Building.  Construction of the Empire State Building began on March 17, 1930.  Over ten million bricks, 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone, and 60,000 tons of steel were used in this towering building.  With over 3,000 workers on the project, however, the Empire State Building rose with amazing speed.  Four and one-half floors were framed each week.  The entire building took only one year and forty-five days to complete.  The official opening of the building took place May 1, 1931.

Standing 1,454 feet high from the ground to the top of the lightning rod, the Empire State Building held the record for the tallest building in the world for forty years.  From the observation deck on the 86th floor, you can see five states including New York on a clear day.  Originally, the building's high peak, or mast, was designed as a place where blimps could tie up to the building. However, the wind at this height made such a feat difficult, and the idea was abandoned after several failed attempts.  Now the mast is the base of a television tower on top of the building.

Essential Question
How is architecture influenced by geography and economy?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain how geography and economy influenced the development of this area.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: The Empire State Building has 6,500 windows. If each floor had the same number of windows, how many windows would be on each story?
Math: How many months did it take to construct the Empire State Building? How many weeks? Calculate how many floors were constructed per week How does this number compare to the number given in the historical background of how fast the framework was erected? Why is there a difference in the two numbers?
Math: The Empire State Building weighs a total of 365,000 tons. How many pounds does it weigh?

Science: The foundation of the Empire State Building extends 55 feet below ground. Why is such a deep foundation necessary?
English Language Arts: Create a real estate advertisement selling the Empire State Building. What is the selling point?