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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It used to be the world's tallest building...

...but that was then. The landscape (or better, the skyscape) has undergone dramatic change. Take a peek here for a fascinating perspective. The just completed Burj Dubai in the UAR--recently renamed Burj Khalifa in honor of the sheik of Abu Dhabi--stands more than 1/2 mile into the sky.

This isn't about "them," however. This is about our grand lady, The Empire State Building, which held the title from 1931 to 1973...longer and more legendary than any other. It stands a 'mere' 1250 feet... not even half as tall as the Burj Khalifa... and is number 14 on today's list of world's tallest buildings. It has 102 floors, 1820 steps to the top and (get this!) was completed 410 days AHEAD of schedule, coming in at $24.7 million UNDER budget! Of course, this was during the Great Depression and that undoubtedly helped, both in cost and with readily available labor.  It is colorfully and quite specifically lit year round (showing a big red heart for Valentine's Day). Take a look at the Lighting schedule ...it is quite complex and fascinating.

Their was a time when dirigibles would cross the Atlantic, then appear over Manhattan and glide up to the Empire State Building. After docking at the mast atop world's tallest building, passengers would transfer from airship to skyscraper, via an open gangway (really!), and an elevator would whisk them to the street.

It is sadly ironic that the tragedy of 9/11 was not the first time a plane crashed into the world's tallest building. In 1945, an army B-25 Bomber, lost in the fog, crash, quite accidentally this time, into the 75th floor of the Empire State Building. While two died,  the survival of the elevator operator who fell 75 stories when the cables to her cab were severed, was the miracle of the day.

Every year, there is a race on foot, up the stairs to the 86th floor. It is appropriately called The Run-Up. This year's event, the 33rd annual, was Feb. 2nd and the winner's time to climb 1,576 steps was 10 minutes, 16 seconds, or about 157 steps a minute! Ever try to run stairs? Piece of cake, right?

The Empire State Building has starred in more than 100 movies. How many can you name. Check it out. Call me a softy but my favorite by far was Sleepless in Seattle. Near as I can tell, the only one who didn't love this beautifully designed landmark was King Kong. Damn those planes. They just didn't understand... that big monkey had a heart!

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