Skip to content
Interpreting the Evidence

Empire State Building, New York City, 1932

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • 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 Empire State Building, New York City, 1932 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The Empire State Building in New York City, looking northwest toward the Hudson River, 1932.
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 the geography and the economy?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of geography and economy on the design of this structure.
Historical Challenges
What did the Twin Towers and the Empire State Building have in common, other than that they held the record for the world's tallest building? Which New York governor was involved in the construction of the Empire State Building?
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?