Docking Station for Airships

The top of the Empire State Building was originally designed to be used as a docking station for airships. In the late 1920s, there was a belief that cross-Atlantic travel would soon be carried out using zeppelins or dirigibles. Therefore, the investors behind the Empire State Building saw the top of the building as an ideal site for embarkation. In this envisioned scenario, a dirigible would arrive and dock on top of the building at the specially constructed mooring station. The airship would be quickly secured with ropes, allowing passengers to disembark by walking single-file down a gangplank and into the tallest building in the world from its top floor. From there, they could take the elevator down and find themselves in the heart of Manhattan, a mere seven minutes after landing. Since the idea was driven by the practical desire to make the building more profitable, the developers went as far as actually constructing a mooring mast on top of the Empire State Building. However, even the most skilled American engineers failed to devise a method to attach a zeppelin to the top of a 1,250-foot-high building that regularly experienced 50 mph winds, while also ensuring a pleasant experience for the average cross-Atlantic traveler. The airship companies ultimately deemed the idea impractical and even dangerous, leading to a lack of interest. Despite this, the one and only actual mooring on the Empire State Building occurred in September 1931 when a privately-owned blimp managed to dock for three minutes, although no unloading took place. “Traffic was tied up in the streets below for more than a half hour as the pilot, Lieutenant William McCraken jockeyed for position in the half gale about the tower 1,200 feet above the ground,” the Times reported in 1931. The age of trans-Atlantic zeppelins ended in 1937 with the Hindenburg disaster, when the largest craft of its type ever built burst into flames while landing in New Jersey.