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National Skyscraper Day

Ingenious feats of engineering and architectural dexterity are on display in tall, multistoried buildings called skyscrapers, which we celebrate today. A confluence of factors led to the literal rise of these structures. For one, with increased urban commerce, as well as an increase in population density in urban areas, there was a need for them. Originally they were used for commercial purposes, but they are now often used as residential dwellings as well.

Another factor leading to their proliferation was the invention of the passenger elevator. The first one was installed in the Haughwout Department Store in New York City in 1857, and the first tall office building with one was the Equitable Life Building in New York City in 1870. A third factor, which ultimately made it possible for skyscrapers to be built, was the invention of the Bessemer process in the 1860s. This process paved the way for the mass production of steel, an alloy that is stronger and lighter than iron; steel was used to construct buildings and allowed them to be much taller.

The 10-story Home Insurance Company Building, completed in 1885, is usually seen as being the first skyscraper. Using steel girders and standing at 128 feet, it was designed by William Le Baron Jenney. Jenney's protégé was Louis H. Sullivan, another architect of early skyscrapers. It is on his birthday that National Skyscraper Day takes place.

The name "skyscraper" began being used in the 1880s, shortly after the first ones had been built. The name usually applied to buildings that were over 10 stories in height. As buildings have grown taller, the definition of what is considered a skyscraper has changed, and nowadays buildings must usually have at least 40 stories to be considered one. Skyscrapers may be measured by their number of stories or their overall height—with measurements sometimes including an antenna, flagpoles, or other apparatuses at their top. Over the years, different architectural styles have predominated, such as Neoclassical, Art Deco, and International Style.

How to Observe National Skyscraper Day

Celebrate the day by looking up what the world's tallest skyscrapers are. Perhaps you could even visit one today. If you aren't able to travel to another city and one of the tallest skyscrapers isn't nearby, maybe there are still other skyscrapers in your city you could visit. Check to see if tours are given, or if there is a restaurant at the top of one that you could eat at. If you live in a small town and there aren't any skyscrapers, you could still go out and find what the tallest building in your community is.

There are many other ways to celebrate the day. You could visit The Skyscraper Museum. You could also learn more about skyscrapers by watching a documentary or reading a book about them. Similarly, you could read more about Louis H. Sullivan or other architects. If you want to feel like an architect yourself, why not spend the day building a model skyscraper?

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