3 Tallest Buildings in the United States

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

The 3 Tallest Buildings in the United States

Although, there are quite a few proposed and under construction buildings that are even higher than these skyscrapers, we can only say that they are "close but no cigar." Of course, upon completion, the rating would change. Until the attack of September 11, the World Trade Center's twin towers were listed at second and third place. The new building, Freedom Tower, to be constructed on the twin tower location, was meant to become the tallest building in the United States at 2010 feet. However, the Chicago Spire is scheduled to be built a towering 2011 feet.

This list of "tallest buildings in the U.S." are measured from ground level to the tallest spires and architectural details. Included are completed buildings and those that are already topped out, but may still have continuing construction.

Sears Tower
Sears Tower

Number 1: Sears Tower (Willis Tower)

The Sears Tower (Willis Tower), at 233 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, has been the tallest building in the U.S. Since 1974 at 1,451 feet. It is also known as the fifth tallest building in the world with sixteen double decker elevators. Architecture, Bruce Graham and structural engineer, Fazlur Khan were commissioned by Sears, Roebuck and company to build the tower witn construction beginning in August of 1970. The black bands that appear, at intervals, around the building are louvers, frames with slats, to cover belt trusses.

Back in 1969 when Sears, Roebuck and Company were the biggest retail establishment in the world, with visions of a huge future growth, they decided to bring many of their Chicago employees into one location and so commissioned the building. Their views of future growth

were somewhat stifled by their rivals, Montgomery Wards, Kmart, Kohl's and Walmart causing a downturn in market shares during the 1970s. Between 1993 and 1995 Sears vacated the building and sold it. Although, the Sears Tower has been sold several times, it has kept the rights to the building name. Today, the Sears Tower houses more than 100 different tenants including financial service firms, law firms and insurance companies.

There are actually nine square tubes or buildings compiled into one which gives a different appearance from all angles. It was built specifically in this manner to withstand the strong Chicago wind load. One of the best known attractions of Chicago, the Skydeck, is located on the 103rd floor with a second one on the 99th floor of the 108 floor tower. Visitors can feel the building sway on a windy day.

One of the biggest news story to be attached to the Sears Tower was the 1999 climb by Alain "Spiderman" Robert. With no prior warning, the Frenchman scaled the building in his bare hands and feet, making it past the fog ridden slippery steel and glass of the last twenty floors. He climbed victoriously to the top.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

Number 2: Empire State Building

At a 102 floors, the Empire State Building was the first building to be built with over 100 floors. The art deco building sits at a stately 1,250 feet at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street in New York City. It lost it's title of the tallest building in New York after the twin towers of the World Trade Center were built and once again took the title after their demise. Given it's name from the states nickname, it was also called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It also holds the title of designated landmark by New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Owned and managed by W&H Properties, it is considered America's number one favorite architecture.

The construction of the building began on St. Patrick's day, 1930, designed by Gregory Johnson. The majority of the 3400 workers were European immigrants also with Mohawk Iron workers from Montreal. At the time two other buildings were competing for the title of tallest building in the world, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building. They each reached that goal for less than a year as the Empire State Building surpassed both when it was completed. Soon after the building's opening it was dubbed "Empty State Building" as many of it's spaces were left empty, not rented, during the depression.

Floodlights were affixed to the top of the building in 1964, making it impossible for New Yorkers or tourists to miss the magnificent structure. The light colors are changed according to seasonal holidays, sports team home games and other special events. After Frank Sinatra's death the top of the building was aglow in blue for "Ol Blue Eyes." After Fay Wray's death, actress from the movie King Kong, it stood in darkness for a full fifteen minutes. And it mourned the event of 9-11 with illumination of red, white and blue for several months.

In 1945 the National Catholic Welfare Council had a huge shock as a B-25 Mitchel Bomber crashed through their offices on the north side of the 79th and 80th floor. Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith, Jr., through thick fog, accidentally ran into the building killing fourteen people and starting a fire that was extinguished in forty minutes. The fourteen people who have committed suicide off the top of the building is an additional tragedy associated with the Empire State building.

