The Crown of the Empire State Building Was Originally Built for Which Purpose?

The Empire State Building stands as an iconic symbol of New York City, towering over the city’s skyline. This architectural masterpiece has been captivating visitors and locals alike since its completion in 1931. While many are familiar with its grandeur and historical significance, few may know the intriguing story behind its crown, which was originally built for a completely different purpose.

The Empire State Building was envisioned as a symbol of progress and modernity, conceived during the Roaring Twenties when skyscrapers were becoming a popular trend in major cities around the world. Its construction began in 1930, and it was the brainchild of John J. Raskob, an influential businessman, and former vice-chairman of General Motors. Raskob, along with his partners, Walter Chrysler and Alfred E. Smith, aimed to create a structure that would surpass the height of the Chrysler Building, currently the tallest building in the world at the time.

As plans for the Empire State Building took shape, the architects, William F. Lamb and Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, envisioned a unique feature for the top of the building. They designed a distinctive crown, which was originally intended to serve as a mooring mast for airships, also known as dirigibles or zeppelins. This audacious idea was inspired by a growing fascination with air travel and the belief that passenger-carrying airships would revolutionize transportation.

The crown of the Empire State Building was constructed as a docking station for these airships, allowing passengers to disembark directly onto the building’s observation deck. The observation deck, situated one thousand feet above the bustling city below, would provide unparalleled views of New York City and its surroundings. The notion of an airship mooring mast on top of the Empire State Building stirred great excitement and anticipation, as it promised to be a marvel of engineering and a gateway to the future.

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However, despite the grand vision, the mooring mast was never used for its intended purpose. The advent of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, where a German airship caught fire and crashed in New Jersey, marked the decline of passenger airships. The tragic incident raised concerns about the safety and viability of these large, flammable vessels, and effectively ended the dream of using the Empire State Building as an airship docking station.

Although the crown’s original purpose was never fulfilled, it remains an integral part of the Empire State Building’s identity and charm. The art-deco-inspired design of the crown, adorned with intricate geometric patterns and illuminated by powerful floodlights, has become an iconic symbol of New York City. Over the years, the crown has been illuminated in various colors to celebrate holidays, commemorate events, and raise awareness for charitable causes, further solidifying its place in the hearts of New Yorkers and tourists alike.


Q: Can visitors access the crown of the Empire State Building?
A: No, the crown is not accessible to the public. The observation deck is located on the 86th floor, providing breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

Q: Are there any plans to repurpose the crown for future use?
A: As of now, there are no known plans to repurpose the crown. However, the Empire State Building remains a symbol of innovation and adaptability, so it is always possible that future developments may bring new uses for this iconic feature.

Q: How tall is the Empire State Building’s crown?
A: The crown adds an additional 200 feet to the height of the building, bringing its total height to 1,454 feet (443.2 meters), including the antenna.

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Q: What are some other notable features of the Empire State Building?
A: In addition to the crown and the observation deck, the Empire State Building boasts several noteworthy features. These include its grand Art Deco lobby, the awe-inspiring marble-clad entrance hall, and the world-famous Empire State Building Run-Up, an annual race in which participants race up the building’s stairs to the observation deck.

In conclusion, the crown of the Empire State Building was originally built as a mooring mast for airships, symbolizing the vision of a future where zeppelins would revolutionize transportation. While this purpose was never realized, the crown has become an enduring symbol of the building and the city it represents. Its grandeur continues to captivate visitors and serves as a reminder of the innovative spirit that shaped New York City’s skyline.