How Many People Died Making the Empire State Building

February 9, 2024

The Empire State Building is a symbol of the greatness of America, but grandeur often comes with a dark side, and this iconic skyscraper was no exception. It's hard to imagine that the breakneck construction of the Empire State Building in the 1930s resulted in so many deaths, as workers risked their lives daily just to erect this architectural wonder. But five men were lost during the building's 13 months of construction, and countless other workers teetered on the edge of peril, working without safety equipment hundreds of feet in the air.

The 102-story tower is renowned for its architectural genius, especially its strategic use of space and the efficiency of its steel girders. During the building's construction, innovative techniques were employed, such as the use of derricks and hoists to lift the massive steel girders into place and the practice of hot riveting, wherein steel rivets are heated until red-hot before being used to secure the girders in place. The building also incorporated a number of technological advances, including the first electrical elevator system in the world.

Despite the many challenges that workers faced, they persevered, and the Empire State Building was completed on May 1, 1931, with President Herbert Hoover pressing a button in Washington, D.C., that turned on the building's lights.

But the building wasn't immune to tragedy, as it has been the site of numerous suicides over the years. For Irish immigrants, who had fled a war-ravaged homeland only to find themselves in the depths of the Depression, it was a place of hope and ambition—and often, sadly, despair.


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