5 Unexpected Facts About The Empire State Building

On May 1, 1931, the Empire State Building was officially opened when President Herbert Hoover turned the lights on with a push of a button from Washington, D.C. Think you already know a lot about this iconic landmark? We’ve got 5 more unexpected facts for you….

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President Herbert Hoover Turned On The Lights President Herbert Hoover was the man who turned on the lights in the Empire State Building for the first time. He never went to New York to accomplish this task. Approximately 200 miles away in Washington, D.C., Hoover pressed a button that signaled the instantaneous activation of the building’s electric illumination system. Some 350 guests attended the opening ceremony on the 86th floor including New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Unfortunately, they chose the wrong day as the entire view was obscured by dense fog for the duration of the event.

A B-52 Bomber Struck the Building in 1945 On the morning of July 28, 1945, while flying an Army B-52 bomber toward New York’s La Guardia Airport, Army Lt. Col. William F. Smith became disoriented in heavy fog and drifted over Midtown Manhattan. The World War II combat veteran was unable to avoid plowing into the 78th and 79th floors of the Empire State at 200 miles an hour. Smith and two crewmen were killed, as were 11 people inside the building. A four-alarm fire broke out on several floors but firefighters managed to extinguish it in just 40 minutes. Amazingly, the undamaged sections of the building were reopened for business just two days later.

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One Woman Plunged 75 Stories Inside An Elevator And Survived When the bomber crashed into the building in 1945, pieces of the plane’s engine went into several of the elevator shafts, severing the cables in two of the cars. Unfortunately, Betty Lou Oliver, one of the elevator operators, was inside one of them on the 75th floor when it happened, and the elevator plunged 75 floors. The plunge ended in the basement, and Oliver had to be cut out of the mangled elevator. Fortunately, over 1,000 feet of the severed cable had landed at the elevator shaft bottom in advance, which cushioned the landing, and although she broke her neck and back, she survived.  This still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest fall survived in an elevator.  

It Has Its Own Personal Zip Code Although the Empire State Building is geographically located within the boundaries of Manhattan’s 10001 ZIP code, it was assigned its own zip code of 10118 in 1980. The U.S. Postal Service says that a building with over 150 businesses located inside that receives mail can have its own zip code. (Unique zip codes are sometimes also assigned to universities and government agencies.)

It Sends a Father's Day Card To Its "Dad" William Frederick Lamb, the architect for the Empire State Building, used an old design of his for the Reynolds Building, as the model for the Empire State Building. As a fond gesture to the “parent” of the Empire State Building, a Father’s Day card is sent each year to the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to show gratitude for the grand design. It is probably the only known instance where a building sends a Father’s Day card to another building. The card simply reads,“Happy Anniversary, Dad.”