How Long Did It Take to Build the Empire State Building?

Arts and Literature

The Empire State Building is an iconic landmark that graces the skyline of New York City. Standing tall at 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) including its antenna, it was once the tallest building in the world. The construction of this architectural marvel was a remarkable feat that required meticulous planning, skilled labor, and innovative engineering techniques. In this article, we will explore the timeline and various aspects of the construction process of the Empire State Building.

1. Pre-construction Planning

Before any physical work could begin, thorough planning was essential to ensure the smooth execution of the project. The initial phase involved extensive site analysis, architectural design, and financial considerations.

1.1 Site Selection and Design

The site for the Empire State Building was carefully chosen at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street in Manhattan. The architects, Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, designed the building in the Art Deco style, incorporating setbacks to comply with the New York City zoning regulations.

1.2 Financial Backing

Securing financial support was crucial for such a massive undertaking. The project was funded by John J. Raskob of General Motors, who, along with other investors, formed Empire State Inc. to finance the construction. The estimated cost of the building was around $40 million, and the financing was obtained through a combination of equity and loans.

2. Construction Timeline

The construction of the Empire State Building was completed remarkably quickly, considering its size and complexity. The entire process can be divided into several key phases.

2.1 Excavation and Foundation

The first step involved excavating the site to make way for the building’s foundation. This process began in January 1930 and was completed within a few months. The foundation itself was a critical element, as it needed to support the weight of the towering structure. It was constructed using a combination of concrete and steel.

2.2 Structural Steelwork

Once the foundation was in place, the steelwork for the building’s frame began. The steel framework provided the structural support and gave shape to the Empire State Building. This phase commenced in March 1930 and progressed rapidly, thanks to the efficient assembly line techniques employed by the contractors, Starrett Brothers and Eken.

2.3 Installation of Art Deco Facade

The iconic Art Deco facade of the Empire State Building was another integral part of its construction. The limestone and granite panels were meticulously installed to create the building’s distinctive appearance. This phase started in March 1931 and continued alongside the steelwork.

2.4 Interior Construction

While the exterior was taking shape, the interior spaces were being constructed simultaneously. This involved the installation of electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, as well as the creation of office spaces, elevators, and stairwells.

2.5 Completion and Opening

The Empire State Building was completed on April 11, 1931, just 20 months after the construction began. The official opening ceremony took place on May 1, 1931, and the building welcomed its first tenants and visitors.

Empire State Building | All the Secrets of the Engineering Wonder

Lunch Atop A Skyscraper: The Story Behind The 1932 Photo | 100 Photos | TIME

3. Factors Affecting the Construction Time

Several factors contributed to the relatively short construction period of the Empire State Building. These factors include:

3.1 Efficient Construction Techniques

The contractors employed innovative construction techniques, such as the use of prefabricated components and assembly line processes. This allowed for faster and more streamlined construction, reducing the overall time required.

3.2 Skilled Labor Force

The availability of skilled labor played a crucial role in expediting the construction process. The project attracted a large number of experienced workers who were well-versed in the latest construction methods.

3.3 24/7 Construction Schedule

To meet the tight deadline, construction crews worked around the clock in three shifts. This 24/7 schedule ensured continuous progress and minimized downtime, enabling the project to be completed in record time.

3.4 Streamlined Approval Process

The approval process for permits and inspections was expedited by the authorities, recognizing the significance of the project. This allowed the construction to proceed smoothly without unnecessary delays.

4. Legacy and Impact

The completion of the Empire State Building had a profound impact on the city of New York and the field of architecture. It quickly became an iconic symbol of American progress and ingenuity. The building’s height and grandeur captured the world’s attention, and it remained the tallest building in the world until the completion of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 1970.

The Empire State Building has also been featured in numerous films, literature, and popular culture, further cementing its status as a cultural icon.


The construction of the Empire State Building was a remarkable achievement that demonstrated the capabilities of human engineering and innovation. The project was completed in a relatively short timeframe of 20 months, owing to efficient planning, skilled labor, and streamlined construction techniques. Today, the Empire State Building stands as a testament to the vision and determination of its creators, leaving an indelible mark on the architectural landscape of New York City and beyond.

Rate article
Add a comment