Explore the world's first "skyscraper" building

If Chicago was the first place to have a skyscraper, then Texas is home to a spectacular trick of another “skyscraper”.

The word “skyscraper” in English was first used to describe high-rise buildings in the 19th century in the United States, a time when constructions began to grow like mushrooms. Since the concept appeared, the first skyscraper was Home Insurance , built in Chicago in 1885. This 55m tall building was designed by architect William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907).

When Jenny submitted her design, the city council questioned whether the building would really stand on its own. At that time, all buildings were built with thick bearing walls. However, the walls of Home Insurance are very thin thanks to the supporting steel frame. This makes it lighter, taller while weighing only a third of that of contemporaries.

The fact has proven that the building is not only solid, but also a special highlight, creating a new architectural school called Chicago. Less than 10 years after the completion of the Home Insurance building, the city has 12 more skyscrapers ranging from 16 to 20 floors tall in the financial center. These skyscrapers quickly became the city’s hot tourist destination.

Explore the world's first "skyscraper" building
In the past, the word “skycraper” was often used in jokes, when teasing a person or an object. Pictured is the Home Insurance Building, 55m high. (Photo: Corbis).

However, the first skyscraper – the inspiration for later works, was demolished in 1931, to make way for another skyscraper, the Field Building , 163m high with 45 floors.

Besides the first skyscraper, the United States also has the smallest skyscraper in the world, Newby-McMahon . The building is only about 12m high with 4 floors and the birth of this building is still mentioned by many people with the adjective “interesting”, “unique”.

In 1912, a large oil field was discovered near the town of Burkburnett, in Wichita County, Texas. People from all over the world come here to live, and the economy in the region has thus flourished. In 1918, there were about 20,000 settlers here, making the city scarce for office space. Engineer JD McMahon came up with a solution, the Newby-McMahon high-rise building.

Explore the world's first "skyscraper" building
After deceiving investors with a tiny “skyscraper”, McMahon leisurely left Texas with huge surplus money in his pocket. (Photo: Solomon Chaim).

Investors quickly transferred $ 200,000 to McMahon to build this “skyscraper” tower. The design of the tower was also drawn and sent to everyone, but there was one thing that no one noticed. Instead of measuring feet in feet (1 ft = 30.48 cm), McMahon deliberately stated it in inches (1 in = 2.54 cm). That means that instead of the structure being equivalent to a 40-story building, it is in fact only 4 stories tall.

When receiving the results of the handover, the new investors “fall back” and sue McMahon for fraud. However, the judgment was in favor of McMahon, because he actually recorded the drawing in inches, not feet. It was the investors’ failure to spot this, and McMahon built exactly what they signed off on.

In fact, tall buildings have been around for a very long time. In the desert city of Shibam in Yemen, there are residential buildings made of mud bricks up to 10 stories high, built in the 13th century. Or as in San Gimignano, Tuscany region, Itay used to have more than 70 buildings taller. 60m, all built before the 15th century. However, this concept of “skyscrapers” was only known and widely used since the 19th century.