By Tom Dare
A SERIES OF INCREDIBLE images showing the construction of New York’s Empire State Building in the 1930s have revealed the astonishing lengths workers would go to to complete what was then the tallest building in the world.
Photos from 1930 show one man clinging to a steel beam hundreds of feet in the air with the city of New York in the background, with another showing a worker preparing to leap from one wooden board to another from a dangerous height.
Further images show one worker hanging onto a single cable wire as he fits some wiring to run along it, with several other images showing men in a series of precarious positions as they carry out work on the 381-metre-high structure.
Construction on the 102-storey building began on March 17 1930, after the old Waldorf-Astoria hotel had been demolished to make room for it. Designs for the skyscraper, initially intended to just be a 50-storey office building, were revised so many times that by the time construction began it was set to dwarf both the nearby Chrysler building and 40 Wall Street, which were both vying for the title of ‘World’s Tallest Building’ at the time.
There were very few safety regulations in place during the 1930s, and with the Wall Street Crash and subsequent depression sweeping across America just a year earlier, people were desperate for work. The majority of the workforce employed for the project were Italian and Irish immigrants, with approximately 3,500 workers used on the busiest day of the project.
The construction was not without its risks though, official records put the death toll for the Empire State building at five men, though news outlets reported that the figure was closer to 15, and may even been as high as 40.
The building was completed just over a year after construction began, with President Herbert Hoover switching on the lights from Washington in an extravagant ceremony on May 1 1931. It was reported that the entire project cost an incredible $40,948,900, the equivalent of around $3,773,411,600 in today’s money.