Years ago, a friend asked me to find out what the blinking tower light on top of the Continental Life building was for. Fast forward a couple weeks to a conversation with another friend about architecture. I mentioned my Continental Life Building mission, and he said that he had read that it was originally intended as a dirigible docking mast. How cool is that? And it coincided with me watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for the first time!
Nerd that I am, I had to fact check this before I ran to share it with the blog. I Googled everything I could think of and even spent an hour flipping through The Queen of Lace: The Story of the Continental Life Building at Barnes and Noble. One day when I had nearly given up, I had the eureka moment of finding the right search terms, and Google took me to page 168 of The Queen of Lace on GoogleBooks.
"While there are a number of urban legends about the Continental Building, two of the most prominent tales are the 'Superman Building' and the 'Dirigible Mooring Mast.'"
BUMMER! I was really hoping this one was true. While it IS true that the skyscraper docking mast was attempted at the Empire State Building, it only worked once and that was for less than 3 minutes. The Continental Life's blinky light was never intended as anything more than a radio tower. Today, after the restoration of the building, it's just a light feature.
More information about the Empire State Building's dirigible mooring mast.
Built St Louis's page about the Continental Life Building.