10 Fun Facts About Skyscrapers

Two major inventions led to the development of the skyscraper, Elisha Otis’ safety elevator and William LeBaron Jenney’s structural steel frame. The skyscraper race was on and it’s still going strong as taller and taller buildings being erected. When completed in 2018, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will stand as the world’s tallest building at 3,304 feet tall. We’ve put together some interesting facts and little known trivia about some of our favorite tall buildings.

10 Fun Facts About Skyscrapers

Impress your friend and colleagues with these 10 bits of trivia about some of the world’s most famous skyscrapers.

The World’s First Skyscraper

The Home Insurance Building in Chicago is generally considered the world’s first skyscraper. Completed in 1885, it was the first to use a curtain wall construction on a steel frame.

Skyscraper didn’t always refer to tall buildings

From the Oxford English Dictionary: “Before skyscraper was used for buildings with an exciting height, the word was already in use for things sticking into the air, such as a triangular sky-sail (first recorded use in 1794), a high-standing horse (1788), a very tall man (1857), a rider on one of the very high cycles formerly in use (1892) or an tall hat or bonnet, (1800).”

Frank LLoyd Wright designed a mile-high skyscraper

That’s right, the man who’s best known work, Fallingwater, exemplified his philosophy of organic architecture also made plans for a skyscraper would have soared to a height of 5,280 feet. The Illinois aka Mile High Illinois aka Illinois Sky-City would have been 528 stories, 18,460,000 sf and featured 76 superfast atomic-powered elevators. It was never built and despite similarities in appearance, it was not the inspiration for the…

Burj Khalifa, the World’s Tallest Skyscraper

In addition to being the world’s tallest building at 2,717 feet, surpassing the 1,761-foot Taipei 101, it also overtook the 2,063-foot KVLY-TV mast in Blanchard, ND as the world’s tallest structure and the 1,815-foot CN Tower as the world’s tallest free-standing structure. Located in Dubai, UAE, the Burj Khalifa also boasts the worlds highest occupied floor, highest outdoor observation and the highest number of stories with 163. One thing it doesn’t have is the…

World’s fastest elevator located in Taipei 101

The Taipei 101 has two high-speed elevators capable of speeds of 3,313 feet/min or 37.7 mph. We’ve come a long way in elevator technology and travel speed sinch Elisha Otis installed the first passenger safety elevator in the E.V. Haughwout Building on March 23, 1857. That elevator was only capable of traveling 40 feet/min, just a lousy 0.45 mph. Taipei 101 will soon lose it’s crown when the Shanghai Tower opens later this year with elevator speeds of 3,540 feet/min or 40.23 mph.

The Chrysler Building became the World’s Tallest through deception

When the Chrysler Building was being constructed it was competing with another building also underway, the Manhattan Trust Bank Building at 40 Wall Street, to become the World’s Tallest. William Van Allen, the architect of the Chrysler building tricked his former partners, H. Craig Severance and Yasuo Matsui, who were designing the 40 Wall Street building by announcing the Chrysler Building would be 925 feet. The design of 40 Wall St. was changed from 840 feet to 927 feet. Once he knew what number to beat, Van Alen had a spire secretly built inside the dome which was erected just as 40 Wall St. was being completed to take the Chrysler Building to 1,046 feet and claim the title of World’s Tallest. It held the title for just 11 months when it was surpassed by the…

The Empire State Building had plans for a mooring mast for dirigibles

That was the story anyway when Alfred E. Smith, one of the leading investors for the Empire State Building construction announced that the building would be adding an additional 200 feet to its height. The plan was for dirigibles like the Graf Zeppelin to dock in midtown instead of at the landing field in Lakehurst, NJ, site of the famous Hindenburg disaster. The idea wasn’t really feasible and it probably would have been hard to convince passengers to walk down a gangway 1,250 feet in the air. The plan never came to fruition with only a small zeppelin tying up to the mast in September 1931 and a Goodyear blimp delivering a stack of newspapers a couple of weeks later.

There’s a Guinness World Record for longest elevator fall survived

The Empire State Building held the record for World’s Tallest Skyscraper for 41 year, which is a record of its own for the longest period of time any skyscraper has held the record. The Empire State Building was also the site of another world record in 1945. On July 28, 1945 a B-25 bomber carrying servicemen to LaGuardia crashed into the Empire State Building. Betty Lou Oliver, a 20 year old elevator operator, was seriously injured while working on the 80th floor and placed in an elevator to be transported down to receive medical attention. The elevator cables, damaged from the crash, broke and she and the elevator plummeted 1,000 feet (75 stories ) suffering only a broken back and legs. She survived and holds the Guinness World Record for longest elevator fall survived.

A 57 story skyscraper was built in China in just 19 days

Changsa-based Broad Sustainable Building accomplished the feat using 2,736 modular units and assembling them at a rate of 3 floors a day.

The shape of the Flatiron Building have have given rise to the phrase “23 skidoo”

The phrase “23 skidoo” may have been coined due to the shape and location of one of the most iconic skyscrapers ever built. The building, located on 23rd Street at the intersection of Fifth Ave and Broadway has strong winds that swirl around it due to its wedge-like shape. In the early 1900s, groups of men were reported to gather to catch a glimpse of leg when skirts on women walking were blown up by the wind. Local policemen were said to be “giving them the 23 Skidoo” when they tried to disperse these groups of oglers.

4 Responses to “10 Fun Facts About Skyscrapers”

  1. Carrie June 19, 2015 at 8:45 AM #

    I love reading your articles and find them very interesting. I definitely learned something new today reading your “10 Fun Facts About Skyscrapers”. Just a note that some of the ‘facts’ were cut off at the end and I’m sure missing additional fun information (i.e. “What it doesn’t have is the …” “surpassed by the ….”). What is the rest of the story? 🙂

    • Kendall Jones June 19, 2015 at 8:54 AM #

      Thanks for the comment, Carrie. Those ellipses … are actually lead-ins to the next ‘fact’ so Frank Lloyd Wright’s mile-high skyscraper was not the inspiration for the Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa holds lots of records but not the one for the world’s fastest elevator which is in Taipei 101. The Chrysler Building was surpassed by the Empire State Building. Nothing was cut off or missing, just thought it would be a nice transition to the next fact.

      • Carrie June 22, 2015 at 11:00 AM #

        Ahhhhh……and so that is it! Well, it gave me a good reason to read it again. I look forward to your next write up! Thank you Kendall!

  2. Jeff Yates July 9, 2015 at 10:48 AM #

    An absolutely fantastic selection of facts! The use of flow meters has significantly increased in skyscraper construction over the past decade and I certainly expect to see some number relating to them in the years to come. Keep the great articles coming!

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