empire state building

Aerial Overview of Midtown Manhattan with B-17 Bombers, 1940

Aerial Overview of Midtown Manhattan with B-17 Bombers, 1940

In this amazing shot, taken in 1940, a squadron of B-17 bombers flies over Midtown Manhattan. One of the planes appears to be impaled on the spire of the Empire State Building. Also visible in the shot are the Chrysler Building and the original Pennsylvania Station, and beyond are the East River and Queens.

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Manhattan Bridge and East River, c. 1955

Manhattan Bridge and East River, c. 1955

Looking westward across the East River from the Brooklyn shore beneath the Manhattan Bridge in the mid-1950s, one could see the Manhattan skyline from the Lower East Side to Midtown. Today there are more highrises along Manhattan's eastern shore, but the apartment houses on the Lower East Side are still there, and the Empire State Building is still visible, although it no longer towers above it neighbors.

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Empire State Building Under Construction, Late 1930

Empire State Building Under Construction, Late 1930

The Empire State Building may no longer be the tallest building in the world, but it is easily one of the most recognizable. It holds a place in pop culture that few man-made structures ever attain, most probably thanks to a giant fictional gorilla. In this black and white photograph, King Kong's exploits are still a couple of years off. The building is incomplete, its dirigible dock is still under construction.

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Aerial Overview of the Empire State Building, 1964

Aerial Overview of the Empire State Building, 1964

The Empire State Building is no less impressive when seen from above than from below. In this aerial photograph, taken in 1964, we can see the Art Deco masterpiece in all its glory. It dominates the midtown skyline, stabbing upward into the sky, defiantly daring someone to build a taller building. It would be nearly a decade before anyone would.

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Lower Manhattan Skyline looking North, 1930

Lower Manhattan Skyline looking North, 1930

A man in silhouette looks out from a high office in City Bank-Farmers' Trust Company Building toward 40 Wall Street, then known at the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, which had only recently passed the Woolworth Building, visible further uptown, as the tallest building in the world. 40 Wall held that title for only a few weeks before being surpassed by the Chrysler Building, which can be seen through the window to the extreme right.

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East River Skyline, c. 1955

East River Skyline, c. 1955

The Manhattan Skyline viewed from Roosevelt Island in 1955 looks strikingly familiar to a contemporary viewer. The art deco spires of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building spear the sky, and the cigarette-box-shaped United Nations waits impassively for the better world its construction was supposed to help usher in. But the majestic giants of the second half of the Twentieth Century are conspicuously absent. The Citigroup Center, the Bear Stearns Building, the MetLife Building, and many others have yet to replace their smaller, forgotten predecessors.

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The Empire State Building Under Construction, 1930

The Empire State Building Under Construction, 1930

At the time of this photo, the Empire State Building was just surpassing the Chrysler Building as the tallest in the world. Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building was for forty years the pinnacle of skyscraper architecture. The portion that is still being constructed in this photo is not the familiar antenna that we know today, but what was intended to be a mooring mast and dock for airships. The first few attempts proved the impracticality of this idea. Imagine being a passenger disembarking across a gangplank 102 stories above Fifth Avenue.

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Empire State Building, 1932

Portrait of the Empire State Building, 1932

View northeast toward the newly completed Empire State Building, with the Chrysler building in the background, 1932.  Built in 410 days, the Empire State Building surpassed the Chrysler Building as the World's Tallest Building, a title the Chrysler only held for 11 months.  The Empire State Building held that title for over forty years.  In this photo it clearly dwarfs everything else in the midtown skyline.

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