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Historic Tallest Buildings & Structures in the World

Updated on March 31, 2014
Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.
Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt. | Source
Strasbourg Cathedral, France.
Strasbourg Cathedral, France. | Source
Cologne Cathedral, Germany.
Cologne Cathedral, Germany. | Source
Washington Monument from the National WWII Memorial.
Washington Monument from the National WWII Memorial. | Source
The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. | Source
The Chrysler Building above Grand Central Station.
The Chrysler Building above Grand Central Station. | Source
The Empire State Building from the Williamsburg Bridge, New York City.
The Empire State Building from the Williamsburg Bridge, New York City. | Source
CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. | Source
Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE. World's tallest structure/building.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE. World's tallest structure/building. | Source

The Great Pyramid of Giza, or Khufu, Egypt was originally 481 feet (146.5 meters). Its height is now 455 feet (138.8 meters). Completed about 2560 BC out of limestone blocks it will no doubt outlast any structure that is built today regardless of how high. It was the tallest building on earth for almost 4,000 years until the construction of medieval cathedrals in Europe. The Great Pyramid of Giza was built during the reign of Khufu during the fourth dynasty.

Lincoln Cathedral, England. Started in AD 1092 and allegedly 525 feet (160 meters) at its highest, Lincoln Cathedral's central spire was the first man-made structure to tower above the height of Egypt's great pyramids in the year 1311 AD. The central spire collapsed in a storm in 1549 AD but techniques which distributed weight allowed for the construction of high ceilings and towers such as this one.

St. Mary’s Church, Straslund, Germany. Built in Gothic brick this church in northern Germany became the tallest building in the world after the collapse of Lincoln Cathedral's tower in 1549 AD. It stood at 495 feet (151 meters) until it too was destroyed by fire in 1647 from a lightning strike. Today the church is 341 feet (104 meters) and it originally dates to the late thirteenth century.

Strasbourg Cathedral, France. Reaching 466 feet (142 meters) Strasbourg's famed cathedral was the world's tallest between 1647 and 1874. This beautiful mixed Gothic Romanesque church is still 466 feet at the top of its spire. The cathedral dates to 1015 and it remains one of the masterpieces of Gothic architecture.

St. Nikolai, Hamburg, Germany. Still standing at its original height although the entire nave was destroyed during World War II, St. Nikolai in Hamburg, Germany is 483 feet (147 meters). Built between 1189 and 1195 AD it took the honors of the world's tallest from 1874 and 1876 when the neo-Gothic spire was completed.

Cathedral Notre Dame, Rouen France. It's ironic that the Gothic cathedrals of Europe replaced each other as the world's tallest three times during the late nineteenth century. Many of the structures were still under construction hundreds of years after they began. Funding, fires, and structural collapse caused many to be rebuilt even into the late nineteenth century. The Rouen Cathedral was the world's tallest between 1876 and 1880 at 495 feet (151 meters). Original construction began in 1202 AD.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany. Yet another unfinished Gothic church whose spires were finally rebuilt in 1880 at which time they topped out at 515 feet (157 meters). Despite this late completion the church's original construction began in 1248 AD.

Washington Monument, Washington, DC, USA. The marble obelisk was finally completed in 1884 topping out at 555 feet (169 meters). It's the tallest stone obelisk in the world and the cornerstone was originally set in 1848. Construction stopped between 1854 and 1877 mostly because of funding.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. Arguably the most famous along with Egypt's pyramids, the iron structure was originally an eye-soar for Parisians and was not predicted to last. It was built in 1889 for the World's Fair. Standing originally at 986 feet (300 meters) before the additional telecommunication tower in the 1950s added to its height, the Eiffel Tower as become the enduring cultural icon of France. It would remain the world's tallest structure for 41 years.

Chrysler Building, New York City, USA. Maybe the best known example of Art Deco the Chrysler Building is still a favorite in New York City. Completed only one year before the taller Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building was the world's tallest from May 1930 to April 1931. Standing at 1,046 feet (319 meters), it is the tallest brick building in the world although it has an internal steel structure. It was also the first building in the world to rise above 1,000 feet.

Empire State Building, New York City, USA. Completed right on the heels of its well known neighbor, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building eclipsed the former in both height and mass and added yet another Art Deco masterpiece to New York's skyline. Built of an exterior of Indiana limestone, the Empire State Building stands at a total of 1,250 feet (381 meters) and 103 stories with an added antenna tower which makes it a total of 1,454 feet (443 meters). At the time of its completion in 1931 it completely dwarfed all other buildings in the city. It remained the world's tallest structure until 1967.

Ostankino Tower, Moscow, Russia. Moscow's Ostankino radio and television tower was completed in 1967. Its total height is 1,772 feet (540 meters) although the roof is at 1,264 feet (385 meters) - the difference is made up with an antenna spire. It remains Europe's tallest structure to this day and the third tallest structure in the world.

CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The CN Tower has dwarfed the remaining skyline of Toronto since its completion in 1976. At 1,815 feet (553 meters) its tower marks the tallest freestanding structure in the western hemisphere and it was the world's tallest until 2007.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Pushing the envelope of building high this skyscraper completed in 2010 has raised the bar and has tempted the concept of the mile high building. It stands needle-like at 2,722 feet (830 meters) and it's anyone's guess as to how long it will own the record but it has almost 700 feet of margin between it and the second tallest building in the world, the Tokyo Skytree completed in 2012.

© 2014 jvhirniak


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    • jvhirniak profile image

      jvhirniak 15 months ago

      CYong - indeed it is! I think with funding, it's very possible to see, atleast, a mile high structure.

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 15 months ago from Singapore

      Man's constant attempt to reach for the sky is so fascinating. I wonder whether I'd live to see 2 mile tall structures built.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio


    • jvhirniak profile image

      jvhirniak 2 years ago

      Kristen - thank you!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      What a great hub! Real interesting to know the other tallest buildings out there in the world! Voted up!