Tag Archives: Empire State Building

The Hot Big Apple

It was still hot in the Big Apple. Very hot. Still 95 degrees, and that was early in the day as we were on our way to breakfast.

On the second day, we visited Tiffany the Empire State Building, interspersed with a few pit stops because of the heat. Tiffany because I had some birthday money left over and wanted to buy myself something and it’s a ‘must do’ in New York. (Actually, it’s a ‘must do’ anywhere, in my opinion. There is a look and feel in them that I love.). As we were walking along Fifth Avenue, we popped into Saks, largely because it was air-conditioned and we needed to cool down. We managed to get a bit of a make-over – we were both ‘glowing’ when we got there. Like most stores, the cosmetics section is at the front and the assistants took pity on us. Either that or we looked so bedraggled that we were lowering the tone. The lovely ladies gave us some more water before we continued on our journey.

The last time I’d been to New York I had wanted to visit the Empire State but the weather was bad and the winds were too high. Like so many tall buildings, they close the viewing platforms in weather like that, so this was to be my first time.

View from the Empire State viewing platform

The Empire State Building is an example of that beautiful Art Deco design that was prevalent in New York in the 1930s. One of the things that about New York that sets it aside from other cities. The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world until 1970. It’s still an imposing sight.

It was built as an office block, although as its opening coincided with the Great Depression, much of it was empty for some time. The observation decks were opened to the public, for a fee, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it actually started to make a profit.

There is, understandably, a lot of security there, and you get to the viewing platform by taking a series of lifts (they don’t want random people popping into the office areas, do they?). There is a lot of information about the building inside the public area at the top of the building. If you feel so inclined, you can have your photograph taken with someone dressed up as King Kong.

Nowadays there is a bar on the ground floor, as well as the ubiquitous gift shop and a drug store. We had a couple of drinks in the bar, to fortify ourselves before stepping outside again.

http://www.esbnyc.com

The next day was our last, and we visited Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building, another Art Deco skyscraper. I’d stayed further along in East 42nd on my first visit to NY, but I hadn’t been inside, so it was a treat for me too.

The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for only 11 months before the Empire State took over. It was the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation from 1930 until the mid-1950s. An interesting fact about it is that the corporation didn’t pay for it, Walter P Chrysler paid for it himself. He wanted his family to inherit it rather than the company.

There are no tours, but the ground entrance floor is open to the public and is stunning. Lots of marble and engravings and some useful facts. And it was cool.

Some interesting, little-known facts about the Chrysler Building:

1. There used to be a Speakeasy near to the top of the building. Called the Cloud Club, it was originally built for the Texaco company which occupied 14 floors. It was closed in the late 1970s to make way for more offices.

2. Walter P Chrysler had an apartment on the top floor. There was also another apartment on the 61st floor. This was where photographer Margaret Bourke-White, famous for her photographs of Skyscrapers, lived.

3. In the early days of the building, there was a water-bottling plant in the basement.

4. The observation deck on the 71st floor closed to the public in 1945.

5. There was a car showroom on the first two floors.

6. The top of the spire is filled with reinforced concrete.

7. Everyone (me included) thinks that the top of the building is made from hub caps. Not so. It’s actually a German-made sheet of metal crafted to look that way.

8. The Chrysler Building and the building at 40 Wall Street were in competition to be the world’s tallest building before the Empire State was built. Thus the spire was constructed in secret, in four separate pieces. It took about an hour and a half to put them on the top of the building.

From here, we walked a short distance up to Grand Central Station. Grand Central opened in 1871 as Grand Central Depot. It wasn’t until February 1913 that it opened to the public as Grand Central Terminal, which is still its correct title. One of its most stunning features is the astronomical ceiling in the main hall, designed in 1912.

Grand Central Terminal

Surprisingly, what should be east is west and vice versa on the ceiling. The ceiling was allowed to fall into disrepair, started to leak and within 11 years it was in a very sad state. It wasn’t until 1944 that work was undertaken to repair and restore it. In fact, a completely new mural was painted, in much less detail than the original.

That said, it is still a beautiful concourse and well worth a visit. Especially as there are coffee shops and places to eat in the surrounding areas. We didn’t have time to hang around here, we had a ‘plane to catch.

© Susan Shirley 2018

New York, New York

We flew up from San Francisco to arrive in New York in the middle of a freak heat wave.  The average temperature in New York in May is around 61oF (16oC), although the locals told us it had been much colder than that the week before.  It was 95oF during our stay.  We arrived at JFK at about 20.00, too late to realise how hot it was during the day.  We collected our bags, and got a cab straight to our hotel.  The system at JFK is, in my opinion, better than at Heathrow.  Slicker and quicker.  You check in with the agent, get the cab they assign you and off you trot.

We hadn’t been able to get into the hotel I’d wanted, in East 42nd, so we’d been booked into our hotel very close to Times Square, in West 40th.  The Distrikt Hotel is quite modern, the reception staff were huge fun and very helpful, and there was a birthday cupcake and birthday card in our room.  I’d recommend it.  Funny thing was that in our first trip in the lift, we met another English woman staying there on business.  We unpacked and generally sorted ourselves out, and went to the bar.

We had already booked a trip to Liberty Island for the next day, fortunately not too early in the morning.  We took the Subway to Battery Park, picked up our tickets and then joined the very long queue.  Security here was better than at the airport, the searches were very thorough, which is why there was such a long queue.

Liberty Island has a varied and interesting history.  It was renamed as such in 1956, by an act of Congress although it has had several names over the centuries.  As far back as the mid 17th century, the waters in Upper New York Bay were home to Oyster beds which became a major food source for immigrant Dutch Settlers who named it Great Oyster Island.

In 1664, the Dutch surrendered to the British, the island became British and was eventually sold to Isaac Bedloe in 1667, thus becoming Bedloe’s Island.  Having been a private island for rental and a smallpox quarantine, it later became a sanctuary for loyalist during the American Revolutionary War.

In the 19th century, it became home to Fort Wood, and was chosen to be the home for what it is now best known for, the Statue of Liberty, in the 1880s.  The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the people of America by the people of France, something to do with solidarity after the revolutions in both countries.  The sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi, modelled the statue on his mother.

https://www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm

I’m not sure why I should have been surprised, but I was, to learn (a) that the statue is hollow and (b) that the copper is only about the thickness of a one cent coin.  As well as the Statue of Liberty, there is a museum on the island, and a number of other smaller statues.

 

When we’d finished, we took the subway back to Times Square and went back to the hotel.  Dinner was a local Chinese, followed by an early night, ready for the next day.

 

© Susan Shirley 2018