Plans to build the Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan started in late 2001. It has taken nearly a decade and a half to complete the project, which created the tallest building in America. It is a part of a tradition of New York’s grip on the title that dates back, with the exception of a few years, at least to the Empire State Building, which was finished in 1931.
The Freedom Tower was designed to be 1,776 feet tall, in commemoration the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. Architect of the original World Trade Center, Minoru Yamasaki, wrote of his design: “I am happy I was able to design very large buildings which have the scale relationship to man so necessary to him; they are intended to give him a soaring and inspired feeling, imparting pride and a sense of nobility in his environment.” This sense of pride and association is apparent in the residents of major cities who associate the place with the skyline and the landmark structures that comprise it.
A state’s tallest building is often in its largest city. Most are office buildings, hotels, or a mix of the two. The height of a state’s tallest building often reflects the size of its largest city’s economy. Of the five tallest buildings on this list, four are in the largest cities in the country by GDP.
Likewise, states with smaller economies often lack the commercial activity that would necessitate a skyscraper. The tallest building in Wyoming, for example, is in Cheyenne, whose $5.3 billion metro area GDP is dwarfed in comparison to the New York metro area’s $1.56 trillion GDP. The Wyoming Financial Center is just 148 feet tall, or 11 stories high. By comparison, there are over 6,000 buildings in New York City that are 10 stories or higher.
Of course, the presence of a large commercial center is not the only reason skyscrapers are constructed. For cities and countries, a tall building can serve as a symbol of achievement or cultural supremacy. It can serve as a landmark that lends a unique, memorable image to a city or the business associated with the building. This is why for more than a century, there have been races to build the tallest skyscraper in a particular country, or in the world. New York’s Chrysler building was constructed in 1930, winning such a race. Today, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are rushing to gain the prestige of having the world’s tallest. Construction is already underway on a 3,280 ft. tower in Dubai. A 3,780 ft. skyscraper is being considered in the Basra Province of Iraq. The current tallest building, Dubai’s, Burj Khalifa, is 2,717 ft. tall.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the world’s leading resource on tall buildings, classifies height in two categories. There is the height of the tallest usable floor, and vanity height. Vanity height is the distance between a building’s highest usable floor and its architectural top, often achieved by a spire or antenna. Without vanity height, more than half of the world’s tallest buildings would lose their “supertall” status of being 300 meters (984 feet) or taller. One World Trade Center’s antenna contributes to the building’s vanity height of 441 feet, just under one quarter of the building’s total height.
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Other considerations can affect what ranks as the tallest building in a state. For example, Washington, DC has a height restriction that limits a building’s height to no more than 20 feet higher than the width of the street on which it is situated. The ordinance preserves the Jeffersonian vision for a safe capital with a “light and airy” character. Currently, the tallest building in DC is the 315 ft. Old Post Office Building, built before the restriction was imposed in 1910.
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 (CTBUH). Proposed buildings or buildings under construction, whose height may surpass that of the current tallest building, were excluded. The text of Yamasaki’s letter was also provided by the CTBUH. Metropolitan area GDP figures came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
These are the tallest buildings in every state.