The Empire State Building, an iconic symbol of New York City and one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the world, stands as a testament to human engineering and architectural prowess. But what’s equally impressive is the speed with which this magnificent structure was built during the Great Depression. In this article, we will explore the incredible story of how long it took to build the Empire State Building.

The Vision and Planning

The idea for the Empire State Building was conceived during the 1920s when New York City was engaged in a fierce competition to erect the world’s tallest building. The project was led by John J. Raskob, an industrialist and financier, and designed by architect William F. Lamb of the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon.

Construction Beginnings

Construction on the Empire State Building began on March 17, 1930, with the excavation of the site. The initial groundwork and foundation laying progressed swiftly due to the use of groundbreaking construction techniques.

Remarkable Speed

The Empire State Building’s construction is remarkable not only for its magnitude but also for its speed. The entire project, from the first groundbreaking to the building’s official opening, was completed in a mere 1 year and 45 days. This astonishing pace was largely attributed to several innovative and groundbreaking practices:

Assembly-Line Approach: The construction adopted an assembly-line approach, with various tasks occurring simultaneously. This included the simultaneous construction of the building’s steel frame and the installation of its limestone fa├žade.

Prefabrication: A significant portion of the building components, including the steel framework, was prefabricated off-site. This allowed for quicker and more efficient assembly.

Round-the-Clock Work: To ensure non-stop progress, work crews operated around the clock in shifts. A testament to their dedication, they often referred to the project as the “Empty State Building” due to its fast-paced development.

Coordinated Efforts: Coordination between various contractors, architects, engineers, and workers was impeccable, ensuring that all elements came together smoothly.

Use of New Materials: The Empire State Building’s steel framework, made up of more than 200,000 individual pieces, was lighter and stronger than traditional materials, making construction more efficient.


The Empire State Building’s construction was nothing short of a marvel in engineering and speed. Completed in a record time of 1 year and 45 days, this iconic skyscraper stood as the tallest building in the world upon its completion in 1931. It’s a testament to the indomitable spirit of human innovation, perseverance, and the collaborative efforts of thousands of workers and experts who defied the challenges of the Great Depression to create a symbol of progress and ambition that endures to this day.