While it’s hard for most of us to imagine anything other than the Empire State Building occupying the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, the site was originally the John Thompson Farm in the late 1700s, then later home of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and The Four Hundred — the social elite of New York — in the late 1800s.

The Empire State Building ended up as an office building rather than a hotel, and topped out at 102 floors rather than the stated 80 in the article, but two other predictions were pretty close. Rather than the 18 months forecast for construction, only 15 months were needed, and it held the title of world’s tallest building from 1931 until the completion of the North Tower of the original World Trade Center in the 1970s. – AJW

Empire State Building construction

Al Smith gets $50,000 New York job

Will be head of company to build world’s largest hotel

New York — Former Governor Alfred E Smith will head a company to be incorporated to build what will be the highest building in the world on the site of the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The building will be known as the Empire State Building, and will be eighty stories high, and will cost (with the $16,000,000 paid for the site) more than $66,000,000. It will occupy more than two acres of land, with 200 feet on Fifth Avenue and 425 feet on Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth streets.

Smith, who will be president of the Empire State Building corporation, made the announcement in his suite at the Biltmore Hotel, in accordance with a promise made months ago to newspaper reporters that he would announce his business plans as soon as he determined them.

The former governor said that supervision of the construction of the building and its management would be his main business. Since his retirement from the governorship Smith has been elected a director of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and the New York County Trust Company, but his duties in these directorates have taken but a small part of his time.

Although the Governor made no mention of it in his announcement, it was said by friends that his salary as president of the building company would be about $50,0000 a year.

Smith said that as president of the company he would be in executive control of the creation of the building and its maintenance and operation thereafter. He left during the afternoon for Canoe Place Inn and will return on September 9. Contracts for the demolition of the hotel building will be let soon after his return, and the work of tearing down the hotel will begin immediately. Smith said that engineers consulted have estimated that about a year and a half would be required for the erection of the building.


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Photos: Construction of the Empire State Building, 1930-1931

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Source publication: Carbondale Free Press

Source publication date: August 30, 1929

Filed under: 1920s, 1930s, Events, Newspapers, Places

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