Creating something out of nothing never ceases to amaze me. It is a romantic notion that based on someone’s idea, this is what should come out of nothing. On top of the world, you get that sense and on top of the world could very well be where I stand on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.
I’m not even at this colossal office building’s highest height. I stand at a mere 1,050 feet. The building also boasts a 102nd floor observatory at 1,250 feet. If I could scale the broadcast tower on top like the famous monster, I would be 1,453 feet above New York.
With its 103 floors and iconic art deco appearance, it is no wonder that this structure is one of the most famous landmarks and office buildings in the world. It is hard to imagine the land for which the Empire State Building stands was farmland just a hundred years before its construction. In essence, it was nothing. Nothing had been created yet, but someone would have an idea, an idea that would spark a great deal of something.
Construction on the Empire State Building began in 1930. Architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates would utilize the services of 3,000 men to create a vision. And the ultimate irony of ironies, this simple land a hundred years prior became a building that truly scrapped the sky by 1931. It would only be appropriate that the first to officially climb to the top of the Empire State Building was A.W. Aldrich, a Vermont farmer.
Somewhere along the way, this structure became a symbol of not just New York, but also for heartfelt meetings. If you need to know a line from Sleepless in Seattle, I can help you out. Growing up, it was a favorite film of mine, a movie where the Empire State Building was a focal point. The idea of meeting on top of a building to reunite wasn’t just Meg Ryan’s idea. Cary Grant had it too. As I elbow the masses for a view, it can be hard to see the romance up here, but then I take one look. Reuniting anywhere else wouldn’t do. This is the top of the world after all.
My experience in line at the Empire State Building was one of gimmicks and tricks to get me to buy more. Sadly they rope you through photo opportunities and gift shops in the hopes that they will squeeze more than just the $25 you paid for the view. And even amidst those feelings that the Empire State Building wants my wallet more than it wants me to experience the top of New York, I can’t resist the structure mostly for its ability to let me peek down on the rooftops of New Yorkers, imagining and hypothesizing about lives back down on the ground.
The lobby’s interior is hard to keep your eyes off of upon entering the building. It is one of the few interiors in New York to be designated a historic landmark. Sadly in the 1960s, they thought the Art Deco design elements should be covered with acrylic paneling and fluorescent lighting. Luckily, in 2007 a group of artists decided to reverse these notions and restored the lobby back to its former glory.
They would recreate the 1930s ceiling that had been lost in the modernization program of the 1960s. The ceiling mural used 1,300 square feet of 23 karat gold leaf and 14,000 square feet of aluminum. These restorations would take nearly twice the time it took to construct the entire building. The details always require the most time.
I head back to my hotel but like Meg Ryan or Cary Grant, I somehow can’t avoid the symbolism of the Empire State Building. I look over my shoulder and it always seems to be there. From the glow of my hotel room, I notice the Empire State Building is glowing in yellow and red tonight. It takes on different colors for different occasions, celebrating many causes and cultures.
It is the compass indicating that you have arrived in New York. It is the romantic idea that you should never meet a loved one in just any old place. It is proof that nothing can be something with a little vision. And it is a visit to the top of the world at $25 a ticket. For all that the Empire State Building encompasses, it is indeed worth every penny.
Have you been to the Empire State Building?