The observation deck is the most popular observatory of the world, visited by over 110 million people. The "Run Up" a race from the ground to the 86th floor has been held every year since 1978, covering a distance of 1,050 feet with the best time of 9 minutes, 33 seconds by Australian, Paul Crakes.

The Empire State Building is further notarized by the movies King Kong, (2) An Affair to Remember, Independence Day, Andy Warhol's silent film Empire and Doctor Who serial The Chase.

Bank of American Tower
Bank of American Tower

Number 3: Bank of America Tower

Rated as the thirteenth tallest building in the world, located at 6th Avenue and West 42nd Street, although some construction is continuing, it stands topped out at 1,200 feet. The architectural spire is 1200 feet, alone. In December 2007, when the spire was placed, the tower became the second tallest building of New York, the Empire State Building being first. The structure was designed to be environmentally friendly with floor-to-ceiling insulated glass to get the best of natural light and contain heat. It incorporates a greywater system, recycling rainwater and they have made the structure with recycled and recyclable materials where ever possible.

The tower is constructed with 45% slag, a blast furnace by-product, and 55% cement. This reduces the amount of greenhouse gas regular cement produces. The cooling system will produce ice, using it later to cool the building. It has waterless urinals which will save 8 million gallons of water a year. It is set up to make 70% of it's own needed energy.

You may remember from the news, October 17, 2007, about a crane that dropped a construction container hurting eight people and causing damage to the building. This building is a good example to future builders that they will produce similar structures which benefit both humans and earth.

Comments 48 comments

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

I could never get it through my brain that the Sears Tower is in Chicago. Now I will remember!

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon Author

I know patty, I always think of it in New York. Thanks for stopping by

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 8 years ago from North Carolina

I hope U.S. builders will do more innovative buildings, it seems there are no more new buildings like these three. Dubai is building a new one almost every day.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

This hub is of special interest to me, Karen, because I worked in the Empire State Building (30th floor) for about a year in the late '60's. Nevertheless nothing impressed me more than the Sears Tower, where, incredibly, you can look straight down to the street from the top floor. But don't try it if you're afraid of heights.

donnaleemason profile image

donnaleemason 8 years ago from North Dakota, USA

After watching Towering Inferno many years ago, I have been rather nervous about going into tall buildings but, my sister dragged me to the top of the Empire State Building, I had my picture taken and promptly left. Might have been interesting to look over the side but I didn't have the nerve.

Now I know to avoid Chicago too. Lol

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Yes, Cgull I agree with you.

William, how interesting that you worked in the Empire State Building - it's like you lived a piece of history.

ngureco profile image

ngureco 8 years ago

These really are tall buildings with extra fine architectural details that should stand as a mark of architectural history for many years to come. It’s unfortunate there are cowards out there that did what they did to World Trade Center's twin towers.

pjdscott profile image

pjdscott 8 years ago from Durham, UK

We have been up Sears tower in Chicago but did not know about its importance and construction etc - many thanks!

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

On its ground floor, Karen, the Empire State Building has beautiful displays portraying the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World plus the "Eighth Wonder of the World" -- the Empire State Building itself. I also worked, very briefly, in New York's Flat Iron Building, once among the tallest buildings in the city. It truly is like living a piece of history.

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks - ngureco and pjdscott.

William - I've never been to New York, there are so many interesting things to see and do there. It's seems a bit overwhelming to a small town girl like myself. I'd love to visit, but I think the small town life is in my blood. I'd love to see the Empire State Building at some time in my life.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I just came across a picture that might interest you, Karen, and Donna as well. Here's the URL: http://www.ada.gov/images/empire.jpg It's not so scary. Barriers were removed after new regulations under the Americans With Disabilities Act took effect. Other changes also took place, but I trust the Seven (or 8) Wonders of the World are still in the lobby.

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for the picture, William. I think when I do get to see the Empire State Building, I'll have to leave my husband on the ground floor. He can't take heights.

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

HI Karen, maybe I'd get to see these tall buildings someday if ever my feet will land in the US. :)

Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

Welcome back with a great hub Karen.

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

I remember My visit to the empire state building very well. Intersting how an article can evoke long buried memories. At that time I also went to the top of the Twin Towers but they are no more.

good hub.

