I am Siobhan MacShane. I've been a Observatory Host at the Empire State Building since 2004. AMA.
Hi everyone! My name is Siobhan MacShane and I've been an observatory host at the Empire State Building since 2004. In over 18 years I've seen it all at the World's Most Famous Building and want to share my wealth of knowledge with Reddit! Want to come pay us a visit? Check out esbnyc.com for tickets and further information.
We always light for the AFC/NFC championships! Our special lightings originated with the World Series and we look forward to keeping this tradition alive.
For the record, we also lit for the Chiefs later that evening.
I am an NYC resident. I haven't been in the ESB since I was like, 10 years old. If I want to come just to go to the top and go down again, just for the sake of it, what is the best time to go to avoid the tourist crowd as much as I can?
That is a great question, If you really want to avoid crowds, come during the middle of the week after sunset. After 8PM is your best bet.
How many times have you heard the "he's not coming" joke?
As the years go by, less and less, but it still happens.
When the Empire State Building was used for docking airships, how did the people on board disembark? to what floor?
There were only two tests in the building's history trying to moor the ship to the top floor, neither of which were successful.
What is the most common thing you have to ask guests to stop doing?
Jumping over ropes/stanchions that are set up. Can't blame them when the view is as good as it gets.
From one Siobhan to another, what's the worst/best way you've seen the name get messed up?
I've heard every pronunciation imaginable. It's honestly most exciting when someone gets it right.
Are you from Ireland originally?
No, but my dad is from County Cavan.
Are there places off-limits to the public that you wish you could show?
Well, our VIP tours give the public access to the basement which homes our steam plant, the refrigeration plant, and own bank vault and other building innerworkings. Generally, these are off-limits to the general public so these are a blast to show our guests.
Have you ever encountered people trying to recreate a Sleepless in Seattle situation?
Sleepless in Seattle, not so much but folks are always trying to act like Buddy the Elf in our Lobby.
Is true there is a rivalry with the Chrysler Building? If so, how serious is it?
There's a few ways to answer this. There were rivalries between all the sky-scrapers being built during the period and whoever had the tallest building was going to win. There was a small rivalry between John J. Raskob and Walter Chrysler.
The Chrysler Building secretly added their spire as a last ditch attempt to beat out the Bank of Manhattan building that was being built simultaneously.
Beyond that, everyone had a rivalry going, but these days we love our neighbor the Chrysler Building.
What was your favorite day on the job?
My favorite day on the job was when we launched our private tour program. I got to give my first full VIP tour and showcase the history of the building. I had been at ESB for 12 years and was always something I wanted to do.
The Empire State Building was built in some really fast way that even today is impossible to replicate. How did they do that?
I think the best way to explain it, is the time period. It was the heart of the Depression. As I understand it, we had approximately 3400 workers working 7 days a week and doing 13-hour days. I give lot of credit to the Starrett brothers who served as general contractors for the project and planned meticulously to move the process along as fast as possible.
What's your favorite color combo for the top of the ESB?
When I first started in 2003, we still had the old drum light. I'm not partial to any particular scheme, but its hard to choose when there are 16 million different colors to choose from. I am still blown away by our music to light shows.
Who designed the host uniforms? Is there a reason for the color choice? I do like the aesthetics but, for some, a little tailoring would go far.
Turkish Designer Peyman Umay designed our new unforms. The color referred to as Empire State Steel lines up with our reimagined observatory experience following our 165 million dollar renovation.
I am not afraid of heights and the building doesn't have a sway. We have a "give" of a quarter of an inch in winds over 110MPH. Other newer buildings do have a sway, but they were constructed in a much different fashion with a much narrower base. Our wedding cake design provides us with greater stability.
What's the most interesting fact/new thing you've discovered over the 18 years?
It's the fact that there is still so much to learn about the Building after being here for 18 years that ewime. Even though I've been here for 18 years, there are folks on staff who have been here for over 40 years, so they certainly have things to teach me as well. I'd love to learn more from our Chief Engineer.
What is an observatory host and what do you do?
We greet and guide guests throughout the Empire State Building Observatory which includes our museum, loading & operating elevators, maintaining guest flow on the 86th/102nd floors, answering questions on the 102nd floor, engaging in VIP tours, assisting our PR/Marketing team with celebrity visits, and a host ;) of other duties.
Never heard the name Siobhan once in my entire 30-something year life.
I binge Succession in one weekend and now I’ve seen the name at least 6 times on the internet and met someone with that name.
What’s that phenomenon called again?
Why do you think the Empire State Building is the world's most famous building?
We were the tallest building in the world for 42 years, we were the first building in the world to have over 100 floors, we've been in over 600 pieces of media, beginning with King Kong in 1933. We could another 100 reasons why, but I may be slightly biased.
What made you want to become an observatory host?
My uncle who was retired NYPD who was working on ESB's security team at the time, got me the job. I started as a college student who needed a job. I was studying history, with a focus on NYC history. It all fell into place for me.
I loved being around so many people and hearing through so many languages their love for NYC and the reasons that brough them to the Empire State Building. Ther sense of family within our staff made it an easy choice to stay around.
What was it like seeing the city come back to life after the covid shutdown?
It was great. New York City's greatest asset is it's people. Last year we welcomed approximately 2.2 million people to the Observatory and especially during the most recent Holiday period, you could feel the energy and excitement throughout the building.
Have you met any of the celebrities that visit the building??
I have. My most recent and memorable was Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. They were great to show around the Building.
Are you afraid of heights?
Did they fire the guy who lit the place up in Philadelphia eagles colors?
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