Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

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On May 1, 1931, with the press of a button in Washington, D.C., President Herbert Hoover switched on the lights of New York City's Empire State Building, officially opening the world's tallest building. At 102 stories and 1,250 feet, the Empire State Building was the world's tallest for nearly 40 years, until the twin towers of the World Trade Center, also in Manhattan, were completed in 1972. Buildings in other cities have since surpassed its height, but with its bold art deco style and accumulated cultural cachet, the Empire State Building remains a beloved landmark on New York City's skyline.

Technological advances--including lightweight steel-frame construction and the invention of the elevator--led to the development of "skyscrapers" in the late 19th century. In cities it quickly became profitable to build up rather than out.

Early skyscrapers included St. Louis's Wainwright Building (1891); Chicago's Reliance Building (1895); and Manhattan's Flatiron (1902), Singer (1908), and Woolworth (1913) buildings. The 792-foot Woolworth Building was temporarily the world's tallest building until the 927-foot Bank of Manhattan (1930) and Manhattan's 1,046-foot Chrysler Building (1930) each briefly claimed the title before the Empire State Building opened.

Excavation for the Empire State Building began in January 1930 with the steel framework rising an average of 4.5 stories per week. The building was completed ahead of schedule in one year and 45 days with a daily workforce reaching nearly 3,400, including Mohawk "skywalkers" known for their skill working at extreme heights. …

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