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A History of New York City’s Structures and Skyscrapers

New York City is world renowned for its spectacular skyline. Over the years there have been both voluntary and involuntary changes to the view that it presents. Despite these changes, New York never falters in its ability to leave tourists from around the world in awe of its majesty. While it is made up of numerous skyscrapers and structures, there are some that, without a doubt, stand out as exceptional and apart from the rest. Many of these have become landmarks and are true testaments to the spirit and architectural ingenuity of the city.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is an American landmark and is listed on the State & National Register of Historic Places. It has 103 floors and although it is located in Manhattan, it is recognizable worldwide. The “Empire State” in the skyscraper’s name came from the state’s nickname “The Empire State.” Originally built as part of a competition with the Chrysler building for the title of tallest building, construction of the Empire State Building began on March 17, 1930. It is built in Art Deco style; however, the shape of the building is designed based on the shape of a writing pencil. It was predicted that the building would take eighteen months to compete; however, work on the building went at a faster pace than anticipated and approximately four stories were completed weekly. Ultimately, completion took less than fifteen months courtesy of the 3400 individuals employed for the task, many of whom were Mohawk iron workers and European immigrants. The building officially opened on May 1, 1931. It was on this date that President Hoover turned on the building’s lights remotely from the White House with the press of a button. Upon its completion, and for nearly forty years after, it was considered the tallest building in the world. It was built to be an office building, although upon its completion, much of the space went unused courtesy of the Great Depression. The observation deck was fortunately a source of revenue for the building and exists even today. Currently, visitors to New York City may purchase tickets to visit one or both of the observatories. Both the 86th and 102 floor observatories provide tourists with exceptional views of the city and beyond. They are open daily, 365 days out of the year, regardless of weather conditions. Over the year there have been several changes to the building, most notably the addition of floodlights in the 1960s and the “green” renovation in 2010 to help improve the building’s energy efficiency.

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron building has a distinctive shape that makes it difficult to miss. The narrow, 22 story triangular building is yet another architectural design that stands out from the crowd. The unique and visually interesting building was constructed in 1902 at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in New York. Its design was greatly influenced by the Italian and French Renaissance and was designed and constructed in the Beaux-Arts style. Many felt the building would not have longevity due to what they considered a faulty design. There was also concern that the unusual shape would create a wind hazard that would potentially prove dangerous. The building was also created with office use in mind, which is its current use. Although there are no tourist attractions inside, it is a popularly photographed building and there are several ground floor shops.

Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building is a highly stylish and easily recognizable building built in 1930. It was funded by, and named after Walter P. Chrysler, who started construction on the building in 1928. It was built as a part of the race to erect the tallest skyscraper in the world. Although it beat the Empire State Building by some 12 months and was taller than the Eiffel Tower, it could not hold onto the record of being the tallest building in the world. During the construction of the Art Deco style skyscraper, workers managed to build it quickly and with no fatalities. The decorative details of the skyscraper include the look of radiator caps near the top. Changes to the building include the closing of the public viewing area during the mid-1940s and the refurbishing of the lobby in the late 1970s. The primary function of the building is to serve as office space for businesses; because of this, there are no tours or attractions in the tower. Tourists may enter the lobby for pictures or to view the building’s details.

Brooklyn Bridge

New York’s first suspension bridge was completed and opened in May of 1883 and bridged the distance between Manhattan and Brooklyn. This bridge was called the Brooklyn Bridge, and at the time of its construction it was also the largest bridge of its kind in the world. Construction of the bridge cost $18 million and it took 13 years for it to be completed. It took 600 workers to complete the construction of the bridge, resulting in at least twenty fatalities. The dangerous construction of the bridge included the work done underwater in airtight chambers called caissons. These pressurized chambers often caused workers to suffer from “the bends” due to a release of gases in the blood due to resurfacing too quickly. The bridge currently is undergoing renovations to improve upon approach ramps that received poor safety ratings. Other changes made to the bridge include widening the roads for freeway traffic. It has been designated both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

1 World Trade Center

In the Western Hemisphere, one building holds the title of being the tallest – 1 World Trade Center. Its construction came as a result of the 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center twin towers. The building, which has 104 floors, is designed to be one of the strongest commercial buildings in the world. It is set to open late 2014 after approximately eight years of construction starts and stops. It will be home to office space, restaurants, and an observation deck. The building takes advantage of green sources of energy such as turbines and daylighting, and also reuses rainwater. Tourists and New York natives visiting the tower may pay a fee to go up to the observation deck, which takes up three floors. The observation deck will have entertainment and gift shops in addition to the spectacular views of New York. One World Trade Center will also have retail stores and dining establishments, as well as a transportation hub.

By Alan Bernau Jr

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