Mankind has always sought to rise above the clouds, but it was not until the late 19th century that the technology became available to make what we commonly call skyscrapers today possible.
In 1884, construction on the Home Insurance Building in Chicago was completed. It was 12 stories tall, which is practically diminutive by today’s standards of office buildings, but at the time signalled the start of a new era. An era made possible by the development of a safe elevator and the realization that using steel beams to form a building’s skeleton, rather than relying on walls to support the entire building weight, could allow architects to design much taller structures than previously thought possible.
> Tallest building: Willis Tower
> City: Chicago
> Building height: 1,451 ft.
> Year built: 1974
The Home Insurance Building no longer stands in Chicago, but it has been replaced by buildings many times its height, including the 1,451-ft., 110-story Willis Tower, which until recently was known as the Sears Tower. While few match the height of Willis Tower, tall office and residential buildings sprang up all over the country throughout the last century and a half. Nearly every state in the country has at least one structure that would have been considered a modern marvel at the turn of the 20th century. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the tallest building in each state.
During the 20th century, new and bigger skyscrapers were built, mostly in the nation’s major metropolitan areas, where vertical development represented a solution to increasingly limited space in densely populated cities. Skyscrapers also provided an opportunity for planners and architects to give their city an identity, and iconic skylines slowly developed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and, of course, New York.
In New York in particular, a number of now world-famous skyscrapers have risen over the decades. It was home to the tallest building in the world for most of the 20th century, with one tall structure surpassing the next. The Woolworth Building, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the original World Trade Center each held the world title at various points, before the Sears Tower was completed in 1974. Today, New York is home to about half of the country’s 20 tallest buildings. This includes the 1,396-ft. 432 Park Avenue tower, completed in 2015 and 2014’s 1,776-ft. One World Trade Center, now the third tallest and tallest buildings in the country, respectively.
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The height of a state’s tallest building often reflects the size of its largest city. States with smaller cities often lack the commercial activity that would necessitate a skyscraper. The tallest building in Vermont, for example, is the Masonic Temple Building in Burlington, which is estimated to be just 134 feet tall. In New York City, there are hundreds of buildings that exceed the height of Vermont’s tallest.
To determine the tallest building in every state, 24/7 Wall St. compiled a list with data from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Proposed buildings or buildings under construction, whose height may surpass that of the current tallest building, were excluded from consideration. All building completion dates and heights are CTBUH estimates.
Correction: Due to a transcription error, a previous version of this article listed the height of Maine’s tallest building as 00 ft. The height is 184 ft.