Geek Trivia

The Spire Of The Empire State Building Was Originally Intended For?

Atmospheric Monitoring
Mooring Airships
Radio Broadcasts
Classified Radar Experiments
Which Band Got Together Because the Members Were Running From a Gun Fight?

Answer: Mooring Airships

Radio transmissions? Atmospheric monitoring? Maybe today, but certainly not then. The soaring spire of the majestic Empire State Building wasn’t built for such mundane things as transmitting variety shows, but something much grander and much more fitting of the roaring 20s that gave birth to its Art Deco styling.

Started in 1930 and completed in 1931, the Empire State Building–tallest in the world from 1931 to 1970–was outfitted with the spire to serve as a mooring station for airships. That’s right, call to mind Dick Tracy comics, early adventures in dirigible aviation, and a sense of wonder at the audacity of it all and you’ve got the idea.

If it seems needlessly complex to attempt to dock a large airship at the top of the world’s tallest building, you’re right: it is. Although the spire was intended as a mooring mast and there was even a staircase leading from the 102nd floor to the 103rd floor so that airship passengers could descend into the building (then take an elevator to the 86th floor arrival lounge), it became readily apparent after construction that the idea was infeasible. Not only was it dangerous to dock an airship without rear mooring lines to help stabilize it, but the building itself created strong updrafts that made mooring and unloading an airship quite dangerous.

Approximately half a year after the building opened and the dreams of docking airships there had evaporated, the first transmission module was attached to the spire–in December of 1931, RCA began broadcasting experimental television broadcasts from a small antenna erected atop the spire.