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks Rodney, sixtyorso and ripplemaker,

02SmithA profile image

02SmithA 8 years ago from Ohio

I liked visiting the Sears Tower in Chicago as well as the John Hancock building in Chicago. Pretty amazing!

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks Smith A. I look forward to seeing and crossing them someday.

betherickson profile image

betherickson 7 years ago from Minnesota

gREAT HUb! Nice View!

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 7 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by, Beth.

issues veritas 7 years ago

Interesting information on this hub and so nice photos.


Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 7 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by Issues veritas.

UF 7 years ago

I'm an urban planning student at the University of Florida and I believe I can address the issue of why the U.S doesn not typically build the types of buildings found in Dubai.

1) Dubai has a cost advantage over the US: In short, labor is much cheaper in the United Arab Emirates and migrant workers (mainly from India) work for as little as 120 euro per month, where in the U.S that can be earned in a days work. Along with this, the labor unions in the U.S don't allow for feasible investment to be made since developers variable costs would increase with the time spent on the building, allowing for alternative motivation to occur in the construction sector.

2) The culture of the United States is dependent on the automobile and our downtown areas have seen large declines in private investment with the influences of urban sprawl. Urban renewal is a process that many urban planners are beginning to implement to reinvest in downtown areas.

3) Our government is drastically different from that of the UAE. Government-funded infrastructure in Dubai primarily comes from the oil industry and the Prince has a lot of control over what is built, where, and when. The U.S government's infrastructure capital mainly goes towards public goods that will provide for the greatest number of people, not specifically for an individual investment firm (like Nakheel in Dubai).

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 7 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for the additional info - of great interest.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

just love that empire state building, it has real class

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 7 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by Dolores.

saddiiope.webs.com 7 years ago

illinois rocks

saddiiope.webs.com 7 years ago

illinois rocks

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 7 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by, Saddi.

bhh 7 years ago

former tallest

Sears Tower

WTC Twin Towers

Empire State Building

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 7 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for the update bhh.

CrookCounty 7 years ago

Just a little update here... the Trump Tower in Chicago has been the nation's second tallest building since construction was completed in January 2009. Also, the Sears Tower was officially renamed the "Willis Tower" in July 2009. Therefore, the current list should be:

1. Willis Tower, Chicago, IL

2. Trump International Hotel and Tower, Chicago, IL

3. Empire State Building, New York, NY

jr 7 years ago

Jees karen do you work for this site...???

saddiiope (arshia kiani) 6 years ago

dude you got it all wrong. im a kid and i know better. the first is the Burj Dubai located in Dubai, the second is the Shanghai Tower and he third is the China 117 Tower

In Art Class 6 years ago

last post!

gf 6 years ago

gggggggggggggj chcago is the best srew evey that dosent think that i poop

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Crook County - Thanks for the update

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Saddiiope - yes, you are a kid and that's probably why you didn't completely read the title of the article. It's 3 tallest buildings in the U.S., not the world. Thanks for your comment

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Interesting hub. I like to look at tall buildings, but not go up in one. I'm very afraid of heights!

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Habee, thanks for stopping by.

Alanahh 6 years ago

Omqq I just heard that someone jumped off the empire state buildinqq and did suicide omqq ppeople these dates are justt so freakinqq crazyy...!!!!:))4698lolgiggles babyy

hh 6 years ago

hi ive seen this

theherbivorehippi profile image

theherbivorehippi 6 years ago from Holly, MI

I've been to all of these...they certainly are impressive. I would love to go to Bangkok....I've read they have some pretty fabulous tall buildings there! Great informative hub!

William 6 years ago

I have just been to the Sears(Willis) tower today. It was amazing. I got to take a picture on a glass box kind of like a ledge It was kind of scary because the glass that you are standing on is only about 1 or 1 and a half inches thick and you are on the 103rd floor.

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for your comments, the herb and William.

Ratish 4 years ago

Sears Towers has been renamed to Willis Towers. Willis is the 3rd largest insurance broker in the world having worlwide offices. Sears Towers beacame Willis Towers on July 16, 2009

shawna 4 years ago

when was this page made?

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 13 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Karen, great hub! Very useful with insightful information on the Sears tower and more. Voted up!

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