Who Invented the Skyscraper?

Chicago skyscrapers from below

It is hard to imagine the city of Chicago without its tall and shining skyscrapers, but who invented the skyscraper? As cities stretched further and further, architects realized they needed to start building up as well. Residents in the West Loop will be proud to know that the first skyscraper was designed by William LeBaron Jenney, a local architect. Skyscrapers are such an integral part of the city’s history, and now earn us the claim to fame of being the eighth tallest city in the world! Learn more about the history of skyscrapers and the history of our own Willis Tower with Skydeck Chicago!


When Were Skyscrapers Invented?

Architects realized bricks weren’t going to cut it when they wanted to start building skywards. Bricks in general could only bear the weight of building up to five or six stories and, although it was possible to construct buildings up to sixteen stories with masonry walls, they had thick, unappealing walls with small windows. Local architect, William LeBaron Jenney, was the first to push the limits by designing the first skyscraper in 1884. 

What Was The First Skyscraper?

The Home Life Insurance Building has the distinction of being the first skyscraper. It was completed in 1885, and was the first building built whose entire weight was supported with an iron frame. 


Modern Skyscrapers

Chicago’s history is forever intertwined with the invention of skyscrapers. Not only was the first one designed by a local architect, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 further reinforced the need for fireproofing for the city. With the falling price of steel and the construction of the Eiffel Tower, which taught how to brace metal frames against the wind, the idea of skyscrapers became a more popular building option. 

We gained our modern image of the skyscraper when the Equitable Life Assurance Building in Manhattan was built containing central heating, elevators, and pressurized plumbing and, since then, skyscrapers and major cities continue to grow. Our own Willis Tower in the Loop remains one of the tallest buildings in the world standing at 1,730 feet tall. 


See the City in a New Way With SkyDeck!

When Chicagoans in Bucktown ask “What was the first skyscraper,”– they’ll be happy to know the history of skyscrapers started right here. The city continues to make history with The Ledge by Skydeck. Plan your visit to Skydeck Chicago or check out any events happening in the future.

Important Notice Regarding COVID-19

Willis Tower and Skydeck Chicago have implemented measures consistent with CDC and local and federal guidance to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on the premises, including enhanced cleaning protocols. Even with these procedures in place, PLEASE BE ADVISED that building occupants, building and Skydeck visitors, or others currently or previously present upon this property and/or the Skydeck MAY HAVE CONTRACTED OR BEEN EXPOSED TO COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, and may expose you. By accessing and using building common areas, the Skydeck, and their associated amenities, you and your party voluntarily assume all risks of your use—INCLUDING THE RISK OF EXPOSURE TO INFECTIOUS DISEASE—and you waive all claims, including claims for negligence, against Willis Tower, Skydeck Chicago, and their respective owners, managers, affiliates, agents and representatives, arising out of such use. The above parties hereby disclaim all liability for any injuries arising out of your use of this property and the Skydeck, including exposure to infectious disease.

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