- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — It has weathered economic hardship, world war, labor strikes, murder, terrorist fears and even a plane crash since its birth during the Great Depression.

The Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world and again the tallest in New York City, is turning 75 years old today.

A yearlong celebration is planned for the building, consisting mainly of monthly light shows, said Lydia Ruth, spokeswoman for the corporation that runs the building.

Like the Crystal Palace in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building represented in its time “what we were capable of,” said Carol Willis, an architecture historian and founder-director of Lower Manhattan’s Skyscraper Museum.

Construction of the Empire State Building was one of the most remarkable feats of the 20th century. It took 410 days to build and 3,400 workers, many of them desperate for work at the height of the Depression. The 1,453-foot tower opened May 1, 1931, with President Hoover pressing a button in Washington to turn on the building’s lights.

Built of steel and aluminum, with a facade made of granite and Indiana limestone, it was for four decades the world’s tallest edifice until the World Trade Center surpassed it in 1972. The Empire State Building again became the city’s tallest after the 110-story Twin Towers were destroyed September 11, 2001.

The Empire State Building’s 103 floors are topped by a 200-foot tower designed as a mooring mast for dirigibles. The mast never was used because of dangerous updrafts.

Out-of-towners still flock to its 86th-floor observation deck, where city sounds fade to a distant hum and the view on a good day extends west to Pennsylvania and as far north as Massachusetts. Visitors have included British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and Lassie the dog.

On July 28, 1945 — three weeks before the end of World War II — an Army B-25 bomber lost in morning fog crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, killing three crew members and 11 persons in an office on the 79th floor.

In 1997, a mentally disturbed man killed a Dutch tourist and wounded seven persons on the observation deck and then killed himself.

In addition to the “King Kong” movies, the skyscraper was featured in films such as “An Affair to Remember” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”

It absorbs about 100 lightning strikes a year but does not, as is rumored, sway in the wind. The tower’s rigid frame allows it to move less than two inches.

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