A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 15, 2005
Empty State Building (Empire State Building’s 1930s nickname)
The Empire State Building opened in 1931, during the Great Depression. It had a problem finding tenants and was soon derided as the "Empty State Building." This nickname is not used today.

It's interesting that the first citation below is from a British newspaper, part of several articles criticizing America. Walter Winchell is the New York slang expert and many of his columns have been digitized, but he seems not to have used it.

On May 1, 1931, the building opened. Al Smith, ex-governor of NY and unsuccessful presidential candidate, his wife and two grandchildren, cut the ribbon; NY Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt and NYC Mayor James J. Walker were on hand as well. Pres. Hoover flicked a switch in Washington, DC, "turning on the building's lights". The Hotel McAlpin Band played "The Star Spangled Banner", telegrams were read, CBS and NBC had hook ups so that the dedication ceremony could be heard on radio. New York City officially dedicated and welcomed the building and it was almost a holiday atmosphere. The New York Times called it "Building in Excelsis" (NYS motto is "Excelsior"). For more information, two books are great sources: "Building the Empire State" by Carol Willis and "The Empire State Building" by John Tauranac.
The building is 1,453 feet, 8 9/16 inches or 443.2 meters to the top of the lightning rod. Yes, it is the tallest in New York at this time.

The Empire State Building Replaced the Chrysler building as the tallest in the world. The Woolworth building, at 790 ft., became the world's tallest building in 1914. It was overtaken in 1929 by the Bank of Manhattan, and then in 1930 by the Chrysler Building. The reign of the Chrysler Building was brief. Neighboring ground was already being prepared for the Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building took only one year and 45 days to build, or 7 million man hours. This is still a record for a skyscraper of such a height.

John Jacob Raskob (creator of General Motors), Coleman du Pont, (president of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours), Louis G. Kaufman, and Ellis P. Earl formed Empire State, Inc. and name Alfred E. Smith, former Governor of New York and Presidential candidate, to head the corporation that built the Empire State Building in a competition with the founder of the Chrysler Corp. (Walter Chrysler) to build the world's tallest building.

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The Empire State Building - Official Website

17 September 1932, Los Angeles Times, pg. A4:
The Evening Standard of London, for example, prints a daily American depression story. All the hoary chestnuts, like "building a monument in the United States to the unknown solvent," that we are now known as God's frozen people, and that the Empire State Building is now the "Empty State Building," are haled forth every day to become tender morsels on many British tongues.

22 July 1934, Washington Post, pg. B4:
Just why I should have gone up in the Empire State - or as they call it in New York, "the Empty State Building" - I don't know.

18 May 1936, New York Times, pg. 13:
"Which is greater, the Empire State Building, sometimes called the Empty State Building, or the mind of the architect who conceived it?"
Posted by Barry Popik
Buildings/Housing/Parks • (0) Comments • Sunday, May 15, 2005 • Permalink