EMPIRE STATE BUILDING CONSTRUCTION: STARRETT SCRAPBOOK
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The Starrett Scrapbook, titled "Erection Views of Empire State Building," is a hand-bound photograph album featuring a rich collection of original construction images, organized and compiled by the general contractors of the Empire State Building, Starrett Brothers & Eken, Inc. from 1929 to 1931.
The Starrett Scrapbook
Erection Views of the Empire State
Donated to The Skyscraper Museum in 2002 by Karl Dudley "Hobey" Pierson, the grandson of Paul Starrett (1866-1957), one of the two brothers of Starrett Brothers & Eken, Inc., the album contains 511 photographs compiled in the 94-page album that document virtually every step of the construction of the Empire State Building, from the demolition of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to the topping off ceremony of the mooring mast. It features many detailed mini-series of the myriad processes that were required of early 20th century skyscraper construction. Images featuring bricklaying, riveting, the setting of the limestone façade, among others, along with numerous candid photographs of construction workers on the job, relaxing at lunch, receiving paychecks, etc., as well as construction managers and such dignitaries as the famous Directors of the Empire State Company, including the former Governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith, at official ceremonies. In many ways the collection adopts the format characteristic of a handmade scrapbook, as if the Empire State Building itself was recounting the story of its creation, while also keeping the charm of a family album. This unique volume affords insights into both the technical aspects of the construction and the human face of the army of workers and managers that created New York's signature skyscraper.
In 2003, the Museum hired a conservator to restore the photograph album, which was in fragile condition, with many pages brittle or torn. The individual photographs in the collection were then removed, assigned a unique accession number, and digitized. In 2005 the digitized images of the individual photographs, along with the page-by-page image of the full album, became a centerpiece of the Museum's online archive project VIVA2, became centerpiece of the Museum's online archive project VIVA2, an interactive interface that allowed viewers to explore the images by a range of topics, or to order them by time, or location in the building. Created in the software platform Flash, the VIVA2 site was a feature of our website until 2021 when all browsers ceased supporting the platform. The Museum is currently working to replicate the interface in a new program. At present, full album pages are the only feature of the project available online.
The Starrett Notebook
Building the Empire State
In 1998 The Skyscraper Museum published Building the Empire State (NY: W.W. Norton), which contains a facsimile of a typescript notebook, literally pages in a 3-ring binder, of a manuscript compiled between approximately 1929 and 1931 by Starrett Brothers & Eken, Inc. Titled "Notes on Construction of Empire State Building," the document contains 77 numbered sheets of typed text on notebook-sized graph paper. The finding aid for this collection is part of the Records of HRH Construction Interspersed throughout the notebook are 33 sheets of brown pressboard on which are mounted 70 black and white photographs, developed from the same negatives as some of the photographs found in the photograph album.
Building the Empire State was edited by Carol Willis and includes overview essays by Willis, the Museum’s Director and by the structural engineer and historian Donald Friedman. The book cover, rear cover, and several sample pages of the typescript are pictured below.