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December 4, 2022

Honoring Labor

Labor Day’s long weekend winds up summer. Vacations end. School starts. Days are progressively shorter. Autumn comes to mind and fall colors slowly show. 

Labor Day honors the American worker. The U.S. was the first country to establish “labor day,” and the first parade took place in New York City in 1887. Oregon first recognized it as an official holiday. Thirty states followed, and Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, a mere seven years from conception. Very speedy compared to the 106 years it took to recognize Memorial Day as a national holiday in 1971.

Fun facts:  Speaking of speedy, did you know workers like those pictured above constructed the Empire State Building in 410 days? Think of that, one year and 45 days! It started March 13, 1930, and completion was May 1, 1931, ahead of schedule and under budget. Four and half floors of structural steel were erected each week. 

The building was built on the site of the former Waldorf Astoria hotel. Rising 102 stories and 1,250 feet high, it is topped with a 203 foot (20 story) mooring mast. The pinnacle was conceived to increase height and serve as a landing dock for trans-Atlantic dirigibles. Tethered to the tower, the idea was passengers would disembark via an open-air, blimp-bridge. Imagine that; it never happened. 

Despite its allure, the building opened in 1931 only 20% leased. It remained 50% empty through the Depression. Derided as the “Empty State Building,” it reportedly turned its first profit in 1950. 

The Empire State Building has 2.5 million square feet of leasable space, serviced by 73 elevators. The bottom floors occupy two acres each. In 2022, observatory revenue was $13.2 million. 

The bas-relief sculpture above, on University Avenue, recalls a famous photograph of steel workers eating lunch 80 stories up on a steel girder, part of a publicity stunt in 1931 to attract attention to a competitor building, the RCA Tower. The photographer remains unknown.