Historical Timeline

1799: The City of New York sells a virgin tract (now bounded by Broadway and Sixth Avenue on the west, Madison Avenue on the east, 33rd Street on the south and 36th Street on the north) for $2,600 to John Thompson for farming.

1825: Thompson sells the farm to Charles Lawton for $10,000.

1827: William Backhouse Astor, the second son of John Jacob Astor, buys the farm for $20,500 as an investment.

1859: John Jacob Astor, Jr. erects a mansion on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street.

1862: William Backhouse Astor builds his mansion next door at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.

1893: William Waldorf Astor, son of John Jacob Astor, Jr., razes his inherited mansion and erects the Waldorf Hotel on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street.

1897: Mrs. William Backhouse Astor razes her mansion at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street and the Astoria Hotel is erected on the site. The new complex is known as the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

1928: The Waldorf Astoria Hotel is sold to Bethlehem Engineering Corporation for an estimated $20 million.

1929: John Jakob Raskob (former General Motors executive), Coleman du Pont, Pierre S. du Pont, Louis G. Kaufman and Ellis P. Earle, form Empire State, Inc. and name Alfred E. Smith, former Governor of New York to head the corporation.

1930: On March 17, construction of the Empire State Building begins. Under the direction of architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, the framework rises 4 ½ stories per week.

1931: On May 1, President Hoover presses a button in Washington, D.C. officially opening and turning on the Empire State Building’s lights.

1933: The movie King Kong is released in New York City on March 2.

1945: A B-25 Bomber crashes into the 79th floor of ESB during heavy fog on a Saturday morning. The building’s construction limits the spread of fire and despite a 20-foot gash, the Empire State Building is open for business-as-usual on Monday.

1950: ESB gets an antenna tower that is over 200 feet tall.

1951: The John J. Raskob estate sells the building for $34 million to a syndicate including Roger I. Stevens and the Chicago Crown family who immediately sell the building to Prudential Insurance Company of America for $17 million, which then enters into a long-term ground lease with the Stevens syndicate.

1955: The American Society of Civil Engineers selects ESB as one of the seven greatest engineering achievements in America’s history.

1956: As a symbol of welcome and freedom to visitors, four large beacon lights are installed at the foot of the tower known as “The Freedom Lights.”

1961: August 23, Lawrence A. Wien, Peter L. Malkin, and Harry B. Helmsley buy the building for $65 million. The price, which does not include the land, is the highest ever paid for a single building.

1962: A crew of 30 men clean the exterior of ESB for the first time since its opening. It takes about six months to complete the job.

1964: Floodlights replace the beacons, and are installed to illuminate ESB in honor of the New York World’s Fair.

1966: The manually operated high-speed elevators on the first 80 floors of the building are refit for automatic operation.

1973: The tower lights are “shut off” temporarily in November in response to the energy crisis. The tower lights are not turned on again until July 3, 1974.

1976: The Empire State Building Observatory welcomes its 50 millionth visitor.

1976: To honor the United States Bicentennial, ESB installs colored floodlights to illuminate the building at night, lighting up in red, white and blue, leading to today’s very popular Lighting Partners program.

1978: February 15 marks the inaugural Empire State Building Annual Run-Up.

1980: The Empire State Building gets its own zip code: 10118.

1981: On May 18, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declares the building a Landmark.

1982: On December 20, the Empire State Building is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.

1986: The Empire State Building is recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Services, U.S. Department of the Interior and a commemorative plaque is awarded.

1993: 6,514 ESB windows are replaced in the biggest window replacement ever authorized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and frames are installed in the building’s original distinctive red.

1994: On February 14, the first Valentine’s Day weddings take place at ESB. More than 250 couples have exchanged their vows during the event since its inception. The annually televised event is covered by news outlets around the globe.

1999-2000: More than twenty miles of fiber-optics as well as copper cabling is installed during a telecom retrofit of ESB.

2002: Peter L. Malkin and Anthony E. Malkin, the son-in-law and grandson of Lawrence W. Wien led the purchase of the land under the Empire State Building.

2004: The tower lights are dimmed for 15 minutes to mark the death of actress Fay Wray, who starred in the 1933 movie King Kong.

2006: ESB celebrates its 75th anniversary and ownership presents a plan for the Empire State ReBuilding program, including a complete restoration and recreation of ESB’s landmarked, Art Deco masterpiece lobby and the faithful recreation of the original gold and aluminum ceiling.

2007: The Empire State Building is ranked number one on the list of America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.

2009: President Bill Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Anthony Malkin announced the Empire State Building's groundbreaking energy efficiency retrofit program, making it the global model for retrofitting existing buildings.

2009: September 29, the newly renovated ceiling in the ESB lobby is unveiled. The renovation takes longer to complete than the original construction of the building.

2010: ESB connects with more than 500,000 fans globally through Facebook and Twitter.

2011 Otis Elevator Company is selected for the largest elevator modernization in history with state-of-the-art Compass™ Destination Management and ReGen™ drives.

2011: ESB receives 2011 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

2012: The Empire State Building unveiled its new LED lighting system, driven by high speed computers and capable of 16,000,000 different colors.

2012: Monitoring and verification prove ESB’s retrofit project exceeds projected energy savings for the second straight year and reduces costs by millions of dollars.

2013: The Empire State Realty Trust, the parent company of New York's Empire State Building and 17 other buildings, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ESRT.