25 Vertigo-Inducing Snapshots of the Empire State Building Under Construction

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Man on a rope flying
Image: Lewis Wickes Hine / New York Public Library

Rain and harsh winds lash down, soaking the man’s overalls and making it tough for him to see even that which lies directly ahead. In these astonishingly hazardous conditions, the worker struggles to keep the wrench in his numb grasp, but he must do his job, as there will be many men lining up to replace him should he throw in the towel. Most importantly, though, he must do everything he can to maintain his balance on the slippery girder. He tries not to think about the 1,000-foot drop below him, for he has no safety harness, and only the smallest slip could mean certain death.

The life of a 1930s construction worker employed on the Empire State Building wasn’t easy, to say the least. Here we take a look at awe-inspiring pictures that show the astounding feats of skill, strength and courage that were needed to complete the Art-Deco masterpiece – and one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.

Workers cluster together on the Empire State Building
Image: Lewis Wickes Hine / New York Public Library

The Empire State Building project was, at the time of the skyscraper’s construction, truly groundbreaking. Nothing of its scale had been brought to fruition before; indeed, when the building was opened in 1931, it became the tallest self-supporting edifice on Earth, a record it held for 36 years.

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Two men joining a girder at an incredible height
Image: Lewis Wickes Hine / New York Public Library

It also held the record as the planet’s loftiest skyscraper for 41 years, originally taking over that title from New York’s Chrysler Building. In fact, it was an attempt to top the Chrysler’s incredible feat of construction that led to the development of the Empire State – one of the Big Apple’s most iconic landmarks.

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