Question – how many construction workers does it take to build an Empire State Building? Answer – 3,500. And it took them just over 400 days to do it.
With one floor being built per 24 hours during the first phase, the daily drop-off to the site was colossal – up to 200 trucks deposited 16,000 tiles, 5,000 cement bags, 450 cubic yards of sand and 300 bags of lime, each and every day.
The order for steel – just shy of 58,000 tonnes – was the largest ever made.
For the workers, cafes were opened and taps were installed on the incomplete floors so they need not descend to the ground.
Those workers were chiefly Italian and Irish immigrants, plus a large minority of Mohawks – the “Iron Walkers”- from the Kahnawake reservation near Montreal.
Initially involved in high-level construction back in 1886, when a group of Mohawk men were employed to build a bridge over the St. Lawrence River on Mohawk territory, many Mohawks moved to New York City in the first years of the Twentieth Century, and worked on multiple significant high-rise construction sites in Manhattan.
Official records state that only five men died on the Empire State site, though the New York Times reported 14 deaths. While there is no reason to question this, the fact that it was not dramatically higher seems extraordinary when looking at these photographs.
Just 23 weeks after construction began, the entire steel structure of the Empire State Building was in place.
The final rivet placed was made of solid gold – but then it could afford to be gold. The entire project had cost $40 million – a clear $20 million under budget.