The Empire State Building and Presidential History

The Empire State Building illuminated for the 2012 Presidential election. Image via the New York Daily News

Last night media outlets competed for viewership by illustrating election results in new and appealing ways.  There were running tickers, fancy graphics and maps.  Every station pulled out all the stops, bells and whistles, but my favorite was CNN who partnered with the Empire State Building to display the electoral tally in the NYC skyline.

The 102 story skyscraper has been a Manhattan landmark for 81 years. Completed in 1931, it was the first building to have more than 100 floors and was the tallest skyscraper in the world until 1972 when it was surpassed in height by the World Trade Center.  After 9/11 it was New York’s tallest building until the World Trade Center 1 building’s recent construction.  Unlike most NYC skyscrapers, all four sides of the Empire State Building can be seen from the street making it a suburb choice for displaying the election results.

The meter atop the ESB shows the electoral college tally at 8:23 PM. Image via The Huffington Post.

The top 16 floors of the building are tiered or stepped, a shape typical of Art Deco architecture.  Its distinctive Art Deco spire was originally designed as a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles. Don’t know what a dirigible is? Neither did I!  Dirigibles are airships – as in Zepplins and blimps!  The 102nd floor was intended to be used as a landing platform and gangplank for airships to dock.  This plan proved to be unsafe and was quickly abandoned.   A large broadcast tower was added to the top of the spire in 1953.

For the election, the stepped portion of the building was patriotically lit in red, white, and blue LED lights.  The mast was turned into a vertical meter – two sides lit with red lights, two sides lit with blue – to show Romney and Obama’s race to 270 electoral votes.

The ESB’s electoral meter showing the final tally for the 2012 Presidential election. Image via Digital Spy.

While this is the first time in its history that the building has been used as a meter, it is not its first brush with presidential history.  The building officially opened on May 1, 1931 when President Herbert Hoover turned on the building’s lights by pushing a button in Washington, DC.   The following year, tower lights were used atop the building for the first time to signal the victory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt over Hoover.

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