The Empire State Building: A View from the Top

Wonder of wonders: Photo by: Stew Dean

Approximately four million people visit the Empire State Building each year, making it one of  New York’s top tourist attractions.  It opened as an office building in 1931 during the Great Depression.  It was deemed the Eighth Wonder of the World, but companies couldn’t afford the rent.  It didn’t become profitable until 1950.

Regardless of the interior space people have always been drawn by the view, no matter what the cost.  For $1.10 way back when and up to $55 currently, visitors ride to the public observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors.  They are open day or night (until 2 AM), come rain or come shine.

The bustling streets of Manhattan below draw one in.  The panoramic vistas sweep one away.   It couldn’t be more romantic.  It’s the stuff of which dreams are made.

By one count some 250 flicks feature the iconic skyscraper.  They are not all memorable, but some are noteworthy.  Andy Warhol’s 1964 silent black and white film Empire consists of eight hours and five minutes of continuous slow motion footage of the building.  If you’re wondering, it never moves, although its floodlights flicker on and off for most of the marathon.

More action takes place in An Affair to Remember, considered one of the greatest love stories of all time.  After a paralyzing car accident, Deborah Kerr is unable to keep her rendezvous with Cary Grant on the upper deck.  He believes she stood him up, but fortuitously, they reunite months later.

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have better luck meeting up in Sleepless in Seattle, although she arrives after hours.  When she explains her situation to the guard, he gives her access to the elevator because An Affair to Remember is his wife’s favorite movie.

Looking up and up and up. Photo by: auchard

Then there’s King Kong.  Released during the Great Depression, the great ape is billed, like the Empire State Building itself, as the Eighth Wonder of the World.  He’s on display on Broadway where he escapes his chains, scoops up Ann Darrow, and hightails it to the top of the tower.  He loses his fight with airplanes sent to bring him down, and he falls to his death.

Fay Wray, the original out-of-work chorus girl to whom King Kong takes a shine, will forever be associated with the movie.

“When I’m in New York, I look at the Empire State Building and feel as though it belongs to me,” she once mused, “or is it vice versa?”

Currently, the owners, the Malkin family, are buffing and polishing the Art Deco edifice, planning to make it the centerpiece of a $5 billion public offering.  Start thinking now about getting in on the ground floor.  It’s a way of securing your place in the castle in the sky.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Watch and wonder – the last five minutes of Sleepless in Seattle

And some great views of and from the Empire State Building:


  1. Eva Trieger says:

    Susan, what fun! Thank you. Love the photos and the history. Ready for a road trip?


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